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Paleolithic. Acheulean Epoch (800-120 thousand years ago)

Basically, the Acheulean material culture is associated with the existence of Homo ergaster, Homo antecessor, and Homo Heidelbergensis.

Human settlement

The Acheulean monuments are much more widespread than the Olduvai ones: they are known in Africa, Western, Southern and South-Eastern Asia. There are many of them in Southern and Western Europe — in France, England, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Yugoslavia. In Central Europe, there are significantly fewer of them. In North-Eastern Eurasia, the Acheulean monuments are not numerous and belong to the second half of Acheulean. They are confined to the southern regions — the Caucasus and the Ciscaucasia, Moldova, Transnistria and the Azov Sea, Central Asia and Kazakhstan, Altai, Mongolia.

Human settlement of certain regions largely depended on the natural conditions of the Pleistocene — during the periods of glaciation, progress in the northern and temperate regions was very limited, on the contrary, during the interglacial periods, when natural conditions were much milder, people could explore new spaces.

The wide distribution of the monuments precludes the possibility of the Acheulean man entering this vast territory from a single center. However, the small number of materials makes the reconstruction of settlement routes quite controversial. People could come from Near Asia to Transcaucasia, the North Caucasus, the Kuban region, from Western and Central Europe – to the Russian plain. The territory of Northern Asia could be settled in at least two directions — from the Front and South-East Asia, Mongolia. Among the Acheulean monuments stand out –

  • sites, that is, places of habitation of ancient people, during the study of which cultural layers are found that lie in accordance with geological stratigraphy, and
  • locations — places of finds of objects of a particular era outside of connection with the cultural layer and stratigraphy, very often these are the results of collections on the surface.

The same names are used to refer to similar monuments for all subsequent epochs.

The earliest Acheulean monuments in Eastern Europe can be attributed to Korolevo (Western Ukraine), the ancient layers of which belong to the early Acheulean. The lower cultural layers of a number of caves in the Central and Northern Caucasus — Azykh in Nagorno-Karabakh, where the archanthropus jaw was found, Kudaro 1-3, Tsona (Central Caucasus), and Triangular (Northern Caucasus) – belong to the second half and the final of the Acheulean.

In the valleys of the Prut, Dniester and Dnieper, several dozen pre-mining sites and locations are known. In the Azov region and the lower reaches of the Don, there are a number of pre-mining localities, in the inventory of which there are differences in the types of tools and their design, which indicates the presence of carriers of different cultural traditions. At least 50 Acheulean localities are known in the Kuban basin, the most famous being the Abadzeh locality in the Belaya River Valley.

Domustieri localities are known in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. The most archaic forms of products — choppers, rough flakes, choppers-are represented in Southern Kazakhstan and allow us to speak about the connection of these areas with the Near East.

The findings of the last twenty years refute the prevailing idea of the unsuitability of the Siberian spaces for human habitation in the pre-Austerian period: in the Altai, localities (Ulalinka, Kizik-Ozek) and well-stratified monuments (Ust-Karakol, Kara-Bom, Denisova Cave) were found, the lower layers of which can be attributed to the Acheulean finale. The stone inventory is very diverse and indicates that the population who left the Altai monuments could have come from the territories of Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

You can read more about human settlement in the article “Settlement of ancient people”.

Tools and equipment for their production

The beginning of the Acheulean era was marked by the appearance and widespread use of new types of tools — the hand chopper and cleaver-cleaver, which differed in shape and were larger than the tools of the Olduvai era.

  • Hand chopper-a large massive tool (up to 35 cm), made of a piece of stone or flake by the method of double-sided obbivki. Most often, it has one pointed end and two longitudinal massive blades; the general shape of the weapon is oval or almond-shaped. Often the second end was left unprocessed. The chopper is the first tool that has a relatively standard shape and is easily recognized even by a layman. The chopping edge and the pointed end indicate that the hand chopper was a universal tool — primarily a percussive one, but it could also be used for digging roots out of the ground, extracting small animals, dismembering the carcasses of slaughtered animals, and processing wood and bone.
  • A cleaver, or cleaver, is another type of bilaterally processed large tool that has an untreated retouched transverse blade and symmetrically processed edges.

For early Agricultural tools, a small number of processing chips are characteristic; the edges of the products are usually uneven. It is experimentally proved that such chips were removed when hitting the stone with a stone bump. In the middle acheulean, this processing technique is replaced by a more advanced one: a bump made of softer materials is used — bone, horn, wood. It allows you to level the surface of the gun with thin removals. The tools themselves become thinner, more elegant and symmetrical, the longitudinal edges become more even and thin, cutting rather than chopping.

Clecton primary cleavage technique (Clecton nucleus).

Clecton primary cleavage technique (Clecton nucleus). The numbers show the order of withdrawal.

In the Acheulean complexes, choppers, scrapers, tools with serrated and notched edges, characteristic of the Olduvai era, are preserved.

Significantly increases the number of tools made on flakes, which become more subtle and correct. Plate blanks appear, they are thinner and longer than flakes and have more regular rectangular or triangular outlines. The tool kit of the Acheulean monuments is very diverse: these are numerous scrapers and scrapers designed for processing hides and leather, a variety of points that were used both as hunting weapons (spearheads and javelins), and for performing various piercing operations (punctures, awls, points), as well as various groups of serrated-notched forms.

The technique of splitting in the Early Assyrian era is similar in many ways to the Olduvai. However, with further development, various technological traditions can be distinguished. One of them was named Clecton after the Clecton site in England.

The radial technique of primary splitting. Radial (disc-shaped nucleus).

The radial technique of primary splitting. Radial (disc-shaped nucleus). The numbers show the order of withdrawals.

It assumed that the necessary chips were obtained not by haphazard splitting, but by selective, specific-situational splitting. After the first cleavage from the nucleus, a place was selected for the next one. Thus, each removal was subject to a specific purpose and depended on the previous chips, on the current situation on the stone. Clecton nuclei usually had two sites. Chipping was performed on an anvil covered with birch bark or skin.

In the early Acheulean, the radial technique appears and exists almost until the end of the Paleolithic. A rounded, slightly large, flattened pebble was used as the nucleus. Centripetal withdrawals were made from several sites on the same front. The chips obtained from the radial (discoid) nucleus were usually oval in shape and had a massive proximal segment with a large impact tubercle.

Levallois technique by stages

Levallois technique:
1. creating a platform
2. obbivka of the nucleus and obtaining flakes
3. re-sharpening of flakes and plates.

In the middle-late Acheulean period, important changes in the technique of stone processing take place. Along with the clecton technique and the double-sided upholstery technique, a new technique appears — levallois. The name of this technique was given to the Levallois-Perret parking lot near Paris. It is characterized by careful preliminary preparation and design of the nucleus, which thus acquires a resemblance to the shell of a turtle (tortoiseshell nucleus). This made it possible to obtain a large number of blanks (flakes and plates) of a fairly regular oval or triangular shape, which did not need long-term secondary processing for the subsequent manufacture of tools. As already mentioned, this technique appeared in the Acheulean era and was spread throughout the Mousterian time among individual groups of people in all territories inhabited in the ancient Paleolithic.

Remains of wooden tools have been found on several Acheulean monuments: in Clecton (England), in Loringen (Germany), in Torralba (Spain) and in Calambo (Africa). Most often, these are fragments of wooden spears, which, as the researchers suggest, were not throwing, but striking.

Currently, a lot of Acheulean materials have accumulated, which allow us to trace the local features of the inventory. The reason for these variations is not yet entirely clear. Some researchers explain them by differences in environmental conditions, others — by the peculiarities of the economy, others-by the nature of the raw materials used for tools, and, finally, by the reflection of cultural traditions fixed in the manufacturing technique and shape of tools.

The nature of the monuments

Acheulean monuments often have a fairly strong cultural layer and represent the camps of hunter-gatherers who undoubtedly knew fire. At the Zhoukoutian cave site in China, many meters of ash and coal were found-evidence of constantly burning hearths there.

Judging by the power of the cultural layer, people lived in one place for a long time or returned to it several times. When analyzing the sites, it is possible to distinguish monuments that are different in terms of economic affiliation: short-term hunting camps; workshops for the extraction and primary processing of stone raw materials located at its exits to the surface; long-term base sites where most of the team lived and numerous and diverse labor operations were performed.

The Acheulean man settled both in the open air and in caves. In some cases, traces of artificial dwellings have been preserved, especially interesting data were obtained at the sites of Ambrone in Spain, Terra Amata and Grote Lazare in France.

Reconstruction of the hunters ' home. 400 thousand years ago. Terra Amata, southern France.

Reconstruction of the hunters ‘ home. 400 thousand years ago. Terra Amata, southern France.

Terra Amata is an early Ashel settlement with several cultural strata, indicating that man repeatedly returned to this place. Here, oval-shaped clusters of cultural remains were found, along the borders of which holes from pillars and stone blocks were traced. Inside the clusters were located foci. These monuments are reconstructed as the remains of huts built of thick poles and branches. In the grotto of Lazare, an oval living area was found near one of the walls, which was fenced off from the rest of the grotto by a masonry of stones. Inside the site, there were two hearths surrounded by a cluster of cultural remains. Perhaps it was an extension to the wall of the grotto with vertical walls and a sloping roof constructed of poles and hides.

The cultural layers in the caves of Kudaro 1-3 and Tsona (Central Caucasus) contain the remains of several camps belonging to different economic types. Kudaro 1 is the base site where the main part of the collective lived, it is characterized by a powerful (0.7 m) cultural layer, an abundance of stone tools, various bone remains of hunting prey, and the presence of hearths. Kudaro 3, Tsona-hunting camps, i.e. short-term camps, where only the initial processing of hunting prey, represented by more than 40 species of various animals and fish, mainly salmon, took place.

Reconstruction of the life of primitive people. Terra Amata Museum (Nice, France).

Reconstruction of the life of primitive people. Terra Amata Museum (Nice, France).

Archaeological materials, despite their fragmentary nature, allow us to reconstruct to some extent the picture of the social and economic life of the Acheulean man. He knew how to build houses, lived in one place for a long time, or returned there many times. Stone tools are represented by a whole set of products that served to perform various household tasks or were objects of hunting weapons. Hunting large animals required close team cohesion. Parking lots of various economic purposes — hunting camps, base camps, workshops for the extraction of stone raw materials-indicate such a complex form of social behavior as the division of labor.

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