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Louis De Weyer - Thèmes de recherche

Thèse de doctorat : La variabilité des industries lithiques oldowayennes et de Mode 1 en Afrique et en Europe. Nouvelle approche des assemblages du Paléolithique archaïque. Observation de la variabilité des objectifs de production et questionnements autour de la relation phylétique des premières productions européennes avec les assemblages africains.

Problématique générale de la thèse

   La thèse que je prépare cherche à comparer les premières traces de production humaines en Afrique et en Europe. Séparées dans ces deux espaces géographiques par un lap de temps d’au moins 800 000 ans, la communauté scientifiques a, depuis les années 1960, axé ses hypothèses sur la théorie de vagues migratoires hors d’Afrique, plus connues sous le nom d’Out of Africa. D’aspect très archaïque, les premières industries humaines (2,6 millions d’années en Afrique, 1,8 millions d’années autour de la Méditerranée) sont généralement considérées comme identiques, ou du moins de caractère homogène, dans les ensembles géographiques concernés. Ceci correspond bien à l’idée d’une migration des hommes hors d’Afrique à différentes périodes, transportant avec eux leur panoplie technique, issue d’un unique foyer d’émergence.
   Pourtant, les données archéologiques, lorsqu’on les étudie précisément, semblent indiquer des différences importantes dans les premières manifestations techniques humaines. De plus, on retrouve ces différences notables quelles que soient les approches utilisées, tant au niveau de la conception mentale de l’objet, c’est-à-dire en s’intéressant à ce que les hominidés voulaient réaliser, qu’au niveau de la morphologie et du type d’outil réalisé.
   Ainsi, puisque seuls de très rares squelettes fossiles d’hominidés ont été mis au jour en Europe, peut-on réellement s’appuyer sur des théories pour lesquelles les données sont manquantes, alors que l’enregistrement archéologique, plus riche en production matérielle, tend à démontrer le contraire des hypothèses actuelles ?

   C’est pourquoi nous développons actuellement un travail de comparaison des données archéologiques mises au jour en Afrique et en Europe, en utilisant une approche techno-fonctionnelle du matériel. Cette approche permet une description précise des industries lithiques, à la fois au niveau de leur production et à celui de leur utilisation (ou du moins de leur « potentiel fonctionnel », lorsque la détermination directe de la fonction des objets ne peut être clairement définie). Cette démarche, qui donne déjà des résultats significatifs pour les périodes qui succèdent au Paléolithique archaïque, sera donc appliquée aux collections des plus anciennes manifestations techniques humaines, dans le but d’évaluer la possibilité d’une convergence de l’invention et de l’adoption du phénomène technique dans le monde, à travers plusieurs foyers d’émergence.


PhD Thesis: “The variability of Oldowan and Mode 1 lithic industries in East Africa and Europe. New approach of the Earliest Stone Age assemblages, issues about the relationships between the first European and East African lithic productions.”

The Oldowan: the oldest technical phenomenon

   This research proposal deals with the first lithic assemblages discovered in East Africa and Europe. The technical phenomenon appears around 2,6 Myr in East Africa, in the sites of Gona, in the Hadar formation in Ethiopia (Semaw, 2000), and in Lokalelei in West Turkana, some time later (Roche et al., 1999).
   Numerous archaeological sites dated around 1,8 Myr are also attributed to this beginning of stone knapping activities, as for instance Koobi Fora KBS (Toth, 1982, 1987), Kanjera South (Plummer et al., 1999; Braun et al., 2009), located in Kenya, and Fejej Fj-1 in Ethiopia (de Lumley et Beyene, 2004), and several sites from the Bed I of Olduvai in Tanzania (Leakey, 1971). The lithic artifacts carried out in those sites compose the assemblages of the Oldowan archaeological period. It represents the first steps of the human material productions.
  In Europe, the first evidences of stone knapping activities appear later. In Dmanissi (Georgia), stone artifacts were discovered with Homo georgicus skulls, dated around 1,8 Myr (Lordkipanidze et al., 2007). Except that site in the gates of Europe, there is no other early evidence in Eastern Europe. It is only in the western part of the continent that the earliest archaeological remains were identified: in Pirro Nord, Italy (Arzarello et al., 2009), Orce (Toro et al., 2003), and Atapuerca (Carbonell et al., 2001) in Spain. Those sites are never older than 1,5 Myr.




A variability hidden by the global approaches and the paradigm of Out of Africa

  The European earliest assemblages are often compared with those from the Oldowan period in East Africa, because of their archaical aspect. They are classified in the Mode 1 technology, distinguished from Mode 2 by the absence of handaxes.
The African origin of the first European assemblages is an issue often used to illustrate the paradigm of migration waves. One considers that each hominid species went out of Africa with specific technical skills similar to those recognized in Africa.
  However, this pattern is not so clear when archaeological data are taken into account. Indeed, very few skeletons were discovered to prove that theory, thus anthropological data are weak. Moreover, the classification of the first lithic assemblages was made in a very global way, and numerous differences could be hidden by that superficial homogeneity.
   In East Africa, Oldowan is also a term that hides the variability of the first human productions. That variability is always explained by contextual issues. Indeed, according to a site occupation context (butchery, knapping workplace, habitat), we will obviously find different remains; if the quality of the raw material is bad, the production will appear less complex. Thus, it limits the interpretations about abilities and knapping skills of the first knappers.
   However, we cannot use those contextual data only to define the first hominids knapping skills. It is necessary to look at the artifacts with issues about their meaning for the ancient knappers. What did they want to do? How did they manage to realize their objectives with such a raw material? Are there similarities between tools on poor raw material and well-made tools on good raw material that we found in some other sites?
   To answer these issues, it is necessary to study the assemblages with a new eye, using a different methodology adapted to the questions we would like to resolve.



Examples of core and flake from Koobi Fora.


A new technological approach to be involved

   Since several years, some studies managed to demonstrate that, even in the earliest archaeological deposits, very complex operative schemes could be found (Lokalelei 2C, Fejej Fj-1): so we could not resume the hominid behavior to an opportunist pattern, in which the raw material quality would lead the knapping skills (Schick, 1994).
   Nowadays, the technological approach allows us to understand much better the abilities of the first knappers, and the variability of their productions. Thus, it is now necessary to use it to carry out new analysis of assemblages from different areas.
That research wants to focus on two geographical areas : East Africa and Europe. We would like to study some lithic collections from the regions, using a techno-structural analysis to investigate new issues.
   Developed with the combination of different disciplines, this approach aims to find the structure of the artifacts, divided in techno-functional units. Such a view of the material allows us to determine potential zones of activities on the artifacts, taking account of the cutting edges, the volume and morphology of the artifact. That leads us to understand how the combination of the different structural areas constitutes the tool.
   That methodology was inspired by cultural anthropologists (Boëda, 1997; Soriano, 2001), philosophers (Simondon, 1958) and ergonomists (Rabardel, 1995). They all worked on the relations between the human and his tools, and the structural constitution of the tools.
   Applied to the lithic material, this approach is potentially very informative, especially for the earliest periods. Regarding such issues as the variability of the first human productions, this methodology would allow us to go further in the research of the first human activities and their diversity. It’s also a very good way to compare assemblages in order to carry out differences and recurrences in the objectives of tool production and potential use. The results of that study would inform about the relationships between Oldowan and Mode 1, and the specificities of each region. They could underlie the emergence of different techno-evolutive ways. Then, the way of the technical convergence will also be considered.


References

ARZARELLO M., MARCOLINI F., PAVIA G., PAVIA M., PETRONIO C., PETRUCCI M., ROOK L., SARDELLA R. (2009) – L’industrie lithique du site pléistocène inférieur de Pirro Nord (Apricena, Italie du Sud) : une occupation humaine entre 1,3 et 1,7 Ma, L’anthropologie 113 : 47-58.

BOËDA E. (1997) – Technogenèse des sytèmes de production lithique au Paléolithique inférieur et moyen en Europe occidentale et au Proche-Orient, Habilitation à diriger des recherches, Département d’Ethnologie et de Préhistoire, Nanterre, Université Paris X-Nanterre, 173 p.

BRAUN D., PLUMMER T., FERRARO J., DITCHFIELD P., BISHOP L. (2009) – Raw material quality and Oldowan hominin toolstone preferences: evidence from Kanjera South, Kenya, Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1605-1614.

CARBONELL E. et al. (1999) – Out of Africa: The Dispersal of the Earliest Technical Systems Reconsidered, Jounal of Anthropological Archaeology, 18, 119-136.

CARBONELL E., MOSQUERA M., OLLE A. et al. (2001) – Structure morpho-technique de l’industrie lithique du Pléistocène inférieur et moyen d’Atapuerca (Burgos, Espagne), L’Anthropologie 105 : 259-280.

DELAGNES A. and ROCHE H. (2005) - Late Pliocene hominid knapping skills: The case of Lokalalei 2C, West Turkana, Kenya, Journal of Human Evolution 48 : 435-472.

LEAKEY M. D. (1971) – Olduvai Gorge, Volume 3, Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960-1963, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK).

LORDKIPANIDZE D. et al. (2007) – Postcranial evidence from early Homo from Dmanisi, Georgia. Nature 449, 305-310.

de LUMLEY H. et BEYENE Y., dir. (2004) – Les sites préhistoriques de la région de Fejej, Sud-Omo, Ethiopie, dans leur contexte stratigraphique et paléontologique, Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, Paris.

PLUMMER T., BISHOP L., DITCHFIELD P., HICKS J. (1999) – Research on Late Pliocene Oldowan sites at Kanjera South, Kenya, Journal of Human Evolution 36: 151-170.

RABARDEL P. (1995) – Les Hommes et les Technologies. Approche cognitive des instruments contemporains, Armand Colin, 238 p.

ROCHE H., DELAGNES A., BRUGAL., FEIBEL C., KIBUNJIA M., MOURRE V., TEXIER P.-J. (1999) – Early hominid stone tool production and technological skill 2.34 Myr ago in West Turkana, Kenya, Nature 399 : 57-60.

SCHICK K.D. (1994) - The Movius line reconsidered. In: CORRUCCINI, R.S., CIOCHON, R.L. (Eds.), Integrative Paths to the Past. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey : 569-596.

SEMAW S. (2000) – The World’s Oldest Stone Artefacts from Gona, Ethiopia : their implications for understanding stone technology and Patterns of Human Evolution Between 2,6-1,5 Million Years Ago, Journal of Archaeological Science 27/12: 1197-1214.

SIMONDON G. (1958) – Du mode d’existence des objets techniques, Paris, Aubier.
SORIANO S. (2001) - Statut fonctionnel de l'outillage bifacial dans les industries du Paléolithique moyen : propositions méthodologiques. In: D. CLIQUET (dir., ed.), Les industries à outils bifaciaux du Paléolithique moyen d'Europe occidentale. Actes de la table-ronde internationale organisée à Caen (Basse-Normandie, France), 14-15 octobre 1999, ERAUL : 77-83, 98).

TORO I., DE LUMLEY H., BARSKY D., CELIBERTI V., CAUCHE D., MONCEL, M.-H. et al. (2003) - Las industrias líticas de Barranco Leon y Fuente Nueva 3 de Orce. Estudio tecnico y tipologico. Las cadenas operativas. Analisis traceologico. Resultados preliminares. In: TORO, I., AGUSTI, J., MARTINEZ-NAVARRO, B. (Eds.), El Pleistoceno inferior de Barranco Leon y Fuente Nueva 3, Orce (Granada), Memoria scientifica campañas 1999-2002. Junta de Andalucia, Consejeria de Cultura, Arqueologia.

TOTH N. (1982) – The stone technologies of early hominids at Kooby Fora, Kenya : an experimental approach, Ph. D. dissertation, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley.

TOTH N. (1987) – Behavioral inferences from Early Stone Age artifact assemblages: an experimental model, Journal of Human Evolution 16 : 763-787.













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