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A Comparative Study of Mobility and Raw Material Availability at Two

Epipaleolithic Rockshelter Sites on the Kerak Plateau, West-central Jordan.

Utsav Schurmans April 24, 2001.

Table of content:

Abstract 2

Introduction 3

Background 4

Lithic Typology 4

Disentangling Lithic Variability 6

Raw Material Availability and Use 6

Group Mobility 9

Site Function 10

Case Study: Two Early Epipaleolithic Rockshelter Sites 11

Raw Material Availability 13

Collection and sampling strategies 16

Typology and General Assemblage Characteristics 17

Raw Material Use 20

Mobility 29

Site Function 31

Discussion 32

Conclusion 35

Bibliography 37


Research on the Epipaleolithic in the Southern Levant has led to the identification of a large number of

regional lithic industries. These industries are differentiated from one another almost exclusively on the

basis of proportional differences in specific microlith types (Henry 1995; Goring Morris 1995). The

validity of such a typology-based approach has been challenged on numerous occasions, both for the

Epipaleolithic of the Southern Levant as well as elsewhere (Neeley & Barton 1994; Bisson 2000; Barton

1991; Clark 1997; Dibble 1995). Because of criticisms of typological systematics over the past couple

decades, research on stone artifact assemblages has changed considerably, especially in the New World.

This shift emphasizes factors like raw material availability and use, mobility as related to land-use patterns,

artifact portability, site function, and risk as it relates to technological needs. These situational and

contextual factors play important roles in hunter-gatherer adaptations everywhere. They strongly influence

the characteristics of lithic assemblages. Using surface distributions associated with two large Levantine

Epipaleolithic rockshelters as a test case, lithic variability is investigated by examining the relationships

among (1) raw material use, (2) mobility, and (3) site function, while controlling for raw material

availability and local environmental factors. A standard typology is incorporated to provide a point of

reference. It is shown that explanations based on these general contextual variables differ markedly from

those based on the typological systematics traditionally emphasized in Levantine research.


In our effort to understand past human behavior, we assign meaning to contrasts observed in the

archaeological record. A first step is to distill variability from rocks or any other type of material remains

present at a site or in a collection. This can be done through a variety of procedures, one of which is

typology the organization of lithic artifacts into retouched stone tool types. The categorization, however,

is not an end in itself. A second step is required, one that explains this variability in the context of an

explicit conceptual framework. Historically the most common explanation for variation has been

implicitly or explicitly culture or some other form of identity consciousness expressed materially. The

Bordes-Binford debate of the mid 1970s (Binford & Binford 1966; Bordes & de Sonneville-Bordes 1970;

Binford 1973) stimulated archaeologists to examine more critically the causes of lithic variability, resulting

in the realization that many factors play a role. Two of these raw material availability and group mobility

are considered important in explaining observed variability. Other factors, such as the buffering of risk, site

function, provisioning strategies, style, and land-use patterns also figure in current approaches. It is

important to recognize that these factors do not exist in isolation from one another, but are interrelated in

complex ways, making the task of teasing them apart extremely difficult. This study will focus on three

sources of variability deemed particularly important in the organization of lithic technologies: (1) raw

material availability and use, (2) mobility, and (3) site function. Each of these will be discussed in turn

below. Insights gained from this discussion will be used to generate hypotheses and then be applied to a

case study which analyses surface samples from two Epipaleolithic rockshelter sites in west-central Jordan.

A subset of the artifacts collected will be scored on raw material type, debitage-, or tool-type, artifact

completeness, length, width, thickness, and weight. Pattern searches on these variables are then used to

assess expectations derived from the discussion of raw material availability and use, group mobility, and

site function to arrive at an initial understanding of these sites that goes beyond categorization of the

industries to which the sites belong.


This study is based on the view that typological and technological constructs are a means to

capture lithic variation in assemblages, not research ends in themselves. Standard typologies like those of

Bordes are only useful insofar as they help us to address specific research questions (and perhaps for

general communicative purposes). However, a general typology is probably inadequate to tackle particular

research questions, as it might confound elements of multiple causality. For these reasons it is important to

attempt to go beyond standard typology if the goal is to further our understanding of hunter-gatherer

lifeways. However, since most Levantine research relies on standard typology, it is important to incorporate

this into any study in order to make results comprehensible to other workers.

Lithic Typology

In the Southern Levant, as in many regions of the Old World, industries are described in terms of

the presence or absence of particular archaeological index tool types or fossiles directeurs, differential

proportions of those tools, and modes of retouch (Byrd 1998; Sellars 1998; Neeley 1998; Goring Morris

1995; Al-Nahar 2000). This practice has led to the definition of several industries for the Levantine

Epipaleolithic (ca 20-10.5 kyr BP) (Byrd 1998; Neeley et al. 1998) focusing almost exclusively on

microlith frequencies. The Epipaleolithic of the southern Levant can be divided in three periods: Early (20-

14.5 kyr BP), Middle (14.5-12.5 kyr BP), and Late (12.5-10.5 kyr BP) (Neeley et al. 1998; Byrd 1998;

Sellars 1998; Al-Nahar 2000; Olszewski n.d.). Within and occasionally crosscutting these broad

subdivisions are a number of primary complexes, for example the Harifian, Mushabian, and Geometric

Kebaran. Unfortunately there is little consensus as to how these complexes should be defined, which occur

in particular sites and levels, and what their regional and temporal distributions are like. The result is a

complicated web of terms, overlapping time ranges and spatial distributions. Adding to the complexity,

these industries are often regarded as the tangible material remains of identity-conscious social units of

some kind (e.g. Byrd 1998; Goring Morris 1995).

According to Brian Byrd (1998) the primary cultural complexes for the Early and Middle

Epipaleolithic are the Kebaran (Early), the Geometric Kebaran (Middle) and the Mushabian (Middle).

However, many researchers, especially those working in Jordan, do not use the Western Levantine

classificatory scheme and have proposed a number of alternative complexes in order to accommodate

Jordanian data (Olszewski n.d.). Donald Henry uses Hamran, Qalkhan and Madamaghan to refer to

different microlithic industries in southern Jordan (1995). Except for the Late Epipaleolithic Natufian, there

is virtually no agreement on how the material should be divided. As a result there are nearly as many

classificatory schemata as there are specialists interested in the Levantine Epipaleolithic. There is also little

consensus about index type definitions. Although subject to much debate, it can be shown that this

typological approach and the use of culture to explain typological differences is deeply problematic (e.g.

Neeley 1997; Neeley & Barton 1994 and the discussion following their article; Goring Morris et al. 1996;

Barton & Neeley 1996).

Barton and Neeley are not alone in this critique. For the Paleolithic in general , and throughout the

Old World, the basis for inferences about pattern in the remote past, however, has been derived from

French typological systematics (Clark 1997). It has been noted that these lithic typologies focus attention

on a very small percentage of lithic artifact assemblages (#5%), the retouched stone tools, and ignore

variations in the much larger debitage & core components. Bisson (2000) has made an argument that they

should be replaced by more specific, question-oriented means to record lithic variability. Further, the

tendency to explain retouched tool variations in cultural terms has effectively precluded consideration of

other sources of variation (Clark & Lindly 1991).

Explaining typological differences by invoking cultural differences has been challenged from a

number of different perspectives. The validity of tool types as emic and static has been questioned (Barton

1991; Dibble 1995). Indeed, lithic artifacts should be viewed as dynamic, engaged in a continuous process

of use, remodeling and reuse (Dibble 1987; Neeley and Barton 1994). As was demonstrated several

decades ago, the final state of an artifact at discard is potentially far removed from its original morphology

(Frison 1968; Jelinek 1976), supporting the argument that stone tool types cannot be understood in terms of

their modern counterparts (Barton 1991).

The initial success of typological systematics as the way to study stone tools has put a significant

burden on our potential for further development. Although the Bordes-Binford debate led to increased

scrutiny of typological systematics, this approach remains firmly entrenched in much research throughout

the world and across time. The American Archaeologist Steven Kuhn writes that, Bordess typological

method increasingly takes a back seat to other analytic approaches (Kuhn 1995: 15), but this is clearly not

the case in the Levant, where Bordesian systematics remain by far the most important frame of reference.

The above-mentioned Levantine Epipaleolithic complexes, although useful to some extent for

chronological purposes, should be handled with extreme care when it comes to their interpretation. It is by

no means clear what they mean, or represent, in behavioral terms. Much is gained by approaching lithic

variability by considering factors like group mobility, raw material constraints, land-use patterns, site

function, and factors of risk as related to technological choices made. These situational and contextual

factors play important roles in hunter-gatherer adaptations everywhere and strongly influence the

characteristics of lithic assemblages. Below I suggest some ways in which we can test for some of the

expectations associated with these particular aspects of hunter-gatherer behavior.

Disentangling Lithic Variability

Raw Material Availability and Use

Differences in raw material availability and quality, and their effects on technological organization

as related to forager mobility have received increased attention in the literature (Turq 1992; Kuhn 1991;

1995; Dibble 1995; Fblot-Augustins 1993; Olszewski et al. 2000). The focus has been on elements we can

control for, such as the differential availability of stone resources and the spatial distribution and quality of

those resources. Goring Morris argument (1995: 143) that raw material constraints for chipped stone tools

are rarely of significance in the Levant, since sources are widely available throughout the region fails

to take into account differentials in quality and availability. Raw materials are not always readily available

and because the quality of the raw materials varies considerably, more attention should be paid to this issue

on a case-by-case basis (Henry 1989; Neeley 1997). Further, as Goring-Morris and others have pointed out,

different types of raw material are utilized differentially in different periods, even within the Levantine

Epipaleolithic (Goring-Morris 1995; Olszewski et al. n.d.; Olszewski et al. 2000).

This brings us to an important point: the necessity to differentiate between raw material

availability and use (Neeley 1997). Raw material availability refers to the types of raw material available in

a region, regardless of use. Raw material use specifically identifies those raw materials that are found on a

particular site or in a specific level of a site. Raw material use is thought to be governed by technological

constraints and choices made by mobile hunter-gatherers (as well as availability per se). As Kuhn points

out, we are not so much interested in raw material availability itself, but rather want to account for it so we

can get at factors influenced by human use (1991; 1995).

I emphasize here that models that identify raw material as a factor typically do so from the

perspective of raw material scarcity, rather than abundance. The notion that there might be differences in

the maintenance and recycling of stone tools (e.g. Goodyear 1989) and that these in turn depend on raw

material value implies added transport costs. In other words raw materials are sometimes valuable because

they were brought into the area from elsewhere. Along similar lines, Bamforth probably went a little too far

when he claimed that maintenance of stone tools would occur only if material was not readily available

(Bamforth 1986). The degree to which stone tools will be maintained or recycled is a function not only of

the regional distribution of raw material, but of the mobility characteristic of the settlement system of

which the artifacts are a part (Kelly 1988). When raw material is ubiquitous and sites close to one another,

one can assume that similar raw material sources will be used on those sites. In case the same resources are

not used, differential use of raw material in order to accomplish different goals can be one explanation for

observed variability (e.g., fine grained cryptocrystalline exotics versus coarse-grained local quartzites).

Another plausible explanation for differences in raw material use could be that highly mobile people are

bringing better quality raw material from elsewhere rather then using poorer quality local sources.

Therefore the first and most important step is to compare raw material types (Table 1) and their use. Groups

frequenting a region were probably well aware of raw material sources, but might have used them

differently. One way to evaluate this might be to check for evidence for differential raw material values,

as evidenced in different use of these raw material types (Table 1).

Table 1: Variables to Compare Raw Materials Used (modified from Neeley 1997: 38).

High raw material value Low raw material value Test variables
Raw material types (color and texture)
Smaller cores Larger cores Core size
Formal cores More informal cores Core type
More retouched blanks to Fewer retouched blanks to Ratio of retouched blanks to
unretouched blanks unretouched blanks unretouched blanks
Less blades and flakes with cortex More blades and flakes with cortex Blades and flakes with cortex
Smaller-sized blanks and tools Larger-sized blanks and tools Tool and blank size

How hunter-gatherers get their raw material can be modeled in a number of ways. Binford

suggested that raw material procurement should be viewed as embedded in other activities, probably mostly

subsistence related (Binford 1979) and/or associated with predictable social activities (Gould and Saggers

1985). Kuhn distinguishes two alternative approaches for a group of hunter-gatherers supply of raw

material needs. One is to supply individuals with a portable, flexible toolkit useful under conditions of

uncertainty, the other is to supply places in the landscape where activities requiring stone are likely to be

conducted (Kuhn 1992; Kuhn 1995). These alternative strategies fit into a larger scheme relating them to

residential mobility and land-use pattern (Kuhn 1995).

Either or a combination of these strategies will be more or less

beneficial given a particular situation. More mobile groups are
expected to be associated with the supplying individuals, whereas for a
more sedentary or highly predictable use of location a strategy of
provisioning places might be most beneficial, (Kuhn 1995: 36)

Further, procurement might be governed by different requirements for different needs. Depending on the

nature of anticipated activities, different constraints on tool or blank form might be important. An example

is preparing for the hunt compared with preparing to process cadavers from a kill. In the first case there is a

need to have the hunting gear ready to go before unpredictable encounters with mobile animals (Nelson

1991; Kuhn 1992; Bamforth 1985). In the second, such readiness in not as important, as the kill will not run

away while the necessary processing tools are made. These differences might reflect not only raw material

acquisition and use, but also the strategy by which each of these toolkits might be prepared. When good

raw material is readily available, hunting gear is expected to be highly portable whereas processing tools

should be manufactured using more expedient technologies. I stress that the situation sketched here

depends on raw material availability, not just constraints pertaining to the activity and its context. Therefore

getting a handle on availability has to be an important first step in any investigation pertaining to these

issues. At the same time, the example hints at the potentially complex interaction between raw material

availability and use, mobility, and functional requirements.

Group Mobility

A second major factor influencing lithic variability is group mobility. As has been pointed out

repeatedly, mobility plays a large part in determining the organization of hunter gatherer lithic

technology (Kelly 1988; see also Nelson 1991; Kuhn 1995). Crucial to studies of group mobility are the

concepts of expedient and curated technologies (Neeley 1997). A curated technology is one in which

artifacts/tools (the raw material) are conserved and cared for (Nelson 1991). This can be manifested

through reshaping and resharpening, transport and advanced tool manufacture. By contrast, an expedient

technology minimizes production effort (Nelson 1991). Implements are made on the spot, used and

discarded after use. It is generally thought that more mobile groups emphasize curated technologies while

Table 2: Mobility Expectations and Test Variables (after a table in M. Al-Nahar's PhD proposal).

High Mobility/Curated Low Mobility/Expedient Test Variables

More raw material types Fewer raw material types Raw material diversity & distribution
Fewer cortical pieces More cortical pieces Ratio of cortical to non-cortical pieces
More retouched pieces to Fewer retouched pieces to Relative frequency of retouched pieces
unretouched pieces unretouched pieces to unretouched pieces
More tool reduction Less tool reduction Intensity of tool reduction
Smaller blanks and tools Larger blanks and tools Size of complete blanks (length,
(more portable) (less portable) width, thickness)
Smaller cores Larger cores Core weight and size
More flakes and tools to cores Fewer flakes and tool to cores Flakes and tool:core ratio
Lower density/shorter duration Higher density/ longer duration Density of debitage per
of occupation of occupation cubic meter
Absence of features and structures. Presence of features and structures. Features and structures
Less material culture diversity More material culture diversity Range of tools, debitage categories

more sedentary groups tend to employ more expedient technologies. An example is the universally

documented change in lithic technology that coincided with the appearance and development of

horticulture (Parry & Kelly 1987). Documenting expedient and curated technologies, and how they vary,

with mobility, is made more reliable when raw material availability is either held constant, or accounted

for. Group mobility itself minimizes risk related to local depletion of critical resources. It is important to

recognize that characterizing an entire assemblage as either curated or expedient is probably a gross over

generalization, as technological subsystems are more or less curated depending on how that technological

subsystem functions in the context of the overall adaptation. As an example, Neolithic arrowpoint

technologies are typically highly curated, while those associated with plant processing usually have a more

expedient character. Mobility strategies can also vary with group size and season. These forms can be best

understood in terms of the forager/collector continuum (Binford 1980; Neeley 1997). Table 2 presents

expectations and test variables related to mobility patterns. It is important to stress that none of these

variables should be used in isolation, rather it is the convergence of several test implications that leads to

strong inference.

Site Function

A third factor of generally recognized importance to lithic variability is the functional aspect of

technology. There are three levels of analysis relating to function, one of which will be emphasized here.

These levels are (1) the function of individual artifacts; (2) the functional aspects of specific activity sets,

which might entail or require multiple toolkits, and finally (3) the function of sites within a larger

settlement subsistence system reflective of hunter-gatherer land-use. As individual artifact function and

the functional aspects of activity sets require microwear analysis and/or intrasite spatial analysis, the focus

here is on site function, ideally supplemented with information relating to the two other levels of analysis.

Binfords subsistence - settlement model contrasts two idealized alternative general strategies:

foraging and collecting (1979). These are best conceptualized as end points on a continuum of structural

poses characteristic of all hunter-gatherers. Foragers follow a strategy in which the entire group moves to

resource patches. Residential mobility is consequently high and special purpose sites are not expected. In a

collector strategy, logistical mobility is high while residential mobility is not. In the latter case, a variety of

different kinds of sites will result, (i.e. task groups are dispatched from residential bases) many of which

are functionally specialized, reflecting a limited number of activities and a reduced diversity in tool forms,

see Table 3. Differences are also expected between residential camps because in a foraging strategy

residential moves will be frequent, and will result in less spatially differentiated sites with comparable

ranges of artifact diversity. Collectors, on the other hand, will exhibit significant intrasite spatial

differentiation because the relatively prolonged stay in one place would create secondary refuse deposits as

well as spatial segregation of certain activities. Table 3 gives the variables and the corresponding test

implications expected for two site types residential bases and limited activity stations. It is crucial that

none of these variables be taken in isolation. Also, at this stage it is necessary to include information from

the raw material and mobility parts of the study, for these elements cannot be entirely separated. Indeed, the

intent of this study is to contribute to a better understanding of the undoubtedly complex interplay amongst

these conceptually separate aspects affecting lithic variability, requiring that they eventually be brought

together again to build a coherent picture of the whole.

Table 3: Site Functional Categories and Their Test Implications.

Residential Base Limited Activity Station Test implications

Large Small Site area
Wide range of activities Limited range of activities Tool and artifact diversity
Strong spatial segregation Weak spatial segregation Spatial comparison of
of activities of activities lithic assemblage
More stages of the Fewer stages of the Number of stages of
reduction sequence reduction sequence reduction sequence
Less mobile More mobile Mobility pattern (see Table 2)
Wide range of raw materials Fewer raw material types Raw material type diversity index

Case Study: Two Early Epipaleolithic Rockshelter Sites

The case study uses samples of controlled surface collections at two Early Epipaleolithic

rockshelter sites from the Karak Plateau, west-central Jordan. Both sites were investigated in the summer of

1999 as part of the Karak Resources Project directed by Gerald Mattingly. Part of this multidisciplinary

research team focused on an initial prehistoric survey directed toward investigating the prehistoric

occupation of the Karak Plateau. The survey located and sampled a total of 81 sites representing all major

prehistoric periods (Schurmans et al. in prep.) and constitutes, together with the prehistoric sites recorded

by the Limes Arabicus Project (Rollefson 1987; Koucky 1987) and the occasional prehistoric site recorded

by the Archaeological Survey of the Kerak Plateau (Miller 1991), the only record of prehistoric occupation

on the Karak Plateau of which we are aware. Among the sites recorded are two large, dense Epipaleolithic

scatters, each associated with a rockshelter. These sites, KPS 36/4 and KPS 75, are only some 3 km apart,

which allows for control of two important causes of lithic variability: raw material availability and local

environmental conditions. However, as argued earlier, we cannot simply assume similar raw material

availability without first closely examining this preposition. Raw material availability will be discussed

first. Next, both sites will be compared using a standard typological assessment and, finally, we will

examine the relationship amongst raw material use, group mobility, and site function and their potential

roles in the causation of lithic variability.



Figure 1: Satellite image of the Karak Plateau and the Wadi al-Hasa to the south. Dots represent
prehistoric sites from surveys in the area. Notice the graben scarring the southeast portion of
the plateau and the location of the Epipaleolithic sites studied (KPS 36/4 and KPS 75).

Surface scatters typically are considered of little scientific value because of the possibility of

chronological mixture. In xeric, deflated environments, like the Levant, they are often viewed as

palimpsests (or depositional composites) of a series of occupation events, perhaps separated by

considerable time intervals. However, these considerations also apply to buried deposits. Therefore, the use

of surface material should not be rejected a priori because it might be mixed, just as a buried deposit

should not be assumed to be unmixed. The realization that collections often represent a palimpsest of

occupations, especially at rockshelter sites (Barton and Clark 1993), is an important consideration that must

be taken into account when evaluating collections from any site.

Raw Material Availability

Both sites are located in the immediate vicinity of the Fajj al Usaykir, a northwest/southeast

trending graben scarring the southeast portion of the Karak Plateau (Fig. 1). A multitude of suitable fine-

grained cryptocrystalline rocks are present in the immediate vicinity of the sites that could have, and did,

serve as raw material sources for Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers. Although no systematic survey for raw

materials was conducted during the Karak Prehistoric Survey (KPS), relevant information can be extracted

from the systematic raw material survey conducted by the Eastern Hasa Late Pleistocene Project (EHLPP)

immediately to the south, in the Wadi al-Hasa. Information gathered during the raw material survey

(Olszewski et al. 2000; Olszewski et al. n.d.) is used to assess raw material availability on the southeast

fringe of the Karak Plateau because the geological formations in this area of the plateau are the same as

those found in the Wadi al-Hasa. Information derived from the raw material survey in the Hasa can be

compared to the information on the geological map of the southeastern part of the Karak Plateau (Adir

Section, RGS, 1990), an accompanying publication of the Natural Resources Authority of the Hashemite

Kingdom of Jordan (Shawabkeh 1991), and observations made during the Karak Prehistoric Survey itself.

Three Upper Cretaceous formations blanket the study area; each contains usable raw material

(Olszewski et al. 2000). Formations from oldest to youngest are the Wadi Umm Ghudran Formation (WG),

the Amman Silicified Limestone Formation (ASL), and the Al Hisa Phosphorite Formation (AHP) (Fig. 2).

Each yields a wide variety of both matte and glossy gray to brown, brecciated cherts occurring in extensive

beds, and as nodules. The latter both in wadi beds and interspersed between the chert beds. Other

knappable raw material includes siliceous coquina, quartzite, and siliceous phosphorite. The WG formation

consists of sandstone, limestone, and quartzite beds, surfaces mainly in the Wadi al-Hasa and is of lesser

importance to this study. The ASL formation contains numerous chert and limestone beds and a variable

number of distinctive oyster shell coquina beds. The AHP formation comprises three members: the Sultani

Phosphorite (SP), the Bahiya Coquina (BC), and the Qatrana Phosphorite (QP). The BC is noteworthy as

rockshelters throughout the area, including the two investigated here, are formed at the contact between the

BC and the underlying softer deposits of the Qatrana Phosphorite. A fourth formation occurs more than 10

Figure 2: Stratigraphic section of the southern half of the Karak plateau (from Shawabkeh 1991).

km from the sites, the Muwaqqar Chalk-Marl Formation (MCM). This formation of Upper Maestrichtian to

Paleocene age contains predominantly marly beds and oilshale. Some phosphorite and phosphatic cherts

have been recovered from boreholes in the MCM Formation (Shawabkeh 1991). In addition to bedrock

formations, Pleistocene fluviatile and lacustrine gravels, alluvial fans, and mudflats mantle depressions

throughout the plateau (Shawabkeh 1991). Each yields usable raw material eroded from one or more of the

formations mentioned and could equally have served as sources for raw material. Finally, small basalt plugs

are found immediately to the north northwest of KRP 75 and 36/4, at some 6-7 km near the site of al-

Mudaybi. Basalt served as raw material for the groundstone found at KPS 75.

The raw materials found on the sites closely resemble those found in their immediate vicinity,

although it is extremely difficult to pinpoint exact sources because of the sheer diversity of raw materials

on any one location and the similarity of raw materials present at different locations. The approximate

distance from each site to each relevant geological unit is given in Table 4. Clearly each of the different

units is readily accessible and distances to them are very similar for each of the rockshelter sites. Hence we

can conclude that a similar range of raw materials was available to the occupants of both sites. Raw

Table 4: Distance from Each Site to Major Geological Formations in Kilometers.

Formation KPS 36/4 KPS 75

WG 13 10
ASL 2 <1
SP 0 <1
QP <1.5 3.5
BC 0 0
Pleistocene 0 0
MCM >10 >10
Basalt 7.5 6.5
Current wadi <1 1.5

material availability is different from raw material use. As an example there is a clear distinction in the raw

materials used at Middle Paleolithic sites in the area as opposed to the raw materials used during

Epipaleolithic times. Although it could be argued that raw materials were not always as visible/accessible

as they are now because of vegetation and soil cover, I argue that the majority of raw materials available

today were readily available in the past. Regardless, sites from the same prehistoric time period and close

proximity certainly should have the same raw materials available to them. Therefore, differential raw

material use is governed by technological choices made by hunter-gatherer groups. Such choices will be

examined in more detail below for the Epipaleolithic sites.

Collection and sampling strategies

The Kerak Prehistoric Survey collected surface samples from KPS 36/4 and KPS 75, and excavated a small

0.5 by 0.5m testpit at KPS 36/4. The surface collections consist of random grab samples and large

quantitative collections from grid squares. This study exclusively uses random samples of the quantitative

surface collections. Collections at KPS 36/4 were made using 5 by 5m and 2 by 2m grid squares. Only the

latter are used in this study because collecting all lithics visible on the surface from a 5 by 5m unit is

extremely difficult. Such large collection units tend to result in collections biased towards larger artifacts as

is demonstrated by collections of small pieces resulting from checks we did on previously collected 5 by

5m squares. Unfortunately such checks were not done formally for the smaller units. At KPS 75 we used

exactly the same collection strategy, collecting all lithics visible on the surface from grid cells while sitting

and/or laying down, but used 1by 1m units rather than the larger units at KPS 36/4. Because collection

units are smaller at KPS 75 and lithic scatters much denser at the same site it is possible that we missed

more small pieces at KPS 36/4.

A small testpit excavated to a depth of 40cm in 10cm arbitrary units at KPS 36/4 was designed to

establish if subsurface deposits are present at KPS 36/4. All excavated sediment was screened resulting in

the retrieval of more and smaller pieces than those recovered from the surface deposits. This study

compares the general characteristics for both surface collections and the excavated collection treated as a

single assemblage. The main component of this study on raw material use, mobility and site function do not

incorporate the subsurface deposits, but focus instead on the comparison between the surface collections of

KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

Random samples of all pieces collected for each site were selected for typing and of that sample a

random selection of three squares was made from each site. All artifacts from the latter sample except

shatter, trimming flakes and some flakes were measured and weighed. While each of these collections is

random it needs to be pointed out that the selections of grid squares collected at the sites were not selected

randomly. Rather at both sites we chose to collect grid cells along a trench running from the entrance of the

rockshelter downslope (mild slopes, estimated between 0-5 degrees, are present at both sites). At KPS 75

some additional squares were selected off this transect one of which ended up in the sample investigated

more closely.

Typology and General Assemblage Characteristics

Random samples of the controlled surface collections from KPS 36/4 (36 m2) and KPS 75 (13 m2),

and the assemblage from the testpit at KPS 36/4, are compared in Tables 5, 6, and 7. In Table 5 standard

debitage categories are compared. The table indicates that the assemblages are fairly similar although some

interesting differences show as well. Cores are common in both surface assemblages, but are rare in the

Table 5: Counts and Percentages for the Debitage Categories and Tools from KPS 36/4 and KPS 75 as well
as Adjusted Counts and Percentages for KPS 36/4.

Artifact type Testpit KPS 36/4 Surface KPS 36/4 Adjusted Surface 36/4 Surface KPS 75
n % n % n % n %
Core 7 0.5 50 2.1 50 1.4 85 1.3
Blade 51 3.6 155 6.5 155 4.4 655 10.1
Bladelet 244 17.4 222 9.3 444 12.5 1211 18.6
Flake 149 10.6 873 36.6 873 24.6 1619 24.9
Trimming flake (<2cm) 841 60 830 34.8 1660 46.8 2165 33.3
Retouched tool 54 3.9 131 5.5 183 5.2 364 5.6
Microburin 8 0.6 4 0.2 9 0.3 25 0.4
Rejuvenation piece 2 0.1 9 0.4 8 0.2 74 1.1
Shatter 45 3.2 109 4.6 164 4.6 296 4.6
Total 1401 100 2383 100 3546 100 6494 100

KPS 36/4 testpit. Microburins are present in all three assemblages. When we look at microburin

percentages relative to retouched tools, there are some differences as the surface deposit of KPS 36/4 has

3%, KPS 75 6% and the subsurface at KPS 36/4 13% microburins. Microburins are deemed important as

they appear early (c. 20 kyr BP) in sites east of the Dead Sea, and are used extensively in the preparation of

retouched tools in the Early Epipaleolithic (Byrd 1988; Olszewski 2000).

The biggest overall difference is that between the surface and subsurface collections. The

excavated assemblage from KPS 36/4 consists mainly of smaller artifacts; bladelets (elongated blanks with

a maximum width of 12 mm) and trimming flakes (flakes smaller than 2 cm in any direction) comprise

77.4% of the total. Most of the tools consist of non-geometric microliths (Table 6), increasing the number

of small artifacts to >80% of the assemblage. By contrast the surface material from KPS 36/4 has far fewer

small pieces. I argue that this difference is caused by two contributing factors: collection methods and

taphonomic agents. As mentioned earlier the excavated dirt was screened allowing us to retrieve much

more and smaller artifacts. Tahponomical agents thought to cause the size differences are twofold: (1)

possible sheet wash removing smaller artifacts from the surface while leaving the larger pieces and (2)

preferential downward migration of smaller artifacts in the soil. To account for this winnowing I adjusted

the counts and percentages by counting every small artifact twice. I do not suggest that by counting every

small piece twice we represent the original pattern in any sense, rather I suggest we can use these adjusted

percentages as a heuristic means to evaluate how the assemblage could have looked like if size based

winnowing took place at the site.

So far as the comparison of the surface material is concerned, however, the percentages for the

major debitage categories are similar. One important difference is the incidence of bladelets, which is

(much) higher at KPS 75 than at KPS 36/4, even when adjusted for size. Although this pattern at first sight

could be explained by geomophological processes (e.g., removal by erosion of the smaller artifacts from

the surface at KPS 36/4), this hypothesis can be discounted when it is noted that trimming flakes comprise

nearly identical fractions for both surface deposits. Therefore, if winnowing took place, which it probably

did, still the difference between the surface deposits in terms of the trimming flake:bladelet ratio would

remain. Hence geomorphological processes do not account for observed differences. Blades are also more

numerous at KPS 75, and the resulting blades & bladelets: flakes & trimming flakes ratio is 1:4.5 at KPS

36/4 and 1:2 at KPS 75. The percentage of tools relative to the entire collection is consistent for each of the


When we look at the relative frequencies of the retouched pieces for each assemblage, some basic

differences become apparent (Tables 6, 7). Typologically, despite differences, all three assemblages can be

described as Early Epipaleolithic: non-geometric microliths constitute the largest tool class in each

assemblage, the microburin technique is used, endscrapers are common, burins moderate, and geometric


Table 6: Composition of Tools from Two Collections from KPS 36/4 and One from KPS 75.

Testpit KPS 36/4 Surface KPS 36/4 Surface KPS 75

n % n % n %
Endscrapers 2 3.7 31 23.7 45 12.4
Burins 1 1.9 2 1.5 11 3.0
Perforators 0 0.0 6 4.6 1 0.3
Retouched pieces 0 0.0 16 12.2 33 9.1
Truncated pieces 0 0.0 10 7.6 19 5.2
Noches/denticulates 0 0.0 11 8.4 10 2.7
Non-geometric microliths 51 94.4 51 38.9 235 64.6
Geometric microliths 0 0.0 1 0.8 3 0.8
Other 0 0.0 3 2.3 7 1.9
Total 54 100 131 100 364 100
% tools for each site 3.9 5.5 5.6

virtually absent (Byrd 1988; Olszewski 2000). At a more detailed level, however, there are some significant

differences in the tool components of these assemblages. Except for a single burin and two scrapers, all

tools from the KPS 36/4 testpit are non-geometric microliths. This pattern is in sharp contrast to the

relatively moderate 39% non-geometric microliths from the KPS 36/4 surface collection, and the 65% non-

geometric microliths at KPS 75. Further, endscrapers are particularly common on the surface at KPS 36/4,

somewhat less common at KPS 75, and rare for the KPS 36/4 excavated sample.

When we look more closely at the non-geometric component, we can get a basic idea of the

temporal positioning of the assemblage. An Early Epipaleolithic (20 14.5 kyr BP) date seems

unquestionable. Narrow backed microliths are common (mainly backed, curved, pointed, and backed and

truncated pieces) (Table 7). All three assemblages resemble one another when it comes to the composition

of the non-geometric artifacts. As noted above, this is not necessarily true for the assemblages as a whole

Table 7: Composition of the Non-Geometric Tools from KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

Testpit KPS 36/4 Surface KPS 36/4 Surface KPS 75

Non geometric microliths
n % n % n %
Ouchtata bladelet 0 0 3 6 26 11.1
Qalkhan point 1 2.0 0 0 1 0.4
Backed and truncated 7 13.7 4 7.8 28 11.9
Curved 0 0 4 8 11 4.7
Narrow backed 25 49.0 22 43.1 90 38.3
Truncated 3 5.9 4 7.8 13 5.5
Pointed 6 11.8 7 13.7 15 6.4
Retouched 8 15.7 7 13.7 43 18.3
Other 1 2.0 0 0 8 3.4
Total 51 100 51 100 235 100

Even if we accept their existence, and overlooking problems with ambiguous conflicting

definitions, assigning the assemblages to particular Early Epipaleolithic industries and/or complex(es) is a

much more difficult task. For our purposes, it is probably not necessary to do this, and is almost certainly

premature as only limited excavation and surface data are presently available. Having described the main

debitage and retouched tool components, the next step is to investigate raw material use, mobility, and site

function as these might be reflected in the lithic assemblages and available contextual information.

Raw Material Use

As noted earlier, suitable raw material is ubiquitous in the area. It remains to be determined

whether the same raw material types were actually used and if patterns of raw material choice are reflected

in differential discard patterns at the study sites. In order to do so, samples from both surface collections

were typed using raw material categories described below. Short wave UV light and a simple method to

test for translucence were adopted to test the validity of raw material categories distinguished after

macroscopic examination for color, luster, and texture.

Distinguishing raw material types on the Karak Plateau as well as in the Wadi al-Hasa is not a

straightforward task. The problem stems from the fact that there are many varieties of raw material and

boundaries between chert types (e.g., phosphatic chert, brecciated chert, bedded, and nodular cherts) are

ambiguous and overlapping, reflecting the variability in local circumstances when chert is formed

(Klawiter 2000; Bush & Sieveking 1986; Knauth 1994). These problems led Neeley to distinguish no less

than 28 different types of raw material for his dissertation work on the Epipaleolithic site of Tor al-Tareeq

in the Wadi al-Hasa (Neeley 1997). Because of the possibility that Neeleys chert typology was overfine,

I decided to group raw material varieties in more general, broad categories. This seems warranted until

more precise geochemical characterization is done as it is clear that much variability can be found even

within a single chert bed. Categories used are given in Table 8 and are described below.

Brown glossy chert: fine-grained glossy dark brownish to light brown in color,
typically with a thin smooth orange cortex; often translucent, especially the
lighter brownish and reddish varieties; typically occurs in nodular form, both in
the ASL and especially the AHP Formations and their derivatives;
Brown matte chert: fine-grained (albeit somewhat coarser than the glossy
variety) dark to light brown/cream colored chert, typically with a thin smooth
orange cortex. This category includes fine-grained phosphatic cherts, typically
dark brown in color and with phosphatic inclusions; occurs as bedded and
nodular flint in the ASL and AHP Formations and their derivatives. It is difficult
to distinguish between these and non-phosphatic brown matte cherts;
Gray glossy chert: fine-grained, glossy, translucent chert, light to dark bluish
gray in color; cortex varies considerably, but dark reddish brown is common for
the nodular variety; occurs in nodular and bedded forms and, in the latter case, is
often attached to coarser raw material. Swirling patterns of gray are common.
Gray glossy chert is found in the AHP, but seems especially ubiquitous in the
ASL Formation;
Gray matte chert: fine to medium fine-grained, dull gray to bluish gray in color;
swirly and banded patterns are common; generally inferior in quality to the
above. Gray matte cherts occur in both the ASL and AHP Formations as both
nodular and bedded varieties;
Whitish chert: relatively fine-grained cherts, whitish to light gray in color and as
such often hard to distinguish from white patinated surfaces. This raw material
type is not as easily located in the landscape as the preceding four, however, it
should not be interpreted as introduced from elsewhere;
Siliceous coquina: medium coarse grained silicified coquina, with bluish gray,
often patinated surface. Siliceous coquina has many inclusions that are typically
very small linear bits of shell visible on close inspection without magnification.
Shell particles seem bounded by a translucent silicate gel. Siliceous coquina can
be found in association with the Bahiya Coquina (within AHP) or one of several
smaller coquina beds within the ASL Formation;

Other: This category accommodates a wide variety of cherts that occur in low
frequencies. Brecciated, and patinated cherts that could not be assigned to the
preceding categories are included. Very small bladelets and trimming flakes
account for much of this category as the pieces are sometimes too small for
adequate categorization;

To assess the validity of the chert categories a sample of artifacts was tested for translucence and

fluorescence. A simple test for translucence consists of holding the artifact up to a standard 75 Watt lamp to

see if the artifacts raw material allows light to pass through. Translucence is, of course, a question of

degree, but for our purposes it was decided to distinguish between translucent and not translucent in which

the outer 2 mm have to light up for it to be categorized as translucent. A second test determined whether

chert types fluoresce under short wave UV light (for an archaeological application using UV, see e.g.

Hofman et. al. 1991). A simple battery operated, handheld UV lamp offering short and long wave UV light

was used. Only short wave UV light was used when it became clear that very few artifacts fluoresced under

long wave UV light. The degree of fluorescence also varies dramatically. Two types of fluorescence were

observed, only one of which is used here. These are yellow, which is fairly distinctive, and a much less

distinctive deep purple. Some artifacts fluoresce strongly, while others get a yellowish shine. Further, many

artifacts fluoresced only in part, again underscoring the diversity of raw materials present on the plateau,

and variation in the composition of a single rock. I coded fluorescence as present or absent and

included artifacts that fluoresced lightly or only partially (> 25% of the surface) as present. Table 8

shows counts of translucent artifacts and artifacts that fluoresced yellow under short wave UV light by sites

and raw material categories as defined macroscopically. Percentages indicate the relative frequencies of

translucent and fluorescent artifacts per raw material class.

Table 8 shows that glossy chert varieties are almost always translucent. However, numerous matte

artifacts are translucent as well, precluding translucence to distinguish between matte and glossy varieties.

Relative frequencies of translucent chert used at both sites are similar. In contrast, the number of

fluorescent artifacts is much higher at KPS 36/4. Most of the fluorescent artifacts are categorized as gray,

particularly glossy gray chert. The table again reminds us of the diversity of raw materials present in the

local geological formations and the fact that a large number of them were utilized prehistorically.

Table 8: Counts of Translucent and Fluorescent Artifacts by Raw Material Type and Site.

KPS 36/4 KPS 75

Raw material Translucent UV present Translucent UV present
n % N % N % n %
Brown glossy 63 95.5 6 9.1 122 91.7 5 3.8
Brown matte 30 33.0 9 9.9 111 38.9 11 3.9
Gray glossy 36 100.0 19 52.8 69 98.6 26 37.1
Gray matte 46 49.5 28 30.1 110 57.3 43 22.4
Whitish 4 10.0 2 5.0 3 27.3 5 45.5
Siliceous coquina 8 50.0 7 43.8 0 0.0 0 0.0
Other 8 40.0 3 15.0 18 34.0 1 1.9
Total 195 53.9 74 20.4 433 58.2 91 12.2

Differences in fluorescence between the sites indicates that at least some different locales for raw material

extraction were used at each, although some were evidently frequented more at one site than the other.

Translucence and fluorescence characterizations could be used when a further breakdown of raw materials

is desired, and actual raw material sourcing to specific extraction locations is intended. However, the

following analysis will only use raw material types as they are identified on macroscopic grounds. This is

warranted as macroscopic characteristics are probably more closely related to elements evaluated by

prehistoric hunter-gatherers than UV and translucence is.

Raw material comparisons of both surface collections are given in Table 9. Inspection of the table

shows that brown and gray varieties of primarily nodular chert make up the bulk of the raw material,

although there are some differences in raw material use at the two sites. At KPS 75, c. 60% of the

assemblage consists of brownish colored cherts, while this category only comprises 44% of the assemblage

at KPS 36/4. Raw material use at KPS 36/4 is more diverse than it is at KPS 75. Whitish cherts are very

rare at KPS 75 and siliceous cherts entirely absent. Overall, percentages of the more rare chert categories

are consistently higher at KPS 36/4.

Table 9: Counts and Percentages of Raw Materials Used at KPS 36/4 and KPS 75 (Surface Material Only).

KPS 36/4 KPS 75

Raw material
N % N %
Brown glossy 105 17.6 241 18.8
Brown matte 158 26.5 522 40.8
Gray glossy 73 12.2 141 11.0
Gray matte 154 25.8 284 22.2
Whitish 53 8.9 21 1.6
Siliceous coquina 15 2.5 0 0.0
Other 38 6.4 71 5.5
Total 596 100 1280 100

Although Table 9 indicates how different macroscopically characterized raw materials were used,

it does not necessarily imply that these raw materials are sufficiently different to have an important impact

on the lithic variability observed at these sites. As it is clear from the description of some of the raw

material types (gray and brown varieties), the major distinctions are color and luster, rather than grain-size

(likely to have been more important in decisions about which raw material to use). To investigate whether

raw material use also has implications for lithic variability, the distributions of raw material categories by

artifact class are examined, along with metrical attributes considered important in raw material utilization.

This comparison was done using expected values obtained through Chi-square. Although the Chi-squared

measure itself is not useful especially given large sample sizes (Shennan 1988) I simply used the expected

values. 2 expected values are derived for each cell in the table by multiplying the corresponding row and

column marginal totals (for details see Shennan 1988). Values were computed using Keith Kintighs

Twoway program. Table 10 gives the observed minus expected values (O-E) by raw material groups and

artifact categories. The sum of all values in the table equals zero.

Table 10: Observed Minus Expected Values for all Raw Material Categories and Artifact Classes. Columns
with data on KPS 36/4 are gray, while those for KPS 75 are white.

Chisquared Brown glossy brown matte gray glossy gray matte whitish S. coquina other
(O-E) 36/4 75 36/4 75 36/4 75 36/4 75 36/4 75 36/4 75 36/4 75
Core 2.3 3.6 0.9 -3.1 -1.3 9.1 -2.9 -7.1 -0.4 0.3 0.2 0 1.2 -2.8
Blade -2.8 -0.7 4.6 4.8 -3.5 -4.1 3.3 1.6 -0.5 4 -1.9 0 0.8 -5.6
Bladelet -1.8 6.1 -6.8 6.9 7.4 6.3 0 -13.9 -1 -3.9 -2.4 0 4.7 -1.5
Flake -3.5 -0.1 -6 -2 -2.6 -5 3.3 6.5 -2.5 -1.2 7.1 0 4.3 1.8
Trimming flake 6.3 -6.8 1.5 -13.9 -5.2 -9.8 -2.1 19.8 10.2 1.1 -2 0 -8.7 9.6
Tool -0.4 -2.2 5.8 7.4 5.1 3.5 -1.5 -7 -5.8 -0.2 -1 0 -2.4 -1.5

A multitude of patterns can be observed from the table. This at two levels: (1) patterns within each

site, and (2) patterns between the two sites. At the site level (1) more blades than expected are made from

varieties of matte chert, this pattern holds for both sites. (2) More bladelets and tools than expected are

produced from glossy gray chert at KPS 36/4, while fewer bladelets and flakes than expected are made of

brownish chert. Tools made from brown matte chert are more numerous than expected. A somewhat

different pattern is found at KPS 75. Bladelets are more common than expected for both brown chert

varieties and for gray glossy chert. However, for the gray matte chert the observed value is 23% below the

expected value. The pattern for KPS 75 trimming flakes is exactly opposite the pattern for bladelets. Tools

at KPS 75 made on brown matte and gray glossy chert blanks show higher than expected frequencies. It

seems clear that differences in raw material use are certainly present, but these differences are not

consistent between sites. Interpreting these patterns individually is beyond the scope of this paper and

might prove difficult as each raw material type distinguished consists in turn of multiple raw material types.

However, interpretations of these types of patterns could yield insight into where different raw materials

and their reduction fit in the sequence of moving into a site, full stay, or near the end of occupation. For

example a group could have brought some worked raw material from elsewhere when first occupying the

site. When that material is dumped it is going to show different stages in the reduction sequence than

material that is being flaked in preparation for the next residential move. To do this kind of analysis

successfully I suggest MAN (minimum analytical nodule) (Odell 2000) divisions are necessary. A raw

material division much more fine-grained and labor intensive than the one used here.

Some simple comparisons between the artifacts from KPS 36/4 and KPS 75 allow for a more

detailed consideration of raw material differences and similarities between the two sites. One important

element here are the cores, more particularly their types and sizes (Table 11). In the table, the cores are

grouped into two categories, one consisting of formal core types (e.g., single platform & opposed

platform cores), the other comprising multiple platform and other informal core types. Inspection of the

table indicates that formal cores are more common at KPS 75 than they are at KPS 36/4. When expected

and observed values for this table are generated, there are more single and opposed platform cores at KPS

75, while the reverse is true for KPS 36/4 (i.e., less than expected single and opposed platform cores, more

than expected multiple platform and other cores). Core sizes are very similar at both sites (Table 12).

Table 11: Counts and Percentages for Combined Core Types at KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

KPS 36/4 KPS 75

N % n %
Single and opposed platform 26 52 58 68.2
Multiple platform and other 24 48 27 31.8
Total 50 100 85 100

Table 12: Metrics for Length, Width, Thickness and Weight of Cores at KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

KPS 36/4 KPS 75

n average s n average s
Length 30 50.4 15.2 42 52.4 11.7
Width 30 36.2 8.9 42 32.6 8.5
Thickness 30 23.8 6.8 42 22.2 5.6
Weight 30 48.4 38.9 42 44.9 33.6

The higher incidence of more formalized core types at KPS 75 hints that use of raw material is less

expedient. When comparing the weights of formal to informal cores it is clear the latter represent more

expedient rather than exhausted cores because the expedient cores are larger on average than the formal

cores (Table 13). If KPS 36/4 material is more expedient we expect cortical pieces at KPS 36/4 to be

relatively more abundant than at KPS 75.

Table 13: Weights in gram for Formal and more Expedient Cores at KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

KPS 36/4 KPS 75

Cores average s average s
expedient 61.2 50.9 53 30.3
formal 38.2 18.4 42.5 35.8

Cortex was broken down into three categories: (1) absent (<10%), (2) present (10-50%), and (3) abundant

(>50%). The ratio of absent:present:abundant is 10:4:1 at KPS 36/4 and 8:2:1 at KPS 75 indicating

that, contrary to expectation, cortical pieces are more abundant at the latter site. However, caution is urged

because the nodules used at KPS 75 are typically fairly small and often retain a cortical surface at discard.

If cortex tends to be more prevalent on cores at KPS 75, the above pattern would be difficult to interpret in

terms of extent of raw material reduction. Indeed, while core sizes are the same, the ratios of core cortex

classes are 2.5:4:1 at KPS 36/4 and 1.3:2.4:1 at KPS 75. This underscores Odells point that cortex

presence is a variable of doubtful interpretive significance (2000). Thus, cortex on cores is much more

common at KPS 75. The abundance of cortex has much to do with the shape of raw material used and the

reduction strategy. At KPS 75, cores are often made from flat nodular chert from which a large blade-like

primary flake is struck. This blow prepares the striking platform for the removal of bladelets along the

narrow edge of the core. When necessary, a core tablet is removed, often in the form of a blade,

rejuvenating the striking platform. Many of these rejuvenation pieces were recovered at KPS 75, while few

were recorded at KPS 36/4, again pointing to a more formal reduction process at KPS 75.

Finally, tool and blank sizes can be compared at both sites. The box and whisker plots below

clearly show the extreme similarity in artifact sizes between the two sites. Only for the length of the

artifacts does there appear to be a consistent pattern, with the artifacts at KPS 75 slightly longer than those

at KPS 36/4. This pattern of similarity also holds for the tools, here divided into microliths and non-

microlithic (nm) categories. However, when not so divided the tools at KPS 75 are smaller on average than

those at KPS 36/4, reflecting the higher percentage of microlithic tools on the surface of KPS 75. Small

artifacts seem to be underrepresented at KPS 36/4 possibly due to reasons described above. As a result it is

extremely difficult to evaluate the difference between microlithic tools at both sites.

To summarize the results of the raw material study, we can conclude that raw material types are

used differently at both sites. However, the overall pattern and metrics for both are very similar. Several

elements seem to point to a more formalized use of raw material at KPS 75 when compared with KPS 36/4.

This will be scrutinized more closely when looking at mobility patterns.

100 70
70 50



30 20
10 KPS 3
KPS 36/4
0 KPS075 KPS 7
de t re ke lith m de let re ke lith m
bla ele co fla o l- n bla de co fla cro l- n
bla d
m icr too b la
mi too


50 80


30 50


KPS 36/4 KPS 3
0 KPS075 KPS 7
de let re ke lith m
de let ke lith
bla de co fla cro l- n de fla l- n
mi too bla cro
b b la
mi too

Figure 3: Boxplots for Length, Width, Thickness, and Weight for Various Artifact Classes by Site with
KPS 36/4 on the Left and KPS 75 on the Right.


Raw material diversity is greater at KPS 36/4 and also more evenly distributed there than at KPS

75 (Table 9). According to the test implications generated in Table 2, that might indicate higher mobility at

KPS 36/4, although this is counterintuitive given the more formalized nature of the artifacts at KPS 75. An

argument could be made that when raw material is ubiquitous less effort will be spent when any material

will do the job, while more formalized technological organization might require specific kinds of raw

materials. There seems to be some evidence for this at KPS 75, where bladelets are more common than

expected for three raw material types and where a single type, brown matte chert, constitutes 43% of all

bladelets. At KPS 36/4 bladelets are distributed much more evenly across raw material types. I argue we

should re-evaluate the validity of expected raw material diversity patterning shown in Table 2 in areas with

ubiquitous raw material since the pattern might be the exact opposite of expectations in areas with scarce

raw materials. In the latter case materials brought from elsewhere play an important role and as such cause

the pattern noted in Table 2.

The incidence of cortical pieces also must be evaluated with caution, as just noted. There are more

cortical pieces at KPS 36/4 than at KPS 75, but this is probably related to raw material type more than to

intensity of reduction, as would be expected when raw material is curated. That it is related to raw material

type seems clear from the incidence of cortex on cores, which is higher at KPS 75 even though the core

sizes for both sites are very similar. The incidence of cortex is a relatively crude and unreliable measure,

however (Odell 2000). Further it needs to be stressed that the differences between KPS 36/4 and KPS 75

are relatively minor and situated not on a scale from expedient to curated rather than one from expedient to

more formalized technologies. The importance of this distinction is important in the evaluation of areas

where raw material is ubiquitous and as such renders evaluating group mobility extremely difficult.

However, I argue we can say something about the importance of mobile versus more sedentary activities.

The incidence of retouched pieces can also be investigated. Relatively more retouched pieces are

expected at sites where higher mobility and a more curated technology are the norm. Tool:blank ratios are

the same for both sites. Most of the tools at KPS 75 are microliths, in contrast with the pattern at KPS 36/4

where most of the tools are large. Although the ratio of retouched tools to blanks could shed light on

relative mobility, such a measure can be difficult to interpret. There are large and small retouched tools at

both sites and it is the relation between these two that is particularly informative, not so much the incidence

of retouched tools relative to debitage per se. As argued earlier there is a distinction between mobile and

sedentary activities and it is the relative importance of each at a particular locale, adjusted by the rate of

discard, that should determine the relationship between the relative incidence of the large and small

components of the retouched assemblage. As small artifacts at KPS 36/4 are probably underrepresented we

cannot derive any definitive statements from the tools themselves. Further, it should also be kept in mind

that the retouched tools only identify a portion of the actual tools, since many were probably not retouched.







KPS 36/4 KPS 75

Figure 4: Core weight compared for KPS 36/4 and KPS 75.

Although the tools themselves are smaller at KPS 75, this is not necessarily true for the blanks. However,

when we look at all artifacts and compare sizes it seems clear that those at KPS 75 are smaller overall than

those at KPS 36/4. In terms of core weights, both assemblages are fairly similar (KPS 36/4 has slightly

heavier cores), but cores tend to be more formalized at KPS 75.

Ratios of tools to cores are 2.6:1 for KPS 36/4 and 4.3:1 at KPS 75, while the ratio of cores to

blanks is 1:25 at KPS 36/4 and 1:9.6 at KPS 75. Again these measures conflict with the expectations

derived from Table 2. While the tool to core ratio should indicate a more mobile/curated technology at KPS

75, the core to blank ratio indicates less intense core reduction at KPS 75, which in turn was linked to a

more sedentary/expedient technology. Again, the problem might be situated at the level of raw material

availability. In contrast to a situation of raw material scarcity, when raw material is ubiquitous, as it is on

the Karak Plateau, there is no need to further reduce (i.e., maximally utilize) cores when a more formalized

technology is followed. How the contrast between core:blank ratios can be interpreted is not clear, but it

could vary by the type of raw material used. At KPS 36/4, a lower core:blank ratio is typical of the

brownish chert varieties, while the others have a higher ratio. At KPS 75 brownish cherts are relatively

more important, hence the lower core:blank ratio.

Finally, artifact density and site size are other potentially valuable indicators, but these are

extremely hard to evaluate for surface material. At KPS 36/4 surface density (66 artifacts per m2 value

not adjusted) is much lower than at KPS 75 (500 artifacts per m2). Estimated areas for these sites are

>10,000 m2 for KPS 36/4 and slightly over 1,000 m2 for KPS 75. However, estimating site area is very

difficult, especially at KPS 36/4, because of the extensive, but uneven distribution of artifacts. Repeated use

of a single area also confounds easy interpretation of site features and structures. At KPS 36/4, two bedrock

mortars are located near the entrance to the rockshelter, but it is currently impossible to assess whether

these are associated with the lithic scatter. Other features in the immediate vicinity, but likely not related to

the scatter, are 3 stone circles probably pertaining to the Chalcolithic or Bronze Age period, rock art, and a

small stone structure on top of the bedrock outcrop in which the rockshelter is found. The latter two date to

the post Roman period. At KPS 75 three bedrock mortars are situated on top of the bedrock outcrop

containing the shelter, but again, there is no way to ascertain whether they are associated with the lithic

scatter. KPS 75 also has some basalt groundstone scattered over the site surface. While these could be

associated with the site, it seems more prudent to await excavation to verify this. These elements are

particularly important as they underscore the danger of possible intermixture from post-Epipaleolithic

occupations. However, there is no evidence of non-Epipaleolithic lithics. The exceptions are single

Neolithic points at both sites. All in all these are very minor intrusions and the fact that they are made of

exotic raw material further indicates that the points probably represent ephemeral use of the area by passing


Site Function

A third major element influencing lithic variability is site function. It is argued that both sites

represent residential bases where extensive tool manufacturing and other activities took place. Both scatters

can be characterized as large, even though KPS 36/4 is ten times the size of KPS 75. Both also have a

wide range of tools and artifacts representing all major artifact classes. That activities took place at

particular places within each is indicated by the aggregation of retouched pieces at particular locales. For

example, one square at KPS 36/4 has 28% of all the tools from nine squares, while another at KPS 75

yielded 23% of all the tools from 13 squares. That the tool counts are highly spatially variable is evidenced

by high coefficient of variation values (=sigma/mean) for tool counts across all squares: KPS 36/4, CV=

68.5; KPS 75, CV= 68.6. However, assuming that we can reconstruct site activities from these patterns is

not warranted. That some aggregation is present seems acceptable, but interpreting the aggregation is

simply impossible as these sites have been on the surface for thousands of years and the current

arrangement of lithics at the surface is probably far removed from the original situation. Further, we are

probably dealing with a palimpsest of occupation events. To evaluate whether core reduction took place at

the site we can refer to the indices of artifact density and core:artifact ratios. All stages of reduction are

present at each site, although the nature of that reduction is very different. At KPS 36/4 cores were not

extensively prepared and rejuvenated during use while they were at KPS 75 (see rejuvenation pieces in

Table 5). Further KPS 75 has several groundstone artifacts and there are bedrock mortars on both sites.

These elements seem to indicate that both sites had similar functions on at least a very coarse analytical



In what follows, I will (1) address differences between the surface and subsurface samples at KPS

36/4, (2) discuss general issues with the use of surface collections, (3) offer a general interpretation of the

patterning at each site, and (4) examine some potential problems with the expectations suggested at the

onset of the paper.

The differences between the surface and excavated samples at KPS 36/4 are striking. The vast

majority of the excavated material is very small, but fits typologically in the Early Epipaleolithic. By

contrast, the surface sample has a more balanced distribution between larger and smaller elements. Several

hypotheses could account for this pattern. (1) The subsurface deposit represents part of a much more

extensive deposit that was deflated to the current surface, mixing lithics from several occupations on the

surface, most of which were Early Epipaleolithic. This hypothesis seems unlikely, as there is no significant

admixture of fossiles directeurs from other time periods. (2) The surface material consists of a different

industry. This is a possibility even though the material is very similar in respect of microlith typology, the

defining element for the Levantine Epipaleolithic. (3) The subsurface material comprises (smaller) artifacts

that have been displaced downward from the current surface. Although there has been much debate about

artifact movement in soils and sediments, it is not clear whether size-sorting is correlated with downward

movement, nor whether it is possible to generalize about how substantial downward displacement might be

(Barton 1987; Amour-Chelu 1994). I believe that further in-depth analysis on this issue is absolutely

necessary. (4) The subsurface assemblage represents the original cultural accumulation and small artefacts

have been differentially weathered from the surface assemblage (Barton personal communication; Dibble

et. al. 1997). As larger pieces are nearly absent from the subsurface it seems unlikely the surface and

subsurface represent the same original assemblage closely resembling the composition of the subsurface

material. This would presume that the surface material only represents a very small fraction of the original

assemblage, as there are only ca. 15% larger artifacts subsurface versus 44% larger artifacts on the surface.

The use of surface material in lithic studies has often been criticized because of problems

associated with context. Earlier I alluded to the potential for deciphering the information contained in

palimpsests and countered the argument that they were analytically useless with the suggestion that

subsurface deposits could very well suffer from the same problems (Bernabeu Auban et. al. in press).

Indeed, there is an urgent need for in-depth post-depositional analysis and geomorphological study at any

(prehistoric) excavation. However, this does not solve the problem at hand. Do the surface deposits

represent multiple occupations and if so, does that compromise this study? I am convinced that the answer

to the first part of the question is yes; however this does not invalidate the research. The assumption that

we are dealing with single occupation events is probably invalid at most prehistoric sites. At both

rockshelters investigated here, there is good evidence to demonstrate repeated use over time. At KPS 75,

for example, portions of the bedrock some 50 m from the site were recently tested to evaluate possible

quarrying, and part of the deposits in the rockshelter itself were dug out by Bedouins. Landscapes and

particular areas within them are used over and over again, and we should expect disturbances and multiple

occupations, especially at focal points in the landscape (Barton and Clark 1993). Two Neolithic points

indicate later visits at both sites from people who could have contributed to the lithic assemblage. However,

the absence of other fossiles directeurs suggests that most of the repeated visits occurred during the Early

Epipaleolithic. These sites were likely part of an annual round, or were used sporadically at intervals over a

long period of time. They might have been way stations in a cycle of seasonal transhumance involving

movement between the Hasa floodplain and lowlands, and the plateau itself.

Controlling for raw material availability and environmental factors we learned several things about

raw material use, mobility patterns and site function at KPS 36/4 and KPS 75. At KPS 36/4 there is a wide

array of different raw material types and evidence for a more expedient technology. Tool sizes are larger at

KPS 36/4 than at KPS 75, indicating that portability was probably not a primary concern for its occupants.

However, this finding does not imply that all of the technology was more expedient. As the high incidence

of narrow backed bladelets showed, part of the activities there were fully geared towards the constraints

imposed by high mobility. When the site was vacated, the heavier artifacts could be left behind and

manufactured when needed at a new campsite from local raw material. When a scatter in areas of high raw

material availability points to more mobility, this does not necessarily imply residential mobility. It might

indicate a limited activity station connected with a range of maintenance and refitting activities probably

connected with hunting. Where raw material is scarce however, this clearly does not apply because raw

material for all kinds of activities must be hauled around from place to place.

In contrast with KPS 36/4, KPS 75 shows more evidence of a formalized technology. Cores are

more standardized in a technological sense. Single platform bladelet cores make up the majority.

Microliths, particularly narrow backed, backed and truncated, pointed, and curved microliths, make up

most of the tool types. Using the logic outlined above, this suggests that preparing for mobile activities

constituted a major emphasis here. As a consequence a more restricted range of raw materials were selected

for use in the production of blanks. One interesting result of the study is that the bladelets, described as the

major Epipaleolithic technology, do not in fact constitute most of the blanks on either site. Indeed, flakes

are more common. Although both sites probably housed the same major groups of activities and both are

interpreted as residential bases, specific kinds of activities varied between them. Again, more mobile

activities are emphasized at KPS 75 than at KPS 36/4.

While the preceding interpretation is consistent with most of the patterns observed, it is not

consistent with all of them. In fact, a large number of elements pointed to the exact opposite pattern where

KPS 36/4 would be the site with high mobility. Two measures that should indicate high mobility were

more raw material types, and fewer cortical pieces (Table 3). Both point to KPS 36/4 as the site with the

more mobile foragers. As I argued above, each of these criteria might have to be re-evaluated. I will use

them here to illustrate problems with the current approach.

First, the notion that fewer cortical pieces should be correlated with more mobility, and with more

curated technologies arises from the idea that available raw material is used more extensively. As a result

more pieces without cortex will be produced. As noted, the problem with this assumption is that it does not

take the morphology of available raw material into account and it assumes the need to further reduce cores.

When suitable raw material is ubiquitous, that need is eliminated.

Second, the expectation to see a more diverse set of raw materials associated with highly mobile

foragers (Table 2) might be incorrect in the case of ubiquitous raw material. When raw material is scarce,

overall more mobile groups probably carry and discard raw materials from a variety of sources. When raw

material is abundant, however, the opposite pattern seems more intuitively likely. Because a more portable

toolkit goes hand in hand with a more formalized technology, more stringent raw material selection is

expected. This seems to be the pattern at KPS 75, where most of the bladelets are made of high quality

fine-grained brownish matte chert (43 %). These two examples illustrate (1) that the factors affecting lithic

variability are closely and complexly interrelated, and (2) that expectations about pattern under conditions

of high mobility are biased in favor of conditions of raw material scarcity. We need to develop alternative

sets of test implications for high mobility foragers under conditions of raw material abundance. This paper

is an initial effort to do that.


It is clear that the traditional typological systematics have many limitations. Not only do they focus on a

very small percentage of the artifacts at a site (usually <5%), but also the behavioral meaning of the

resulting units is equivocal (e.g. Clark & Lindly 1990). By assuming that all patterned variation is due to

culture (ways of making stone tools leaned in a social context), other important sources of variation are

ignored. This study shows that general contextual factors with which all hunter-gatherers must come to

terms (e.g., mobility, where to find raw material) play significant roles in the composition of lithic

assemblages. Evaluating raw material availability and use, mobility, and site function at two Early

Epipaleolithic sites indicated more evidence for expedient technologies at KPS 36/4, whereas KPS 75 is

characterized by more formalized technologies. These patterns were in turn linked to activity mobility. It

was argued activities involving high mobility were emphasized at KPS 75, while more sedentary activities

probably constituted the main activity set at KPS 36/4. A conventional typological analysis of each

assemblage showed only minor differences between the two sites. The study showed that a re-evaluation of

material expectations for mobility patterns should start from the all-important observation of raw material

availability. It was argued that many of the conventional views on mobility and reduction intensity proceed

from an initial assumption of raw material scarcity. However, when suitable raw material is ubiquitous,

very different constraints on the organization of technology come into play. More explicit expectations

should be about relative mobility developed to take situations where raw material is abundant into account.

Further, it is far less straightforward to derive measures of hunter-gatherer group mobility in the case of

raw material abundance. Rather, we can try to get at the relative importance of mobile activities versus

more stationary activities. Furthermore the difference is not so much evidenced as expedient versus curated

assemblages, but rather expedient versus more formalized assemblages, irrespective of intensity of



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