A comparative 3D geometric morphometric analysis of Victoria West cores:implications for the origins of Levallois technology
Stephen J. Lycett
, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel
, John A.J. Gowlett
Department of Anthropology, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NR, UK
British Academy Centenary Research Project, SACE, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK
a r t i c l e i n f o
Received 11 September 2009Received in revised form30 November 2009Accepted 4 December 2009
Geometric morphometricsLevalloisAcheulean handaxesVictoria WestPrepared core technology
a b s t r a c t
The ‘Victoria West’ is a Lower Paleolithic industry from South Africa, which includes prepared cores andhas previously been noted to bear strong morphological resemblances with later Middle Paleolithicprepared core technologies (i.e. Levallois cores). Indeed, from the earliest commentaries on the VictoriaWest, it has frequently been thought of as a ‘large Levallois’ variant. The hypothesis that VW cores areaccurately characterised as ‘large Levallois’ is tested here using a comparative 3D geometric morpho-metric (GM) methodology. GM methods are powerful statistical tools for shape analysis that offer manyadvantages over traditional means of shape quantiﬁcation and comparison. The use of landmarks tocapture shape variation allows for the preservation of the full geometry, as well as enabling the moreprecise description of shape versus size. Moreover, biological studies have shown that the use of land-marks allows for a ﬂexible approach to comparing speciﬁc aspects of overall morphology. Here, weemploy GM to analyse differences in core surface morphology in a range of Lower and Middle Palae-olithic artefacts, including Victoria West examples (total
639 artefacts). In comparison with coresfrom non-handaxe Mode 1, Acheulean handaxes, and Levallois cores, the Victoria West share shapeafﬁnities with both Acheulean handaxes and Levallois cores. However, when compared directly witha group of large Middle Palaeolithic Levallois cores from Baker’s Hole (UK), the Victoria West were foundto more closely resemble handaxes, while the Baker’s Hole set are simply isometrically-scaled Levalloiscores. These analyses show that, despite broad technological and qualitative morphological similaritieswith Levallois cores, Victoria West cores are morphologically more similar to Lower Palaeolithic artefactforms, such as handaxes, and are in some respects distinct from Middle Palaeolithic Levallois cores. Inline with other recent analyses, our results support suggestions that the Victoria West technique is anextension of longstanding Acheulean traditions for the preparation of biface blanks, but with its owndistinct characteristics.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1.1. The Victoria West
The Victoria West, as originally deﬁned, is a Lower Palaeolithicprepared core industry from South Africa, named after the Karoo-region town where it was originally discovered during the earlypart of the twentieth century (Smith, 1919; Van Riet Lowe, 1929;Goodwin, 1926, 1929). Cores attributed to this industry were ﬁrstdiscovered ca.1915 by the then local magistrate F.J. Jansen (seeSmith, 1919), who later wrote a short paper on his ﬁnds ( Jansen,1926). Subsequently, the term ‘Victoria West’ has been attributedto cores from a series of assemblages from sites in central SouthAfrica, especially along the Vaal River (Goodwin, 1934; Van RietLowe, 1945; Rolland, 1995; Clark, 2001; Sharon and Beaumont,2006).From their initial discovery, cores attributed to the ‘VictoriaWest’ phenomenon drew comparisons with Middle Palaeolithic‘Levallois’ prepared cores from Europe and the African MiddleStone Age (MSA) (Smith, 1919; Van Riet Lowe, 1929; Breuil, 1930;Goodwin,1934; Leakey,1936). AsGoodwin (1934, p.120)noted, in
a manner similar to Levallois cores, they exhibit ‘‘preparation of upper-faceandtheremovalofalargeﬂakefromtheuppersurface’’.However, due tothe largesize of the cores, as well as their frequentassociation with Acheulean handaxes and cleavers (manufacturedfrom their large ﬂake products) the Victoria West was attributed tothe Lower Palaeolithic (Goodwin, 1934; Van Riet Lowe, 1945).
Corresponding author. Department of Anthropology, University of Kent, Mar-lowe Building, Canterbury, CT2 7NR, UK. Tel.:
44 779 11 33 593.
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Journal of Archaeological Science
journal homepage: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jas
0305-4403/$ – see front matter
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.12.011
Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 1110–1117