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Molecular Evidence of Bitumen in the Mousterian Lithic Assemblage of Hummal (Central Syria)

Abstract : Evidence for bitumen use in Middle Palaeolithic sites is an exception in Pleistocene archaeology. This paper presents the discovery of three tar-bearing Levallois artefacts found in the Mousterian sequence in Hummal (Central Syria). The organic residues were submitted to geochemical study. Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analyses of saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons and isotopic data show the presence of bitumen. The most likely location of natural asphalt provisioning is the Shaaf outcrop in the Bichri desert. The bitumen-bearing stone tools add further important data to the growing knowledge about bitumen processing in the Middle Palaeolithic spring sites of El Kowm. Identification of the provisioning place for natural asphalt enables a more precise assumption about the site's catchment area. From a technological point of view, the tar-bearing specimens provide information on the range of tool forms selected for hafting. Ballistic features arguably indicate that the pointed Levallois blanks seem to be spear points that were fitted to a wooden handle. In at least one case, this technical procedure was seemingly executed during a brief episode of occupation and replacement of worn out implements. This small, bracketed window of detailed insight into Mousterian technology is linked with the more general relationship between Levallois technology and stone tool hafting.
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Thomas C. Hauck, Jacques Connan, Armelle Charrié-Duhaut, Jean-Marie Le Tensorer, Heba Al Sakhel. Molecular Evidence of Bitumen in the Mousterian Lithic Assemblage of Hummal (Central Syria). Journal of Archaeological Science, Elsevier, 2013, 40 (8), pp.3252-3262. ⟨10.1016/j.jas.2013.03.022⟩. ⟨hal-01529121⟩



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