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Excavation 2016: The Upper Upper Upper Palaeolthic

With only a few working days left until it's time to leave the site for another season, we're in a very good position. As we've pulled back the straigraphy to get to the undisturbed archaeology, we've come to the prehistoric layers-- as indicated by the presence of several pieces of prehistoric (possibly Bronze Age) pottery. This is very helpful, as it lets us know what period we're currently digging.

The working hypothesis of the hearth in the corner of the trench has since been disproven; pulling the layer back, we've found more quartzite cobbles and an extremely rocky layer that looks like scree from the cliff face. Annoyingly, this scree covers the entire bottom of the trench, meaning that there's lots of very careful troweling in the crevices between rocks and awkward angles trying to balance your feet on angular bits of limestone. Although this is a pain now, when we pull up these rocks it seems very very likely that we'll have come to the end of the Holocene and the beginning of the Ice Age. 

This is supported by the fact that we found a very special kind of flint tool in the trench yesterday: a Federmesser, or pen-knife point, from the so-called Federmesser culture. These come right after the Creswellian culture at the very end of the Upper Palaeolithic (the 'Upper Upper Palaeolthic', jokingly), and that we've found one implies we're in the layer or two ahead of the Creswellian culture.

The points are distinctive for being of a specific shape, like that of a pen-knife, and for being curve backed-- so whoever made these had to strike the flint from the core, then go back and retouch the flint to have a specific shape and edge. You can see a little bit of that in the pictures below: the triangular shape, then the curved back. You can also see a little bit of retouching on the face, where the bottom 1/3 of the flint goes concave where someone's retouched it as well:


Andrea Leigh. Durham University

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