Lithics are Back…at the 12th ICAANE!
Since 1998, the ICAANE (International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East) is a periodical symposium covering all the aspects of the archaeology of the Near East, from prehistoric to historical times. Due to the present sanitary crisis, the meeting originally scheduled in Bologna (Italy) in April 2020, took place from 6th to 9th of April 2021. Thanks to the scientific committee, the 12th edition was hosted on a virtual platform. The general sessions, workshops and posters were spread under eight main themes over 19 rooms (Plenary, Room A to R). The workshop “Let the Stone Speak: Status and Socioeconomic Implications of Protohistoric Lithic Productions in the Near East” (fig. 1), co-organised by Florine Marchand, Daniele Moscone and Francesca Manclossi, was included within the main theme “Hammering the Material World. Characterization of material culture, processes and technologies” the aim of which was to show how the material sphere ultimately reveals the underlying processes through which ancient societies interacted and changed through time (https://eventi.unibo.it/12icaane).
Ten years ago, the first (and last) ICAANE workshop (7th edition, London) focused on lithic technologies in metal using societies and represented an important step to build up the first draft of a synthesis (Rosen 2013). One of the major purposes of the meeting (later published in Lithic Technology 2013, Vol. 38, No. 3) was the examination and analysis of the distribution and frequencies of lithic types and technologies across the Near East. The results highlighted, on the one hand, similar trends of technological simplification, and on the other, growing knapping skills and standardization trends regarding specific artefacts. However, due to the complete lack of data for some regions and specific periods, too many issues remain unsolved. Furthermore, methodological and interpretative problems contribute to creating bias in the archaeological record.
We believe this theme deserves new debates. Over recent years, new research on raw materials, knapping technologies, and tool function underlined a mosaic of different behaviours, strategies and adaptations. By combining several frameworks and methodological approaches, our workshop aimed to debate new evidence, recognise local specificities and regional paths, thus allowing us to deepen the discussion about lithic production and consumption systems.
Nine papers were presented on 7th of April 2021 (fig. 2). Research subjects were spread over several regions of Southwest Asia, including Central and Eastern Anatolia, Eastern Caucasus, Northern Mesopotamia, Southern Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and Indian subcontinent. The periods represented covered the 5th to the 1st millennium BC.
Our first speaker, Alice Vinet (Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University, France) started the meeting with a paper entitled “The functional variability of the obsidian toolkit at Çatalhöyük-West and its socio-economic implications” and focused on the understanding of the lithic traditions during the Early Chalcolithic through the use-wear analysis of the obsidian artefacts. The study defined the main trends recognized within the assemblages (e.g. tool exhaustion, blank recycling, high variability of activities and worked materials) and interpreted them as part of wider social transformations that occurred at the site concerning the inhabitants’ economic behaviour.
The paper presented by Daniela Zampetti (speaker, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), Cristina Lemorini (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and Davide d’Errico (Leiden University, Netherlands) “The Late Chalcolithic of Arslantepe (Eastern Anatolia): a lithic perspective on the “KUYU” structures” presented the chipped stone tools discovered inside a series of middens, spread across a large area of the site during the Late Chalcolithic (phases VIII-VIA, 4250-3000 Cal. BC). This study, combining a typo-technological approach and use-wear analysis, aims to compare the stone tools from the open areas and buildings with those found in the kuyus structures, often considered as refuse areas. By testing such a generic definition, the researchers discussed the role of the tools within the spatial and social organization atthe settlement through time.
The talk by Giacoma Petrullo (speaker, Préhistoire et Technologies, CNRS, France and ISMEO, Italy) and Francesca Manclossi (Tel Aviv University, Israel) “The role of flint tools on the manufacture of bone objects: an interdisciplinary approach applied to the Chalcolithic Site of Teleilat Ghassul, Southern Levant” showed us the links between hard animal raw materials and stone tools. The latter, found in the same archaeological context, played a key role during the manufacturing processes of bone objects. At Teleilat Ghassul flint flakes, blades and tools were used for knapping and reshaping bone objects. This interdisciplinary approach allowed our colleagues to define a consolidated tradition typical of Chalcolithic groups and cultures,expressed by manufacturing methods, technical gestures and specific skills, as well as know-how.
Francesca Manclossi (speaker, Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Steven A. Rosen (Ben-Gurion University, Israel) presented a paper entitled “Adventures in the flint trade: revisiting the tabular scraper system”. Tabular scrapers were a particular type of flint tool produced by nomadic pastoral groups in the desert of Southern Levant (fig.3). These artefacts were exchanged with sedentary communities living in the Mediterranean areas, from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Such tools, decorated or not, were involved in cult and domestic tasks and traded all over the Near-East as far as northern Mesopotamia and Egypt. By reconstructing thetabular scraper exchange system, our colleagues were able to define the desert production/consumption system and a sedentary distribution system in which artefacts experienced complex cycles of production, utilizationand recycling until their final abandonment.
The paper by Daniele Moscone (speaker, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), Giacomo Eramo (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy), Ignazio Allegretta (University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy) and Cecilia ConatiBarbaro (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) “Investigating a lithic production and distribution network: the case of Canaanean blades from the Northern Iraqi Kurdistan” focused on the Jebel Zawa chert mining district associated with large blademanufacturing sites, dated to the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze age periods. The systematic study of the context carried out by combining fieldwork and technological analyses of lithic finds (fig. 3) with a raw material study for chert characterization, enable an investigation of the work organization at the mines, the knapping techniques employed, as well as a discussion of techno-economic strategies related to the diffusion of large blade productsin the Dohuk and Erbil regions.
Flavia Amato (Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Italy) presented a talk entitled “Long-term developments in lithic production in Eastern Georgia: the cases of Tsiteli Gorebi 5 and Aradetis Orgora”. The paper focused on a detailed comparison of the rich obsidian and flint (minor percentage) assemblages found at the sites with the aim of identifying long-term developments in lithic traditions, raw materials and technological features of the production, from the Late Chalcolithic to the Iron Age, as well as socio-economic implications at a regional scale.
Antonella De Angelis (speaker, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and Cristina Lemorini (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) discussed the role that macro-lithic tools played in metalworking at the Early Bronze Age village of Arslantepe (period VI B2), with a presentation entitled “Metal working at Arslantepe village VI B2 (EBA): preliminary data from a use-wear and residues approach on macro-lithic tools”. By comparing the evidence found in two functionally distinct areas of the settlement – a metalworking atelier and a common house storage room – the authors investigated the production processes related to mineral treatment, craft specialisation and the organisation of such activities at the site.
Florine Marchand (speaker, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), Aurore Didier (CNRS-UMR7041 – Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité, Nanterre, France) and David Sarmiento-Castillo (CNRS-UMR7041 – Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité, Nanterre, France) presented a paper entitled “A stone bead production complex from the beginning of the Indus Civilization at Chanhu-Daro (Sindh, Pakistan)”. Their analysis was aimed at identifying productive processes, activities, raw materials and tools (e.g. blades, drills/borers, polishers, hammers, pressure flakers, fig. 3) used within the context of a large and intensive craft area which, for the first time, provided data on technical systems of lithic production in the early times of the Indus Culture.
Maria Pia Maiorano (speaker, University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Italy), Gregor Marchand (UMR 6566 CNRS – CREAAH – Laboratoire Archéosciences, University of Rennes 1, France), Jérémie Vosges (Archéorient, UMR 5133 – Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée – Lyon, France) and Vincent Charpentier (UMR 7041 ArScAn – Nanterre, Inrap, Paris, France) presented a paper entitled “Backed bladelets and tanged points at Sharbithat SHA-10 (Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman): technological issues and chronological implications”. The study illustrated the exceptional evidence of a specialized assemblage (e.g. lunates, backed pieces, tanged points) which reflected human communities’ adaptation to a marine environment and its resources during the Late Neolithic period. Due to a large number of finds, the present work will have chrono-typological implications for South Arabian prehistory.
As demonstrated during the workshop, stone tool analysis enhances the debate on central themes in the archaeological agenda, such as technological changes, craft specialization and exchange systems. From a methodological point of view, it is important to highlight the growing amount of detailed laboratory analysis. This has been certainly possible thanks to the application of modern fieldwork techniques and methods of data recording and processing that provide the analyst with a solid base for carrying out successful studies. Thus, the household is being explored through use-wear traces and residue analysis, going beyond the simple association between tool shape and function and contributing to the interpretation of spaces and structures in terms of activities and economic strategies.
In addition, a new territorial perspective is emerging, aimed at identifying not only human adaption/specialisation in response to the local/regional availability of mineral resources, but also tracing connections between territories and cultures, in terms of distribution and diffusion of specific products.
Given these premises, the integration of lithic analyses into the study of metal using societies firmly contributes to the understanding of anthropic systems and their evolution through time, showing that know-how and social connections arerelevant parts of the cultural backgrounds of past human communities. Despite the obvious limitations related to advances in field research, we are glad to note that more and more expeditions are reserving places for lithic analysts, which makes us optimistic for future research perspectives. While a synthesisis now possible in the Southern Levant, thanks to a long history of well-founded research, more distant areas are now starting to be investigated, representing fertile ground for new approaches and reanalysis of old collections. Looking ahead to the publication of this workshop, we are conscious that we are far from sharing common protocols and terminologies. Our meeting represented a first attempt to build a new working group for comparing ideas and organizing future debates on common themes.
In the trajectories of growing social complexity, urbanization and state formation, lithic productions continued to represent a dynamic component of cultural and socioeconomic systems. Stone tools, which do not always follow the same trends of other realms of the material culture, constitute a promising research field for approaching unexplored aspects of ancient civilizations…and that’s why we let the stone speak.
Rosen, S. 2013. Arrowheads, Axes, Ad Hoc, and Sickles: An Introduction to Aspects of Lithic Variability Across the Near East in the Bronze and Iron Ages, Lithic Technology, 38 (3), 141-149.
Conference virtual platform website, available online at https://12icaane.ibrida.io
Conference website, available online at https://eventi.unibo.it/12icaane
Florine Marchand is PhD student at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). She is specialised in Bronze Age lithic industries and her PhD is dedicated to the study of Tell ‘Arqa lithic assemblages (Akkar Plain, North Lebanon).
Daniele Moscone concluded his PhD at Sapienza University of Rome (Italy). A specialist in lithic industries, he is a member of the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project (LoNAP) and the Italian Archaeological Expedition in Erbil Plain (MAIPE).
Francesca Manclossi obtained her PhD in a joint program between the University of Paris-Nanterre (France) and the Ben Gurion University (Israel). Specializing in lithic industries in the Metal Ages, she is a post-doctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University (Israel).