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The Lower Palaeolithic Site at Red Barns, Portchester, Hampshire: Bifacial Technology, Raw Material Quality, and the Organisation of Archaic Behaviour

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

Francis Wenban-Smith
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ
Clive Gamble
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ
Arthur Apsimon
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ

Abstract

The site at Red Barns was excavated in 1975, but the large lithic collection remained unstudied following preliminary examination. This paper reports on further analysis of the lithic material from the site, together with a reappraisal of the faunal remains and original mineralogical analyses, and the results of processing sediment samples from the 1975 excavation. An abundant molluscan assemblage was recovered from the deposits covering the main archaeological horizon, allowing climatic/environmental reconstruction and amino acid dating. The synthesis of these data indicates the site to be older than previously thought, dating to between 425,000 and 200,000 BP.

Analysis of the lithic material has suggested that the site is an undisturbed palimpsest of flint tools and debitage. The poor, severely frost-fractured nature of the raw material used for knapping, together with the location of the site on a Chalk outcrop, have enabled investigation of some assumptions about the influences upon knapping technology of i) poor quality raw material and ii) local availability of flint fresh from Chalk bedrock. The persistent manufacture of finely worked plano-convex handaxes suggests that, even in an area where fresh Chalk flint must have been abundant, the immediately available poor quality flint source was not a bar to formation of an assemblage dominated by handaxe production. Secondly, the emphasis on carefully shaped pointed plano-convex handaxes suggests that this shape was both deliberately imposed and not dictated by a lack of local availability of flint fresh from the Chalk. Behaviour at the site was investigated by analysis of the organisation of the lithic production and it was demonstrated that, while some handaxes and flake-tools were abandoned at the site and some flake core reduction also took place there, the dominant pattern was for handaxes to be made at the site and then removed and abandoned elsewhere.

Résumé

Le site de Red Barns a été fouillé en 1975, mais on n'a pas poursuivi l'étude de l'importante collection lithique après les examens préliminaires. Cet ouvrage rend compte des analyses supplémentaires du matériel lithique provenant du site, auxquelles s'ajoutent une réévaluation des restes de faune et des analyses minéralogiques originelles, ainsi que les résultats de l'investigation d'échantillons sédimentaires des fouilles de 1975. Un abondant assemblage de mollusques a été retrouvé dans les dépôts qui couvraient le principal horizon archéologique, ce qui a permis une reconstruction climatique/environnementale et une datation des acides aminés. La synthèse de ces données indique que le site est plus ancien qu'on ne le pensait auparavant et date d'entre 425 000 et 200 000 avant le présent.

L'analyse des matériaux lithiques a donné à penser que le site constitue un palimpseste intact d'outils en silex et de débitage. La matière première utilisée pour le martelage, de qualité médiocre et sérieusement fracturée par le gel, ainsi que la situation du site sur un affleurement crétacé, nous ont permis d'analyser certaines hypothèses sur les influences qu'ont exercé sur la technologie du martelage de la pierre 1) la médiocre qualité de la matière première et 2) la présence sur le site de silex vierge provenant de la couche crétacée. La persistance de la fabrication de coups-de-poing piano-convexes délicatement travaillés donne à penser que, même dans une région où le silex vierge du Crétacé devait être abondant, la médiocre qualité de la source de silex locale n'était pas venue entraver la formation d'un assemblage dominé par la production de coups de poing. Deuxièmement, l'importance accordée aux coups de poing piano-convexes pointus soigneusement taillés suggère que cette forme était à la fois directement imposée et n'était pas dictée par le manque de disponibilité de silex local fraîchement taillé du crétacé On a étudié les comportements sur le site en analysant l'organisation de la production lithique, ce qui a mis en évidence que, bien que certains coups de poing et certains outils sur éclats aient été abandonnés sur le site et qu'une certaine quantité de réduction de nucléus par éclatement ait eu lieu là, la pratique dominante consistait à fabriquer les coups de poing sur le site puis à les exporter et les abandonner ailleurs.

Zusammenfassung

Die Fundstelle in Red Barns wurde 1975 ausgegraben, doch blieben größere lithische Kollektionen nach vorläufiger Untersuchung unbearbeitet. Dieser Artikel berichtet über weiterführende Analysen des lithischen Materials der Fundstelle und eine Neubewertung der Faunareste, mineralogische Originalanalysen und Ergebnisse von Sedimentproben der Ausgrabung von 1975. Ein reiches Molluskeninventar wurde aus den Ablagerungen des archäologischen Haupthorizonts geborgen, was eine Rekonstruktion des Klimas/Umwelt und eine Aminosäurendatierung ermöglicht. Die Synthese dieser Daten deutet darauf hin, daß die Fundstelle älter als vorher angenommen ist, und zwischen 425,000 und 200,000 BP datiert.

Die Analyse des lithischen Materials weist darauf hin, daß die Fundstelle ein ungestörtes Palimpsest von Feuersteingeräten und Abschlägen ist. Die schlechte, stark frostgeschädigte Natur des Rohmaterials, das für die Steinbearbeitung benutzt wurde, ermöglichten, zusammen mit der Lokalität der Fundstelle auf einem Kalksediment, die Überprüfung von einigen Annahmen in bezug auf die Einflüsse von i) schlechter Qualität des Rohmaterials und ii) lokaler Verfügbarkeit von Feuerstein, der frisch vom Flußbett in Kalkgestein stammt, auf die Technologie der Steinbearbeitung. Die fortdauernde Herstellung von fein gearbeiteten flacl-konvexen Faustkeilen weist darauf hin, daß sogar in einem Gebiet, wo frischer Kalkfeuerstein reichlich vorhanden war, die lokale schlechte Qualität der Quelle des Feuersteins kein Hindernis zur Formation eines Inventars war, in dem die Faustkeilproduktion vorherrschte. Zweitens deutet der Schwerpunkt sorgfältig geformter, zugespitzter flacl-konvexer Faustkeile darauf hin, daß diese Form absichtlich eingesetzt wurde und auch nicht durch mangelnde lokale Verfügbarkeit von frischem Feuerstein aus Kalkgestein notwendig gemacht wurde. Das Verhalten an der Fundstelle wurde mit Hilfe einer Analyse der Organisation der lithischen Produktion untersucht. Es wurde gezeigt, daß während Faustkeile und Abschlaggeräte an der Fundstelle aufgegeben und auch etwas Abbau von Abschlagkernen unternommen wurde, war das vorherrschende Muster für Faustkeile, daß sie an der Fundstelle hergestellt, dann ausgeführt und anderswo aufgegeben wurden.

Resúmen

El yacimiento de Red Barns fué excavado en 1978, pero, tras un examen preliminar, la abundante colección lítica permaneció sin ser estudiada. Este artículo expone el posterior análisis del material lítico junto con una reevaluación de los restos animales y de los análisis mineralógicos originales, y de los resultados del procesamiento de las muestras de sedimentos procedentes de la excavación de 1975. Se recuperaron abundantes restos de moluscos de los depósitos del principal horizonte arqueológico, que permiten la reconstrucción climática y medio-ambiental y la datación por amino-ácidos. La síntesis de estos datos indica que el yacimiento es anterior a lo previamente pensado, datando de un momento entre 425.000 y 200.000 B.P.

El análisis del material lítico ha sugerido que el yacimiento es un palimpsesto no alterado de instrumentos de sílex y restos. La naturaleza pobre y gravemente fracturada por el hielo de la materia prima usada en la producción de instrumentos de piedra, junto con el emplazamiento del yacimiento en un terreno calizo, han permitido la investigación de algunas suposiciones sobre la influencia en la tecnología de la producción de instrumentos de piedra de (i) materias primas de baja calidad y (ii) disponibilidad local de nuevo sílex procedente del lecho calizo. La manufactura constante de hachas de mano de perfil plano-convexo muy bien trabajadas sugiere que, incluso en una zona donde el nuevo sílex extraído de la creta debe haber sido abundante, la pobre calidad de la fuente local de sílex no fué obstáculo para la formación de un conjunto de material dominado por la producción de hachas de mano. En segundo lugar, el empeño en la talla cuidadosa de hachas de mano de perfil agmidaloide cuidadosamente formadas denota que esta forma era deliberada y no dictada por la falta de disponibilidad local de nuevo sílex procedente de la creta. Se investigó el comportamiento en el yacimiento a través del análisis de la organización de la producción lítica y se demostró que, mientras algunas hachas y utensilios sobre lasca quedaron abandonados en el sitio y algunas lascas procedentes de la redución de núcleos también permanecieron allí, el modelo dominante fué que las hachas fueron fabricadas en el yacimiento y luego exportadas y abandonadas en otros lugares.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2000

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The Lower Palaeolithic Site at Red Barns, Portchester, Hampshire: Bifacial Technology, Raw Material Quality, and the Organisation of Archaic Behaviour
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