HOME 12/08/2003

The Definition and Interpretation of Levallois Technology
Harold L. Dibble and Ofer Bar-Yosef
Monographs in World Archaeoogy # 23

Chapter 26: The Mousterian Industries
of Yabroud Shelter I: A Reconsideration

Rose Solecki and Ralph Solecki


Excerpts and Definitons and Addendums:

Because of its deep cultural deposits Yabroud Shelter I in Syria is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in the Near East. In addition it lies in an environmental zone different from that of most other of the other Middle Paleolithic sites in the region, which are situated either along the Mediterranean coast or in the interior desert steppe.

This paper deals only with the Mousterian industries of Yabroud Shelter I. This refers to the stratigraphy from the surface to 2.20 metres below the surface. The lithics from the Mousterian layers should be placed into two broad variants: Yabroud Mousterian Type I and Type II.

Yabroud Mousterian Type I

The tools in this variant of the Yabroud Mousterian are dominated either by sidescrapers or retouched points. Together the sidescrapers and the retouched points account for circa 60% - 80% of the total tool inventory. Denticulates and notches account for about 10% of the tool inventory.

Upper Paleolithic tool types are also present but usually they are only a minor component.

Levallois blanks are used for about 35% to 55% of the tools in the YMI type industries. Usually points are the main Levallois blank type. Of the over-all tool blank categories flakes are sometimes the preferred type, sometimes points and sometimes blades.

Facetted platforms including chapeau de gendarme dominate, ranging from circa 55% to 65% of the distribution. The high percentage in some of the layers of plain or dihedral platforms may be related to the high percentage of point or blade blanks.

Levallois or Unifacial (Levallois-like) cores are dominant usually occurring in more-or-less equal amounts in the different layers. Discoidal cores chacteristically account for about 12% to 24% of the distribution.

In some of the YMI type Mousterian industries the local Yabroud flint is the main or an important raw material source for the tools and the cores. The local flint may have been used to obtain flakes for informal tools and the better quality non-local raw material was selected for the more formal tools. This practice is most clearly illustrated in the Levallois points .....

Yabroud Mousterian Type II

The cultural layers placed in this variant suggest short term encampments perhaps terminated by the onset of cold conditions.

The lithics found in these industries exhibit substantial evidence that they underwent modifications during periods of freezing and thawing at the site.

When the four major tool groups are compared it can be seen that denticulates and notches are characteristic of the YMII variant.

Perhaps even more characteristic are the Upper Paleolithic type tools. Burins are common as in the YMI variant but perforators are an important tool type in all three of the YMII cultural layers at the site. Perforators are rare in all the YMI type industries.

Neither sidescapers nor retouched points are major tool classes. This represents a very different tool type distribution from that characteristic of the YMI industry where such tools predominate.

On average the tools are smaller than those in YMI. This may be related to raw material selection for imported cherts and flints are used for most of the tools and the cores. The local flint never was a major raw material source as it was in some of the YMI cultural layers.

Levallois tool blanks are present but do not represent as large a proportion of the distribution as in YMI. In the overall tool blank cataegory blades are always characteristic. Flake tool blanks vary from 35% to 50% so they too are a characteristic form. Point blanks never dominate as they do in some of the YMI industries.

Facetted platforms including the chapeau de gendarme type represent the main platform type. Plain platforms are the second most common type.

As in the YMI type industries Levallois and Unifacial cores are dominant and again occur in more-or-less equal amounts in each layer. Discoidal cores may be rare or occur in amounts up to 20% of the distribution in the different layers. The most important difference in core typology between the YMI and YMII industries is the presence of prismatic cores in the latter. Prismatic cores may represent as much as 24% of the core distribution in certain layers. Local Yabroud flint is never an important type in these cores and may even be absent.

The YMII industry may represent a derived local variant of the earlier Pre-Aurignacian (Amudian) .....


In summary therefore at least two Mousterian industrial variants are represented at Yabroud Shelter I. The designations YMI and YMII are not intended to suggest chronological ordering. In fact the earliest and the latest Mousterian industries at the site belong to the YMI variant and the YMII industries are found stratigraphically interspersed between the YMI ones.

Although the Yabroud Mousterian industries may be divided into two broad variants both belong to a unique tradition which is distinct from other Levantine Mousterian cultures (Tabun). The differences are probably due to a combination of factors: temporal placement of the entire Yabroud Mousterian sequence; length or intensity of the occupations represented by the individual layers at Yabroud; raw material quality and availability; environment in both its static and changing modes; and local traditions .....

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium