Academic journal article Antiquity

Butchering with Small Tools: The Implications of the Evron Quarry Assemblage for the Behaviour of Homo Erectus

Academic journal article Antiquity

Butchering with Small Tools: The Implications of the Evron Quarry Assemblage for the Behaviour of Homo Erectus

Article excerpt


Small tools are emerging as a common element of the Early Stone Age/Lower Palaeolithic toolkit (Burdukiewicz & Ronen 2003). On Oldowan sites, including Omo 57, Omo 123, Wonderwerk Cave and Sterkfontein, flakes under 20mm in maximum dimension are a major component of the assemblage and an intentional product of knapping (de la Torre 2004; Kuman & Field 2009; Chazan et al. 2012). Although at Sterkfontein the very high frequency of small flakes has been attributed to the natural shatter of quartz, it is also clear that a portion of the small flakes were intentionally manufactured on small cores (Kuman & Field 2009: figs. 5-6). In Spain, the sites of Barranco Leon and Fuente Nueva 3 that are dated to 1.2 mya--among the earliest evidence of hominin occupation of Western Europe--have also produced a stone tool assemblage dominated by very small flakes (Toro Moyano et al. 2010).

Research on the Levantine coast has identified a series of early Lower Palaeolithic sites including Bitzat Ruhama, Kefar Manahem and Evron, where small tools are a major component of the lithic assemblage. At Kefar Menahem, excavations at the Lullim site recovered a small-flake assemblage associated with large choppers made from river cobbles (Gilead & Israel 1975: fig. 7). This context has not been dated but the stratigraphic position of the site, overlying the Pliocene-age Pleshet Formation, is consistent with an early age. Recent excavations at the site of Bitzat Ruhama have uncovered a lithic industry consisting almost exclusively of small flakes and cores from a context dated to >0.78 mya (Zaidner et al. 2003, 2010), while recent analysis of collections from the Late Acheulean site of Qesem Cave, dated to 0.40-0.20 mya, has identified use wear on flakes smaller than 20mm consistent with use in butchery (Barkai et al. 2010). This assemblage recalls the roughly contemporaneous Late Acheulean site of Bilzingsleben (Germany), dated to 0.4 mya, where small tools were also found (Steguweit 2003). An overview of Lower Palaeolithic stone tools in Europe is provided in Burdukiewicz & Ronen (2003). At the other end of the scale from the very small stone tools there has been increased recognition of the diversity of the large tool component of these assemblages, particularly the role of percussion/battering tools in the Oldowan (Mora & de la Torre 2005; however see Diez-Martin et al. 2009) and the significance of large flake production in the Acheulean (Sharon 2009).

This paper presents data on the manufacture and use of small tools at Evron Quarry, a site of particular interest for the study of early hominin behaviour because the manufacture of these stone tools is associated with the use of large handaxes. Retouch is very prevalent in the Evron flake assemblage and while the tools do not conform to a clear set of typological categories, the retouch shows a high degree of technological uniformity. Impact fractures are very common on the retouched pieces from Evron. However, as is discussed below, the purpose of the small tools remains uncertain.

The site

Evron Quarry is one component in a complex of sites located to the east of Kibbutz Evron on the coastal plain of Western Galilee, Israel. The site is to the east of a kurkar (sandstone) ridge and just north of the Beth Ha'emeq (Majnuna) drainage (Figure 1). Another major drainage system, the Ga'aton (Ja'athun) is around 2km north of the quarry. The Galilee hills rise steeply around 10km east of the site.

Handaxes were discovered in the fields surrounding Kibbutz Evron beginning in 1945 at a series of find spots including Evron Zinat, Evron Pardes and Oumm Zinat (Stekelis 1950; Gilead & Ronen 1977). Hundreds of handaxes have subsequently been recovered from the agricultural fields in these areas. Excavations by Stekelis in 1949 showed that the handaxes are derived from brown to black topsoil, 36m asl (Stekelis 1950; Prausnitz 1969; Gilead & Ronen 1977). …

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