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Tools from the stone age of Germany






The Earliest Tools



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Quartzite handaxe, Acheulian, circa 500 000 BP.

Hochdahl, Stadt Erkrath, Kreis Mettmann

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




Scraper

Scraper, 500 000 BP - 300 000 BP.

Scrapers were used primarily for preparing hides stripped from game, but may also have been used as knives.

From Ried, Bavaria, Germany.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Facsimile, Monrepos Archäologisches Forschungszentrum und Museum, Neuwied, Germany




throwing stick
Throwing stick. These are designed to rotate in the air when thrown, and are used to bring down small animals.

Schöningen, Niedersachsen, Germany, ca 300 000 BP.

Schöningen is famous for the Schöningen Spears, four ancient wooden spears found in an opencast lignite (brown coal) mine near the town. This environment helped preserve the wooden spears, which otherwise would have long ago rotted away. The spears are about 400 000 years old, making them the world's oldest human-made wooden artefacts, as well as the oldest weapons, ever found.

Three of them were probably manufactured as projectile weapons, because the weight and tapered point is at the front of the spear making it fly straight in flight, similar to the design of a modern javelin. The fourth spear is shorter, with points at both ends and is thought to be a thrusting spear or a throwing stick. They were found in combination with the remains of about 20 wild horses, whose bones contain numerous butchery marks, including one pelvis that still had a spear sticking out of it. This is considered proof that early humans were active hunters with specialised tool kits.


Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Facsimile, Monrepos Archäologisches Forschungszentrum und Museum, Neuwied, Germany
Additional text: Wikipedia




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Flint handaxe, 200 000 BP - 150 000 BP.

( This is a quite sophisticated tool for the time. Certainly it is fairly thick, but it is much longer than it is wide, unusual for a handaxe, and it has been beautifully finished with careful and skilled retouching on the faces and edges, in the style of a much later era. - Don )

Rheindahlen, Stadt Mönchengladbach

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




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Flint spear tips, circa 200 000 BP - 150 000 BP.

Rheindahlen, Stadt Mönchengladbach.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany
Additional text: http://www.georallye.uni-bonn.de/kartstein_bei_satzvey




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Legacies of the Neanderthals

These handaxes and flake tools are made to a large extent from chert coming from deposits in the area near Stuttgart.

Various stone tools from Heidenschmiede, Heidenheim, district Heidenheim, circa 120 000 BP - 50 000 BP.

(left) Point, radiolarite

(centre) Hand axe, Jurahornstein, Jurassic chert.

(right) Faustkeilblatt, flat or leaf hand axe, chert.

Circa 120 000 BP - 50 000 BP

Along the southwestern bulwark of the castle in Heidenheim, the rock face 35 metres above the valley floor forms a small overhang just large enough to create an 8 square metre abri, or rock shelter. Together with the open space in front of it, the cave has a usable area of some 30 square metres.

In spite of its small size, this so-called Heidenschmiede, or heathen's forge, rock shelter was a place our ancestors went to time and again. This may have been because of the splendid view across the wide, open valley of the Brenz River, which provided an excellent hunting ground.

Heidenheim is about 100 km to the east of Stuttgart.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart









Gudenushöhle
Handaxe from Gudenushöhle, Lower Austria, 90 000 BP.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source: Original, Natural History Museum Vienna, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

This is a more detailed look at the artefacts from Gudenushöhle:

Gudenushöhle is a very important Neanderthal site situated 20 km northwest of the city of Krems, and has been dated to around 90 000 BP. The site is close to the River Danube. The cave is 22 m long with a width of 2 to 3 m. The archaeological deposit has yielded bones of numerous animals, including Woolly mammoth, Woolly rhinoceros, Aurochs, Chamois, Reindeer, and Red deer. Human artefacts include numerous flint implements beginning with the Mousterian (i.e. Neanderthals) of the Middle Palaeolithic. There is also an Upper Palaeolithic, Magdalenian, assemblage including an engraved reindeer bone, and a fragment of a bone flute dated to about 18 000 â€“ 12 000 BP.






mousterian tools
Jasper scraper on a flake from Frieburg. Mousterian, circa 80 000 BP. This is the same tool as that immediately above.

Worked on both sides, this piece still stands in the long tradition of early handaxes, but is characterised by careful restoration of a flat surface. It may have been used as a scraper. Note what may well be a purposeful large flake taken out for a thumb grip.

Similar tools are also known from other European sites and are referred to as the Mousterian culture after the French site of 'Le Moustier' (Dordogne / France). This culture was of Neanderthal origin.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe Germany




mousterian tools
Micoquien quartzite hand axe from Bruchsal, district Karlsruhe, Middle Palaeolithic, circa 80 000 BP.

Despite its relatively young age, the tool belongs to the development series of the Palaeolithic hand axes. It belongs to the Neandertal stone industry described as the 'Micoquien' according to the reference to the site of La Micoque in France. Contrary to the often crude representation of the Neanderthals, their tools testify to enormous skill.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Catalog: lnv.-Nr. 2008/628
Source and text: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe Germany




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Neanderthals were master stone knappers. They possessed a sense of aesthetics and an intuition for the right material, as may be seen from their handaxes.

In Heidenschmiede there were numerous stone tools made from fresh water quartzite. This is a material very similar to flint, and outcrops only a few kilometres from the site.

Four views of a handaxe, freshwater quartzite, Heidenschmiede, Heidenheim, district Heidenheim.

Circa 70 000 BP - 50 000 BP

Length 148 mm, width 71 mm.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart





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Small handaxe, circa 70 000 BP - 50 000 BP.

Jurahornstein, Jurassic chert.

Heidenschmiede, Heidenheim, Kreis Heidenheim.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart




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Two leaf points and a blade, circa 70 000 BP - 50 000 BP.

Artefacts struck from Witzlinge chert, Bad Urach, Witzlingen, Kreis Reutlingen, about 30 km south east of Stuttgart.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart
On loan from the Archäologischen Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg




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(top left) Scraper, Muschelkalkhornstein, Middle Triassic chert

(top right) Scraper, red radiolarian chert

(left) Scraper, green radiolarian chert

Circa 70 000 BP - 50 000 BP


Various types of scraper, from Bad Urach, Wittlingen, Kreis Reutlingen

From previous observations at other locations, and from the study of original flint deposits nearby, there is evidence that completed tools were carried to the site, which were then used here in Wittlingen until they became useless. The original deposits of the material used for these artefacts lie 50 to 100 km from Wittlingen.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart
On loan from the Archäologischen Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg




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Flint handaxe, circa 50 000 BP.

Dülken-Hausen, Kreis Viersen.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




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Flint handaxes, circa 50 000 BP.

Erkrath, Kreis Mettman.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




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Modern reconstruction of a leaf-shaped scraper attached with birch pitch to a wooden handle.

As used in the late Middle Palaeolithic, i.e. circa 50 000 BP.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




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Leaf shaped scraper.

Flint, circa 50 000 BP.

Weeze, Kreis Kleve.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




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Flint handaxe, circa 50 000 BP.

Elmpt, Gemeinde Niederkrüchten, Kreis Viersen.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




Petersberg



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Petersberg mountain, Saalkreis, 10 km north of Halle, Germany.

This Middle Palaeolithic site was discovered when the wall foundations of the Collegiate Church and Monastery of St. Peter (visible on the top of the mountain in this photograph, click for a larger version) were uncovered in 1967 during restoration work at the 19th century church.

White patinated Middle Palaeolithic flint artefacts were found in undisturbed soil sections.

They were mainly located in narrow crevices and fissures of the porphyry, which was heavily exposed to frost weathering. They were covered by yellow loess, which was found between the porphyry blocks of the erosion surface.

Almost all artefacts are frost-cracked or shattered by frost wedging. They were thus exposed to a cold-arid climate with extreme frost weathering. It can be concluded from this, as well as from the covering by loess, that the artefacts were discarded on Petersberg mountain before the high glacial phase of the Weichselian glacial period.

Photo: Polarlys
Permission: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Text: After Mania (1975)




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Location of Petersberg, Saalkreis, 10 km north of Halle, Germany.

Click to see the full size image.

Photo: Google Maps




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

Core.

A large part of the finds are parallel-edged blades, which were obtained less from levallois cores than from core stones with an impact base. These core stones already resemble real blade cores rather than levallois cores.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: After Mania (1975)




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

Narrow wedge-shaped knife with curved dorsal and flat ventral sides and a curved, broad back.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: After Mania (1975)

Drawing: After Mania (1975)




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Petersberg, a Middle Palaeolithic site.

Figure 19 and Figure 20, Mania (1975)

The most common tools at Petersberg are single-sided retouched scrapers, such as single and double scrapers with convex or straight edges (Figure 19, numbers 2, 4, and 5) as well as convex and concave wide scrapers and pointed scrapers (Figure 20, 2).

Occasionally, bifacially surfaced retouched devices also occur. For example, there is one narrow wedge-shaped knife with curved dorsal and flat ventral sides and a curved, broad back (Fig. 20, 1). Thus it reminds one of the wedge-shaped knives of the Königsaue type.

Other pieces present as triangular wide blades (Fig. 20, 3), while several disc-shaped, surface worked discs must be considered discoid scrapers rather than levallois cores (Fig. 19, 1). The fact that a large part of the flakes originate from levallois cores is shown by their dorsal surfaces and faceted impact bases as well as some remnants of the levallois cores.

However, a large part of the finds are parallel-edged blades, which were obtained less from such disks than from core stones with an impact base (Fig. 19, 3). These core stones already resemble real blade cores rather than levallois cores.

Photo and text: after Mania (1975)




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

Single-sided retouched double scraper.

( this scraper has a notch knapped on one edge, possibly for smoothing a wooden or antler rod - Don )

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: After Mania (1975)

Drawing: After Mania (1975)




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

Single-sided retouched single scraper with a straight edge.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: After Mania (1975)

Drawing: After Mania (1975)




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

On the left, what is apparently the remains of a core.

On the right, a beautifully made straight scraper, which has soaked up a lot of skilled work and tender loving care to make the back of the tool fit easily and smoothly into the hand. It is part of the human condition that we often lavish time and effort on items which don't strictly need such attention. We like to do a good job, even if it is not, strictly speaking, necessary to do so.


Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: Don Hitchcock




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Petersberg

Circa 50 000 BP.

What remains of a core. Good flint was valuable, and cores were mined for tools until there was almost nothing left. Even then, cores of good flint were often pressed into service on an ad hoc basis, as small scrapers, for example.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018

Source: Petersfels, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
Text: Don Hitchcock








Ilsenhöhle



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Ilsenhöhle, a cave underneath Burg Ranis in Thuringia, Germany is important for the light it sheds on the transition from the Middle Palaeolithic, with Mousterian or Neanderthal tools, to the Upper Palaeolithic, beginning with the Aurignacian.

Above the cave is Ranis Castle, situated on a rock shelf. The cave opens on the south-east flank. The rock shelf reaches a height of about 400 m above sea level and rises more than 60 m above its surroundings.

The cave consists of an approximately 10 to 15 m wide, at least 8 to 10 m high vestibule, the abri-like arch of which is set back by collapse. The cave continues under the dolomite shelf diverging into two cleft-like cavities, each more than 10 m long (north and south cave). Both begin with a width of about 3 m, but taper quickly to less than 1 m in width.

A total of 250 m² of the cave and the forecourt were excavated without the sondages. The preliminary investigations were carried out by Dietrich von Breitenbuch who owned the Ranis castle, the subsequent excavations were carried out by the then State Institute for Prehistory Halle.

Like numerous other caves in the Bryozoan reefs of the Zechstein outcrop, the Ilsenhöhle is primarily due to caverns in the reef dolomite, which were filled with loosely caked reef sands and emptied by weathering and erosion processes. Additional weathering of the dolomite led to the expansion of the cavities, whereby the formation of vertical fissures also played a role. Over the past 120 000 years, the caves of the Ilsenhöhle have been filled with sediments from frost fracture.


Photo: Ansgar Koreng
Permission: CC BY 3.0 (DE), Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany license
Location: 50° 39′ 45.18″ N, 11° 33′ 54.44″ E
Source and text: Wikipedia




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Ranis 1, Ilsenhöhle

Circa 50 000 BP.

Faustkeilblatt (a flatter version of the Acheulean hand axe, made during the Micoquian) and bifacial scraper from Ranis 1, the oldest layer at the Ilsenhöhle.

Photo: Hülle (2009)
Text: Richter (2009)



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Ranis 1, Ilsenhöhle

Circa 50 000 BP.

These tools are of quartzite, identified as such by Mania (1975)

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




Blattspitzen (leaf points, blade points) from Ilsenhöhle in the Ranis area, in the central East of Germany



The term leaf point or leaf tip has been used since around 1900 for symmetrical flint points from the Middle and Young Paleolithic with beech or willow leaf-like shapes. Leaf points represent a further development of the hand axe industries of the Old Palaeolithic (Acheulean). They are leaf-shaped, slender in longitudinal section, almost straight, more or less completely bifacial (both surfaces) and axially symmetrical with one or two points. Leaf tips, forming double edged points, were named after their shape, and are masterpieces of knapping. This design was widespread from Northwest to Eastern Europe 40 000 years ago.

According to current knowledge, these artfully crafted stone points were made by both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans. Both types of people lived side by side at that time and had the same technical skills.

Leaf points were highly effective tips for projectiles and for use as knives due to their double-edged finish. They were particularly suitable for penetrating or cutting thick furs and skins, such as the winter coat of a cave bear.

Strikingly, leaf points have so far been found almost exclusively in caves and mostly not in groups of similar tools. Also in Ranis there are no traces that point to a storage place for these tools, nor are there any indications of the manufacture of these flint devices on site. It is reasonable to suspect that exceptional workpieces have been kept here for ritual purposes or as status objects.

Text above: Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte
Additional text: Wikipedia

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Global distribution of blattspitzen (leaf point) cultures.

Illustration: after Marten Postma, http://www.archeoforum.nl/vondstbeschrijving/mpbladspitsJB/mpbladspitsJB.html




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Blattspitzen (leaf points, blade points) from Ilsenhöhle.

( It should be noted that Jerzmanowice points referred to elsewhere on this page are defined by Flas (2012) as leaf points made on blades by partial flat bifacial retouch. It is useful, however, to realise that most of the projectile points from Aurignacian sites were made of antler, bone and ivory, although I have not yet seen them recorded in the (Aurignacian) Ranis 3 layers - Don )

Circa 40 000 BP - 30 000 BP

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
On loan from Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim
Drawing: Richter (2009)




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Blattspitze (leaf point, blade point) from Ilsenhöhle.

Circa 40 000 BP - 30 000 BP

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
On loan from Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim
Drawing: Richter (2009)




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Circa 40 000 BP - 30 000 BP

Altmühlian Blattspitze (from Horizon 2 of the Ilsenhöhle, Ranis, Germany).

This is a Mauern-type Blattspitze defined by the two pointed ends.
Photo (left): Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle
On loan from Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim

Drawing (right) and additional text: Zilhão (2014)




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Map of important archaeological sites near Ranis.

Source: Bohmers (1951)




The importance of Blattspitzen


About 40 000 years ago, at the end of the Middle Palaeolithic, Europe was populated by the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). Werner Hülle was also on the trail of these last Neanderthals when he undertook excavations in the Ilsenhöhle under Burg Ranis (Ranis Castle) between 1932 and 1938. In addition to numerous animal bones, such as cave bears, cave hyenas and rhinos, the excavator was able to recover some large, leaf-shaped flint points, Blattspitzen, in the 'Ranis 2' culture layer. Originally attributed to modern humans (Homo sapiens), it is now largely agreed that these flint points were made by the last Neanderthals living in Europe - this tool culture is known in research as the English term 'Ranisian'. There are two hypotheses for their use today: The Blattspitzen could have been used as hunting weapons as tips of wooden spears or longer thrust lances. Glued into a wooden or bone handle, for example with pitch obtained from birch bark, their use as knives would also be conceivable.

The finds of the Neanderthal man from the 'Ranis 2' layer are overlaid in the Ilsen Cave by the 'Ranis 3' archaeological find layer, which contains stone tools that are highly likely to be attributed to modern humans. This epoch of human history, handed down in the cultural layers of the Ilsenhöhle - the living environment of the last Neanderthals and the first representatives of modern man - was of great scientific importance then as now. That is why archaeologists and researchers from various scientific disciplines of the Max-Planck-Institutes für Evolutionäre Anthropologie and the Thüringischen Landesamtes für Archäologie und Denkmalpflege have started a new excavation in the Ilsenhöhle under Burg Ranis in a cooperative project.

The blade point is therefore a leading exhibit in the Ice Age exhibition area for several reasons: It represents a shapely and technically sophisticated device concept from an important phase of change in the development of today's people 30 000 - 40 000 years ago. It symbolises the great scientific importance that is still attached to the finds from the Ilsen Cave and it is a testimony to the cultural exchange between Neanderthals and modern people during the history of European settlement.

Text above: Dr Tim Schüler & Dr Marcel Weiß
Source: http://www.museum-ranis.de/seite/303187/blick-in-die-eiszeit.html

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Central Europe with Micoquian/M.M.O. sites and late Late Middle Palaeolithic Blattspitzen sites (except isolated surface finds).

The late Middle Paleolithic exclusively consists of MMO ('Mousterian with a Micoquian Option') assemblages conventionally also called Micoquian/Keilmessergruppen (bifacially worked knife group).

Photo and text: Richter (2009)
Additional text: Richter (2016)




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One of the original sondages at Ilsenhöhle.

It was excavated between 1932 and 1938 by Werner M. Hülle. The finds from Layer X (Ranis 2) were given the name Ranisian and form one part of the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) transition period complex of northern Europe. Recent studies have shown that bifacial leaf points similar to those from Ranis and Jerzmanowice blade points can be assigned to the final Middle Paleolithic.

During the excavations under the direction of Werner Hülle, the forecourt was partly excavated. The vestibule and the two chambers inside the Ilsenhöhle were completely excavated. Hülle also excavated two sondages of about 4 x 4m. The area excavated in the cave covers about 40m x 18m. The excavation technique complies to the methods of the early 1930s, and was excavated with pick and shovel. Larger objects were unearthed with trowels. The sediment was not screened or sieved.


Werner Hülle differentiated between geological and archaeological horizons. He distinguished 12 geological and 5 archaeological horizons.

Photo and text: https://www.eva.mpg.de/evolution/field-projects/late-neandertals-and-early-modern-humans-in-western-europe.html
Additional text: https://www.nespos.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=29885302




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The 2016 campaign.

Text below from the site: http://www.museum-ranis.de/seite/308535/ilsenh%C3%B6hle.html

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig and the State Office for Monument and Archeology Thuringia, Weimar, started to carry out new excavations in the Ilsen Cave in summer 2016. Due to the importance of the site for the transition from the Neanderthals to modern humans, we would like to investigate the layer sequence under the Ilsen cave again with new questions and the most modern methods.

The first hurdle we had to overcome was finding a suitable place for our excavation. Since the sequence of layers under the Ilsen cave is very deep - up to 7m - and at the beginning it was not entirely clear where Werner Hülle had dug everywhere or where there are still remains of the original sediments, it was necessary to proceed in a planned and targeted manner. In autumn 2015, we therefore used the 'geoelectrics' method - which measures the electrical resistance of the soil - to examine the soil in and around the Ilsen cave in order to distinguish grown soil from the artificial fillings of the old excavations. The results gave first indications of where the most suitable place for a re-examination would be. In spring 2016, we carried out core drilling at selected locations in order to check the data obtained from the geoelectrics and to obtain information about the actual depth of the layer sequence. The drill is a hollow shape that makes it possible to extract, read out and interpret the drilled deposits.

Through the preliminary investigations, we were able to find a suitable place for our first excavation campaign in the Ilsen cave. Nevertheless - as long as we had not checked, it was not 100% clear whether we would find original deposits or not, despite the preliminary investigations. But our efforts were rewarded: after the first of seven busy weeks, we actually had the upper limit of the increased stratification under the Ilsen Cave. This enabled us to start systematic excavations and investigations as early as our first excavation campaign. However, due to the thickness of the deposits, we could not yet uncover the exciting layers of the last Neanderthals and the first modern people.


Photo and text: http://www.museum-ranis.de/seite/308535/ilsenh%C3%B6hle.html, Dr Tim Schüler supervising in the image on the right
Writers of the text: Jean-Jacques Hublin (Founder and Director, Dept of Human Evolution, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft), Shannon Mcpherron (Group Leader), Marcel Weiß (Research Staff), Tim Schüler, State Office for Monument Conservation in Weimar
Site: Ilsenhöhle under Burg Ranis








The Ranis stratigraphy, compiled after Müller-Beck (Hülle (1977), 58) and Feustel (Hülle (1977), 61); dating and cultural units as interpreted by Richter (2009)


Ranis stratigraphy
Layer Stage Cultural Unit Fauna Number of
stone artefacts
Dating
I-II - Prehistoric to Medieval     OIS 1
V-III Ranis 5 Late Palaeolithic Pig, red deer, fox, rodents 48 OIS 2/1
VI Ranis 4 Mixed Upper/Late Palaeolithic Reindeer, horse, wooly rhino, cave bear,
aurochs, musk ox, rodents etc.
62 Late OIS 2
VIII-VII Ranis 3 Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture Cave bear, red deer, wooly rhino 140 OIS 3
X-IX Ranis 2 Jerzmanovician Cave bear, red deer, wooly rhino,
cave hyena
63 OIS 3
XI Ranis 1 Micoquian (?) Cave bear, reindeer 16 ?

Table above after Richter (2009)




Stone artefacts from Ranis 1 and Ranis 2 compared (Hülle (1977), 103, 106)


Stone Artefacts
  Micoquian
Ranis 1
Jerzmanovician
Ranis 2
Total artefacts 16 63
Subtotal tools 2 63
Flat handaxe Faustkeilblatt 1 -
Bifacial scraper 1 6
Jerzmanovice points - 24
Leaf points - 19
Scrapers etc. - 11
Tools made on quartzite - 3

Table above after Richter (2009)




Useful bone

In the Ilsenhöhle and in front of it - under the former rock overhang - there were single awls of bone. These were tools for making and mending clothes. Perhaps in this particular case only worn pieces of clothing were mended.

Perhaps, however, a new garment was made for a particular situation, perhaps even - in view of the direct access to the earth's interior - for ritual purposes.

A long bone with two holes was at first interpreted as a flute. But the holes are - as with many other bones from this cave - due to animal bites or root growth. The distance between the holes would be too short for fingers to use anyway, just as the bone itself is not suitable for this function.

Text above: https://st.museum-digital.de/index.php?t=objekt&oges=36064, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle

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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Small bone awls, carefully sharpened and ground to a conical, smooth shape.

These artefacts are from Layer X (Ranis 2)

Circa 40 000 BP - 30 000 BP

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

This bone awl has been made with a handle for ease of use.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, https://st.museum-digital.de/, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Roughly prepared awl, lower third sharpened.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsen Cave near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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The 2019 campaign.

View of the excavations at a depth of five metres. Students carefully remove the layers of earth with spatulas and brushes.

Dr Tim Schüler from the Thuringian State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology heads the excavations.

Photo: Image rights: MDR / Stefanie Reinhardt
Text: https://www.mdr.de/thueringen/ost-thueringen/saale-orla/burg-ranis-ausgrabung-100.html
Source: https://www.mdr.de/thueringen/ost-thueringen/saale-orla/burg-ranis-ausgrabung-100.html




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Ranis 2, Ilsenhöhle

Jerzmanovician assemblage.

1–3: leafpoints or bifacial scrapers.

4–6: Jerzmanovice points.

( These Jerzmanowice points were made on blades. It is only relatively recently that it was realised that blade technology was well attested in the industry of the Middle Palaeolithic, and was not first seen in the Upper Palaeolithic in sites populated by Anatomically Modern Humans, but was part of the toolkit for Neanderthals - Don )

Photo and text: (Hülle (1977) pl. 8, pl. 17, pl. 30, pl. 31), in: Richter (2009)




The development of blade technology in the Middle Palaeolithic

Delagnes (2000) writes:
At the beginning of ( the 1900s ), blade production was identified alongside a flake production in some assemblages extending back to the penultimate glaciation, which were found in the Somme valley terraces in northern France. At the time, this seemed incompatible with the chrono-cultural frame that was being developed for Paleolithic industries (blade production was supposed to be an exclusive feature of the Upper Paleolithic ), so that for half a century the importance of such an association was largely disregarded.

It was only in the early 1970s, following the well-dated discoveries made at Rheindalhen in Germany and Seclin in northern France, that the existence of a blade production in a Mousterian context was really acknowledged. Since the 1980s, the increase in the number of Middle Paleolithic blade industries, especially in northern France, has given a new dimension to this phenomenon, owing to both the quality and the quantity of the artefacts recovered from these sites. At present, the main sites with Middle Palaeolithic levels yielding blade industries add up to a dozen. Within the context of the European Middle Palaeolithic, this production is characterised by its relative concentration in space and time.

In addition, the tools found useful in the Mousterian industry had a long life even after Neanderthals had disappeared from Europe: Hoffecker (2009)notes:

Although stone blade technology is traditionally associated with Upper Palaeolithic industries, it became apparent many years ago that Middle Palaeolithic industries in various parts of Eurasia yield evidence of blade production. Blade manufacture is well documented in the Middle Palaeolithic of Europe and the Near East.

If Neanderthals produced at least some of the stone artefact forms found in Upper Palaeolithic assemblages, anatomically modern humans continued to manufacture and use many typical Middle Palaeolithic forms long after the transition. Production of side-scrapers, points, small bifaces, and other such forms continued into the Upper Palaeolithic and post-Palaeolithic industries. In North America, such artefacts are common in Palaeoindian sites, where they are often associated with the killing and butchering of large mammals. In Europe, Middle Palaeolithic tool types also are present in Upper Palaeolithic assemblages, but usually in low percentages, in the natural shelters of Western Europe. In the open-air sites (and some natural shelters) of Central and Eastern Europe, they are more common and often abundant.

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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Scrapers

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Broken blade.

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Scraper.

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Broken scrapers.

Scrapers often broke, since although flint takes a good edge, it is brittle.

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Broken blades.

( The tool on the right has had a lot of work put into shaping it after the blade has been struck from the flint core. The break is not a clean one, since the flint used has a lot of inclusions - Don )

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Broken scraper.

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle




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Ranis 3, Ilsenhöhle

Tool on a blade.

( apparently an endscraper, a grattoir, terminated with a fairly straight edge, with the sides steeply retouched so that it might be held in the hand - Don )

Dating: Aurignacian with Middle Palaeolithic admixture.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2018
Source and text: Ilsenhöhle near Ranis, Halle Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, CC-BY-NC-SA @ State Museum of Prehistory Halle








This Ranis stratigraphy was compiled after Wikipedia, which gives no source, but the information was almost certainly adapted from Hülle (1977), who completed the excavation, and thus determined the stratigraphic nomenclature used in this table.


Ilsenhöhle stratigraphy
Layer XI The lower brown layer, up 100 cm thick, rests on weathered dolomite.
It consists of a clayey-sandy loam and contains only a few fragments of rubble, with only occasional larger blocks.
The sandy parts are due to the dolomite sands of the reef or the decay of the reef dolomite.
Layer X Above Layer XI lies the so-called grey layer (up to 30 cm thick), a heavy sandy loam to loamy sand
coloured by humus, which contains hardly any rock debris.
It is partially interspersed with bone ash.
Layer IX A brown layer follows, also 30 cm thick on average.
It consists of sandy loam, which is discoloured chocolate-brown by a weak loamification (weathering, soil formation).
It occasionally contains individual boulders as well as smaller blocks.
Layer VIII This dark layer, 10 - 30 cm thick, consists of a sandy clay with some humus, heavily interspersed with bone ash and bone charcoal.
The deposit is dark grey-brown to black in colour, and is free of rock debris.
Layer VII This brown layer (150 to 200 cm thick) is a sandy, skeleton-rich loam.
Apart from weathering debris, it contains blocks from the roof of the abri.
Layer VI This yellow layer is up to 300 cm thick and represents silt blown into the cave from outside.
It is enriched with fine-grained frost-weathering debris and, in its upper levels, more and more blocks.

( Periglacial loess is derived from the deposits of braided rivers flowing from glaciated areas when they dry up in autumn and winter.
The glacially ground flour-like silt and clay, often yellow in colour, is picked up by the wind, and large deposits of loess
have been formed in many parts of Europe, Siberia, and China - Don 
)
Layer V This so-called 'rodent layer' is 10 to 20 cm thick, and lies like a blanket over all older layers.
In depressions or on inclined surfaces it has a greater thickness. It consists of yellow-brown silt, which forms the matrix
for a deposit of fine-grained rock debris and countless skeletal remains.
The latter come from small to medium-sized mammals, especially small mammals, bats and other small vertebrates.
They are mainly due to the depredations of birds of prey (owls), while the bat remains are mainly from those bats living in the cave.
Larger skeletal remains have been torn apart ( hyenas? - Don ) and are present mostly as splinters.
The upper part of the rodent layer becomes increasingly humous, and is therefore coloured grey.
Layer IV Grey-black- layer, 10 to 50 cm thick.
Layer III Grey-brown layer, 20 to 40 cm thick, representing a humous, silty matrix with a finely divided surface horizon.
Layer II On silt, rich in fine debris, another humous surface horizon, 50 cm thick in total, was formed.
Layer I In this 'layer', up to 3 layers of mediaeval rubble may be distinguished.





References

  1. Ackerl, I., 2009: History of Austria in dates : From prehistoric times to 1804, marixverlag , 20 Feb 2009 - History - 224 pages
  2. Bohmers A., 1951: Die Höhlen von Mauern. Teil I. Kulturgeschichte der Altsteinzeitlichen Besiedlung, Palaeohistoria 1 p. 1–107
  3. Delagnes A., 2000: Blade production during the Middle Paleolithic in Northwestern Europe, ACTA Anthropologica Sinica, Supplement to Volume 19, 2000, pp181-188
  4. Flas D., 2012: Jerzmanowice points from Spy and the issue of the Lincombian-Ranisian- Jerzmanowician, Anthropologica et Praehistorica, January 2012, 123(1):217-230
  5. Hoffecker J., 2009: The spread of modern humans in Europe, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2009 Sep 22; 106(38): 16040–16045
  6. Hülle W., 1977: Die Ilsenhöhle unter Burg Ranis / Thüringen, Fischer, 1977, ISBN-10: 343730254X, ISBN-13: 978-3437302541, 203 pp.
  7. Mania D., 1975: Stratigraphie ökologie und Paläolithikum des Weichselfrüglazials im Mittleren Elbe-Saale-Gebiet, Światowit, 34, 81-138, 1975
  8. Richter J., 2009: The role of leaf points in the Late Middle Palaeolithicof Germany, Praehistoria, 9-10 (2008-2009) 99-113
  9. Richter J., 2016: Leave at the height of the party: A critical review of the Middle Paleolithic in Western Central Europe from its beginnings to its rapid decline, Quaternary International, Volume 411, Part A, 8 August 2016, Pages 107-128, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.01.018
  10. Zilhão J., 2014: The Upper Palaeolithic of Europe, The Cambridge World Prehistory. Volume 3,West and Central Asia and Europe, Cambridge University Press, Editors: Colin Refrew, Paul Bahn





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