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Genuine Diversity? The Broom Biface Assemblage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

Robert Hosfield
Affiliation:
Dept. of Archaeology, School of Human & Environmental Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AB, UK. E-mail: r.hosfield@rdg.ac.uk
Jennifer Chambers
Affiliation:
Flat One, 111 Anderton Park Road, Birmingham, B13 9DQ, UK. E-mail: jennichambers@hotmail.com

Abstract

The Broom Lower Palaeolithic locality, on the river Axe at the Devon/Dorset border in south-western Britain, yielded an assemblage of at least 1800 Acheulean artefacts between the 1870s and 1940s through gravel quarrying and antiquarian collection. The bifacial material, predominantly produced in chert but including a small flint component, is characterised by considerable typological diversity and a distinctive asymmetrical element. While aspects of the assemblage have been reported before, this paper presents new work on the artefacts of the C.E. Bean collection and the sample from Exeter Museum. The Bean archive indicates that the artefact patterning is not due to fluvial mixing of separate, typologically-discrete, assemblages. Analysis of the artefacts suggests that hominin knapping strategies were not notably constrained by variations in raw material granular quality, but that the typological variability strongly reflects blank form and shape. However, while the influences of blank form and resharpening, including the use of tranchet flaking, partially explain the assemblage's asymmetrical component, a significant proportion of those artefacts cannot be understood in these terms. The existence of local, short-lived manufacturing traditions, perhaps reflecting the idiosyncratic approaches of individual knappers, is argued to best explain the distinctive asymmetrical element of the Broom assemblage. This interpretation is further supported by (i) the geoarchaeological model of assemblage formation, which assigns the majority of the artefacts to a single phase of occupation, and (ii) the OSL ages of the Broom fluvial deposits (predominantly MIS-9 and 8) and the atypical character of the assemblage in relation to other British late Lower Palaeolithic material, which oppose the notion of longer-lived, locally, or regionally-maintained, traditions.

Résumé

La localité du Paléolithique inférieur de Broom, sur la rivière Axe à la frontière entre le Devon et le Dorset dans le sud-ouest de la Grande-Bretagne, a produit un assemblage d'au moins 1800 objets façonnés acheuléens entre les années 1870 et 1940 grâce à une carrière de gravier et les collections de férus d'archéologie. Le matériel biface en grande partie produit en silex noir mais comprenant un petit composant en silex, se caractérise par une considérable diversité typologique et un élément assymétrique distinctif. Alors que certains aspects de l'assemblage ont déjà fait l'objet d'un rapport, cette étude présente de nouveaux travaux sur la collection de C.E. Bean et l'échantillon du musée d'Exeter. Les archives Bean indiquent que la disposition des objets façonnés n'est pas due au mélange dans la rivière d'assemblages séparés de typologies peu différenciées. L'analyse des objets donne à penser que les stratégies de taille des hominidés n'étaient pas visiblement restreintes par les variations dans la qualité du grain de la matière première, mais que la diversité de la typologie reflète fortement l'apparence et la forme brutes. Toutefois, alors que les influences de la forme d'origine et la retaille, y compris l'utilisation de l'éclat sur tranchet expliquent en partie le composant assymétrique de l'assemblage, une proportion importante de ces objets ne peut s'expliquer en ces termes. On argumente que l'existence de traditions de fabrication locales de courte durée, reflétant peut-être l'approche idiosyncratique de tailleurs particuliers, est la meilleure explication pour l'élément assymétrique particulier à l'assemblage de Broom.

Cette interprétation est par ailleurs soutenue par (i) le modèle géo-archéologique de formation d'assemblage qui attribue la majorité des objets à une seule phase d'occupation et (ii) les âges OSL des alluvions de la rivière de Broom (avec prédominance MIS-9 et 8) et le caractère atypique de l'assemblage en comparaison avec d'autres matériaux de la fin du Paléolithique inférieur britannique qui vont à l'encontre de la notion de traditions de plus longue durée, entretenues localement ou régionalement.

Résumen

La localidad del Bajo Paleolítico de Broom, en el río Axe, entre Devon y Dorset y al suroeste británico, produjo un total de al menos 1800 artefactos Achelenses entre los años 1870 y 1940, encontrados en canteras de gravilla y colecciones de anticuarios. El material bifaz, predominantemente ejecutado en chert aunque incluye un pequeño componente de sílex, se caracteriza por una considerable diversidad tipológica y un distintivo elemento asimétrico. Aunque aspectos del conjunto han sido examinados en el pasado, este trabajo presenta nuevas investigaciones sobre los artefactos de la colección de C.E. Bean y los del Exeter Museum. El archivo de Bean demuestra que las asociaciones entre los artefactos no se deben a mezcla fluvial de conjuntos separados y tipológicamente diferenciados. El análisis de los artefactos sugiere que las estrategias homíninas de talla no estaban particularmente constreñidas por variaciones en la calidad granular de la materia prima, pero que la variabilidad tipológica es un fuerte reflejo del tipo y de la forma del soporte lítico y del retoque. Sin embargo, mientras que la influencia de la forma y retoque del soporte, incluido el uso de golpe de tranchet, explica parcialmente el componente asimétrico de la colección, una proporción significativa de estos utensilios no puede ser explicada por estos parámetros. Este trabajo mantiene que la mejor explicación para el característico componente asimétrico de la colección de Broom, es la existencia de tradiciones locales de fabricación de corta duración que reflejaban el modo de hacer idiosincrásico de talladores individuales. Esta interpretación es respaldada también por (i) el modelo geo-arqueológico de la formación del conjunto, que asigna la mayoría de los utensilios a una única fase de ocupación, y (ii) las dataciones OSL (Luminiscencia Estimulada Ópticamente) de los depósitos fluviales de Broom (predominantemente MIS-9 y 8) y el carácter atípico del conjunto en relación con otro material del tardo Bajo Paleolítico británico, que contradice la noción de tradiciones locales o regionales de más permanencia.

Zusammenfassung

Die altpaläolithische Fundstelle Broom liegt am Fluss Axe an der Devon/Dorset Grenze in Südwest Brittannien und erbrachte zwischen 1870ger und 1940ger Jahren ein Inventar von mindestens 1800 Acheulien Artefakte, die entweder durch das Anlegen von Kiesgruben gefunden wurden oder aus dem Kunsthandel stammen. Das bifazielle Material ist hauptsächlich aus Feuerstein, und zu einem geringen Anteil aus Flint, und ist durch eine beachtliche typologische Vielfalt und ein distinktives asymmetrisches Element gekennzeichnet. Während bereits früher über bestimmte Aspekte des Inventars berichtet wurde, beinhaltet dieser Artikel neue Arbeiten zu den Artefakten der C.E. Bean Kollektion und zu einem Exemplar aus dem Museum in Exeter Das Bean Archiv zeigt, dass die Zusammensetzung der Artefakte nicht von der Vermischung von verschiedenartigen, typologisch unterschiedlichen Inventaren in folge von Flussbewegung herrührt. Die Analyse der Artefakte zeigt, dass hominide Schlagtechniken nicht in großem Maße die unterschiedlich körnige Qualität des Rohmaterials beschränkt waren, sondern dass die typologische Vielfalt sehr stark die Rohform und Gestalt wiedergibt. Während die Einflüsse von Rohform und Nachschärfen – und der Nutzung von Tranchierabschlagsgewinnung – jedoch nur teilweise die asymmetrische Komponente des Inventars erklärt, kann ein signifikanter Anteil dieser Artefakte unter diesen Gesichtspunkten nicht verstanden werden. Das Vorhandensein von lokalen, kurzlebigen Herstellungstraditionen reflektiert sehr wahrscheinlich die spezifischen Herangehensweisen von individuellen Feuersteinschlägern und scheint deshalb am besten dazu geeignet zu sein, das besondere, asymmetrische Element des Broom Inventars zu erklären. Diese Interpretation wird durch (i) das geoarchäologische Modell der Inventarformation unterstützt, das den Hauptteil der Artefakte einer einzigen Belegungsphase zuordnet; und zweitens, dass die OLS Datierungen der Flussablagerungen von Broom (hauptsächlich aus MIS-9 und 8 stammt) und der atypische Charakter dieses Inventars in der Tat in Verbindung mit anderen altpaläolithischen Funden steht, was wiederum der Konzeption und Tradition (längerfristige, lokale oder regional aufrecht erhaltene Traditionen) widerspricht.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2009

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Genuine Diversity? The Broom Biface Assemblage
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