A core is a stone from which flakes have been detached so that the flakes can be made into tools. This one was made with a special technique called Levallois core preparation that was widely used during the Middle Paleolithic Period. The Middle Paleolithic saw the rise of more complex stone tool technologies and more variability in tool types compared to the Lower Paleolithic. This change is associated with the increasing complexity of Hominin behavior —such as specialized hunting, pyrotechnology, and the use of symbols— eventually resulting in anatomically and behaviorally modern humans. Levallois cores were made by removing flakes in a specific way, such as centripetally around an edge, so that the last flakes detached have a predetermined shape. This example is a ‘Nubian A’ type of Levallois core where preparation flakes were removed from the distal (pointed) end in order to create a central ridge that will produce a pointed flake.
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Dimensions:L. 8.4 × W. 5.4 × Th. 2.1 cm, Wt. 105.1g (3 5/16 × 2 1/8 × 13/16 in., 3.707oz.)
Credit Line:Gift of C. T. Currelly, 1906
Discussion of the individual object
This Nubian A (Nubian I) Levallois point core retains cortex across most of the bottom face. The proximal platform was shaped by multiple removals and forms an approximate 90-degree angle with the flaking face. The pattern of preparation on the main flaking face is radial near the proximal end (including one scar with a deep hinge termination), and near the distal end there are two elongated scars forming a central ridge. There is a large central scar from the removal of at least one Levallois point. See Van Peer (1992:39-42) and Van Peer et al. (2010:49-50) for definitions of Nubian A and B cores compared to classical Levallois cores.
Discussion of the group
This artifact was part of a set of 147 lithic objects donated to the Metropolitan Museum by Charles T. Currelly in 1906 (06.322.1- 06.322.147). Currelly participated in Edward Naville’s excavations at Deir el- Bahri between 1905 and 1907, and he most likely collected these artifacts from the surface of the high desert plateau behind the site, as is indicated in a letter of May 19, 1906 addressed to Edward Robinson, the then assistant director at The Met. In the letter, William M. Laffan, a trustee of the museum, writes that these flints "are from the edge of the Libyan desert where it approaches the Valley of the Kings behind Der-el-Bah’ri, and are of unusual interest." Additionally, the substantial build-up of dark brown patina covering the artifacts shows that they were likely exposed on the desert surface. Aside from the patina, the preservation is otherwise quite good, with only minimal signs of rolling/damage, and lacking the high degree of weathering and erosion seen on Paleolithic artifacts that were naturally transported far distances. Therefore, the artifacts were probably found close to their original depositional positions. Indeed, it is the case in the Egyptian high desert that Paleolithic artifacts can remain in-situ moving very little over vast time spans, as had been determined through survey and studies refitting flakes to cores at Abydos (Adelsberger et al. 2013).
Middle Paleolithic artifacts are found commonly on the surface of the high desert plateaus near the Nile valley throughout Egypt (Olszewski et al. 2005; Vermeersch et al. 2000). However, this group of artifacts donated by Currelly contains a mixture of Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic artifacts indicating that he either collected them from multiple locations or that he collected them from a site that was re-used in later periods (e.g. Taramsa 1, Van Peer et al. 2010). The presence of the Lower Paleolithic artifacts makes this collection especially important, as there are fewer Lower Paleolithic sites that have been found and studied in Egypt compared to the Middle Paleolithic or later sites.
Lower and Middle Paleolithic artifacts in Egypt are critical for addressing questions of early human evolution and dispersal, particularly as the Nile valley was one of the main corridors for human migration ‘out of Africa’.
Elizabeth Hart, J. Clawson Mills Research Fellow, 2018
Adelsberger, Katherine A., Jennifer R. Smith, Shannon P. McPherron, Harold L. Dibble, Deborah I. Olszewski, Utsav A. Schurmans, and Laurent Chiotti 2013. "Desert Pavement Disturbance and Artifact Taphonomy: A Case Study from the Eastern Libyan Plateau, Egypt." In Geoarchaeology 28 (2), pp. 112–30.
Olszewski, Deborah I., Harold L. Dibble, Utsav A. Schurmans, Shannon P. McPherron, and Jennifer R. Smith 2005. "High Desert Paleolithic Survey at Abydos, Egypt." In Journal of Field Archaeology 30 (3), pp. 283–303.
Van Peer, Philip 1992. The Levallois Reduction Strategy. Madison: Prehistory Press.
Van Peer, Philip, Etienne Paulissen, and Pierre M. Vermeersch 2010. Chert Quarrying, Lithic Technology and a Modern Human Burial at the Palaeolithic Site of Taramsa 1, Upper Egypt. Leuven: Leuven Univ. Press.
Vermeersch, Pierre M., Gilbert Gijselings, and Etienne Paulissen 2000. "Surface Sites." In Palaeolithic Living Sites in Upper and Middle Egypt, edited by Pierre M. Vermeersch. Leuven: Leuven University Press, pp. 19–55.
From the first platform of the Mentuhotep Temple, Deir el Bahri. Donated to the Museum by C. T. Currelly, 1906.
Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 9–10.
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