Archaeological and experimental studies of splintered pieces in the Central Asian Upper Paleolithic

Abstract

In Paleolithic archaeology, there are two dichotomous perspectives on so-called splintered pieces, or pieces esquillées, in which, depending upon archaeological context and the availability and quality of lithic of raw material, such pieces are considered bipolar cores or tools for processing organic materials. Here, we discuss for the first time functionality, reduction models, and modes of using Upper Paleolithic pièces esquillées from two Central Asian regions: the Tian Shan Mountains of eastern Uzbekistan and the Yenisey Valley of Siberian Russia. By applying attributive, experimental, scar-pattern, and use-wear analyses, we determined that these artifacts derived from two widely separated regions are tools for processing hard organic materials, which were rotated often during use. Reconstructed reduction sequences indicate that the morphological appearance of the implements was affected by the working processes associated with contact between the hammer and the organic material being processed. Our results demonstrate that the formation of the chisel or wedge is not significantly affected by the raw material of the blank, the type of hammer utilized, or the nature of the material being processed. To the contrary, chisel tools from the two regions demonstrated the same reduction processes affecting their lengths and widths due to having been employed in similar physical operations. On the other hand, pièces esquillées from the two study regions demonstrated the same reduction processes in length and width due to the application of similar work operations, which seems applicable to all splintered pieces used as tools.

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Funding

The excavations at Kulbulak were supported by the Basic Research project (RFBR) #19-09-00453 А. We are thankful to the Basic Research joint project (RFBR) #18-00-00660-18-00-00470 for supporting archaeological and geological research. Statistical study was performed under RSF #20-18-00179.

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Correspondence to V. M. Kharevich.

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Kolobova, K.A., Kharevich, V.M., Kharevich, A.V. et al. Archaeological and experimental studies of splintered pieces in the Central Asian Upper Paleolithic. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 28 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01256-2

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Keywords

  • Upper Paleolithic
  • Central Asia
  • Pièces esquillées
  • Splintered pieces
  • Experimental archaeology
  • Use-wear analysis