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A comparative 3D geometric morphometric analysis of Victoria West cores: implications for the origins of Levallois technology

A comparative 3D geometric morphometric analysis of Victoria West cores: implications for the origins of Levallois technology

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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
 Article history:
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. Introduction
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‘Levalloisprepared 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.
E-mail address:
S.J.Lycett@Kent.ac.uk(S.J. Lycett).
Contents lists available atScienceDirect
 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
Clark (1959, p. 125)provided an informative description of thereduction procedure resulting in the cores at Victoria West, which‘‘consisted of roughing out from a small boulder what at first sightappears to be a crude handaxe with one face much flatter than theother’’. He further describes the preparation of a striking platformon one side, and the release of the ‘‘large, comparatively flat, flake’’which was subsequently worked into ‘‘a handaxe, cleaver, or side-scraper’’ (Clark, 1959, pp. 125–126).Despite the general comparability with Levallois cores, thisconstructional link with large Acheulean handaxes was also notedby others (Goodwin, 1934; Leakey, 1936). This similarity wasperhaps most explicitly stated byLeakey (1936, p. 85), albeit usingcertainterminologythatisnowobsolete:‘‘itisdecidedlynoticeablethat among the forms of unstruck Victoria West cores there aremanythathavemorethanaresemblancetolarge,clumsyChellean-type hand-axes’’. However, it is their comparability with largeLevallois cores that has drawn most attention in the literature, tothe extent that they have often been regarded as a ‘proto-Levallois’core form(Breuil,1930;Goodwin,1934; VanRietLowe,1945;Clark,1959; Bordes, 1968). AsVan Riet Lowe (1929, p. 389)put it, the shape of Victoria West cores is ‘‘not unlike a magnified and slightlydistorted Levallois of Europe’’.In some instances, direct comparisons between the SouthAfrican ‘Victoria West’ and artefacts as far away as India have beenmade (Cammiade and Burkitt,1930). However, while it is generallyaccepted that the Levallois
can occur anywhere, withoutany connection tothe original findspot, in the case of Victoria Westthe case for reapplying an original
label to a widespread
is not nearly so clear-cut. Indeed,Sharon (2009)hasrecentlyarguedthattheVictoriaWestmayrepresentoneofseveraldifferent Lower Palaeolithic industries involving the production of large flake blanks, each of which may be convergent. Meanwhile,phylogenetic analyses have suggested that properties sharedbetween Middle Palaeolithic Levallois cores and those fromVictoria West are the product of technological convergence (Lycett,2009a).
1.2. Geometric morphometrics framework
Here, the hypothesis that Victoria West cores are accuratelycharacterised as ‘large Levallois’ is tested directly using a compar-ative 3D geometric morphometric (GM) methodology. GM (land-mark-based) methods are particularly appropriate for addressingthese questions due to the mathematical capability to separate outthe properties of ‘shape’ and ‘size’. ‘Shape’ in this context refersexplicitly to the geometric properties of an object, excluding theeffects of isometric scale (or ‘size’) (Slice, 2005). Isometric scalingrefers to the uniform magnification or reduction of an objectwithout altering itsshape. Therefore,in thecomparative analysisof shape,asizeparametermustfirstbe identifiedsuchthattheeffectsof isometric scaling can be removed from the analysis. It should beemphasised that adjusting for scale in this manner does not auto-maticallyassumethatsize isnotanimportant aspectofvariationinstone tools. Indeed, analyses of linear dimensions in Acheuleanhandaxes have shown allometric relationships between length andthickness, which has been interpreted as a design reconciliationbetween increasing size and weight (Crompton and Gowlett,1993;Gowlett and Crompton, 1994). Meanwhile,Buchanan’s (2006)studyof Folsom projectile points, andShott and Weedman’s (2007)study of scrapers, demonstrate that allometric analyses are alsoa useful means of investigating models of technological organiza-tion in wider contexts.Here, we wish to emphasise shape parameters and so controlfor isometric scale. In geometric morphometrics, the mostcommonly used ‘size’ measure is centroid size, which is defined asthe square root of the summed squared Euclidean distances fromeach landmark to the centroid (Niewoehner, 2005). By scaling alllandmark configurations to the same (unit) centroid size, theeffects of scaling are removed, allowing for the direct comparisonof differences in shape. Moreover, studies in physical anthropologyhave shown that the use of landmark-based methods allows fora highly flexible approach to morphometric analysis, and canaccommodate the analysis of specific localised regions such asindividual cranial bones (e.g.Lockwood et al., 2002; von Cramon-Taubadel, 2009).Intheanalysesundertakenhere,wedeliberatelyfocusondorsalsurfacemorphology.Itisoftensuggestedthataspectsofdorsalcoresurface morphology (e.g., distal and lateral convexity, removal of prepared flakes) are keycomponents of Levallois cores (e.g.,Boe¨ da, 1995; Van Peer, 1992). They are properties that are shared bothwith Victoria West cores (e.g.,Van Riet Lowe, 1929, 1945; Rolland,1995) and Acheulean handaxes, thus facilitating a comparativeanalysis, and suggestive of technological links in these differentartefact forms (e.g.Schick, 1998; DeBono and Goren-Inbar, 2001).Thus, a study of dorsal surface morphology is particularly relevantto the morphometric comparison of Victoria West cores, Levalloiscores, and potentially related technological forms such ashandaxes.
2. Materials and methods
 2.1. Materials
Table 1lists the assemblages used in the comparativemorphometric analyses. Here, the artefacts are assigned to theextremely broad taxonomic category of Clark’s (1969)‘Modes’(where broadly Mode 1
a simple core and flake industry; Mode2
a biface industry, and Mode 3
a prepared core industry).We are aware of the limitations of this scheme, but here itconstitutes a conservative approach to the morphological varia-tion represented in these artefacts for the purposes of thecomparative analyses (Lycett, 2007). It takes no account of thechronological or regional ‘variants’ that may emerge
thesebroadly defined technological distinctions (Lycett and Gowlett,2008). Thus, applying this scheme, the sample here includesexamples of Mode 1 cores, Mode 2 handaxes and Mode 3(Middle Palaeolithic) Levallois cores (total
639 artefacts).Included alongside this material are 36 Victoria West cores, all of which represent struck examples. These latter artefacts haveparticular characterization value as they were collected by F.J. Jansen, the original discoverer of the Victoria West industry( Jansen, 1926), from a hillside adjacent to the town of VictoriaWest in the Karoo region of South Africa (Smith, 1919; Goodwin,1926, 1929; Van Riet Lowe, 1929, 1945). Hence, it is this materialthat subsequently lent its name to the entire ‘Victoria West’phenomenon.Included within the Mode 3 (Levallois) sample is a group of cores (
23) from Baker’s Hole (Northfleet), United Kingdom(Table 1). The Levallois cores from Baker’s Hole have drawn specificattentiondue totheirrelativelylargesize in comparisonwith manytypical Middle Palaeolithic Levallois assemblages (Smith, 1911, p.523; Roe,1981, p. 80; Robinson,1986, p. 20). Moreover, bothSmith(1919, p. 102)andGoodwin (1929, p. 66)drew direct comparisons between Victoria West cores and the Levallois cores from Baker’sHole (Northfleet) in their early descriptions of the Victoria West.Indeed,Goodwin (1929, p. 66)went as far as stating specificallythat Victoria West cores represented ‘‘a ‘tortoise core’ similar intype to those discovered at Northfleet (England)’’. Hence, inclusionof material from Baker’s Hole allows us to test directly the
S.J. Lycett et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 1110–1117 
hypothesis that Victoria West cores are accurately characterised asa ‘large Levallois’ variant.
 2.2. Methods 2.2.1. Landmark configuration
The basis of geometric morphometrics is the identification andquantification of ‘homologous landmarks’, defined as ‘‘a point of correspondence on an object that matches between and withinpopulations’’ (Dryden and Mardia, 1998, p. 3; O’Higgins, 2000).However, in the case of stone tools, large numbers of readilydefined points of correspondence (i.e. homologous landmarks) arenot easily located (Lycett et al., 2006; Lycett, 2009b). One wayaround this problem is to use what are termed ‘semilandmarks’(Bookstein, 1997; Buchanan, 2006; Lycett et al., 2006).Terminologically,Bookstein (1991, pp. 63–66)originally identi-fied three categories of landmark. Type I landmarks were thosereadily identifiable points (e.g., cranial suture junctions) thatrequired no geometric definition in relation to other aspects of thespecimen. Type II landmarks were identified as morphologicallyisolated points or extremities (e.g., the tips of extrusions or invag-inations). Type III landmarks were regarded as geometricallydefined points, and thus are identified instrumentally. An impor-tant point here is that ‘homology’ is not necessarily an inherent orconvenientlyidentifiableproperty,butsomethingthatmayemergefrom a clear but operationally specified definition (O’Higgins,2000). Subsequently,Bookstein (1997)thus renamed Type III landmarks as‘semilandmarks’.Semilandmarks canconceptuallybethought of as homologous in the sense of being
correspondent across forms. Hence, via the use of explicitgeometric protocols for their identification, the locations of semi-landmarks are driven by the observed morphology, thus effectivelycapturing morphological similarities and disparities acrossspecimens.In the case of the present study, 51 geometrically defined 3D co-ordinates (i.e. semilandmarks) were recorded using a CrossbeamCo-ordinate Caliper (Lycett et al., 2006). The resulting landmarkconfiguration is shown inFig. 1.Full details regarding the semi- landmarking protocol, orientation of artefacts, and definitionsof alllandmarkscanbefoundinLycettetal.(2006).Inthecaseofbifaces,the ‘dorsal surface’ was defined as that exhibiting the mostextensively worked face. In ambiguous cases this was identified asthatexhibitingleastamountofcortexand/orthefaceexhibitingthelargest number of flake scars (
1 cm in length
0.5 cm inwidth).The logic underlying this protocol is that the most intensivelyflaked surface will be that more extensively modified by homininagency.
 2.2.2. Shape analysis
For each analysis undertaken, landmark configurations weresubjected to generalized Procrustes analysis (GPA) using themorphometrics software
Morphologika 2.3.1.
(O’Higgins and Jones,2006). GPA proceeds by removing variation between landmarkconfigurations due to isometric scale by reducing all configura-tions to unit centroid size, and then implements least-squarescriteria to minimize residual differences between configurationsdue to translation and rotation (Gower, 1975; Chapman, 1990).Any remaining variation between homologous landmark posi-tions (Procrustes residuals) can be interpreted as shape differ-ences between configurations. Thereafter, the Procrustes residualsare projected into a linear shape space tangent to the non-Euclidean shape space and subjected to principal componentsanalysis (PCA). PCA allows the major shape variation betweenindividual objects (in this case lithic nuclei) to be examined ina hierarchical fashion, whereby the first PC describes the majoraxis of shape variation (size having already been controlled for),the second PC describes the second major axis of variation, and soon. PCA was therefore employed here to examine the shapeaffinities of the Victoria West cores relative to the broad sample
 Table 1
Taxonomic units employed in analyses (total
639 nuclei).Taxonomicunit numberLocality
Raw material Nuclei type/mode1 Barneld Pit, Kent, UK 22 Chert Ml2 Barnham St. Gregory, Suffolk, UK 30 Chert Ml3 Lion Point, Clacton, Essex, UK 18 Chert Ml4 Olduvai Gorge (Lower Bed II), Tanzania 11 Lava, chert, quartz Ml5 Olduvai Gorge (Middle/Upper Bed II), Tanzania 26 Lava, chert, quartz Ml6 Soan Valley, Pakistan 25 Quartzite Ml7 Zhoukoudian, Locality 1, China 14 Sandstone, quartz, limestone Ml8 Zhoukoudian, Locality 15, China 11 Sandstone, quartz Ml9 Attirampakkam, India 30 Quartzite M2 (Handaxe)10 Bezez Cave (Level C), Adlun, Lebanon 30 Chert M2 (Handaxe)11 Elveden, Suffolk, UK 24 Chert M2 (Handaxe)12 Kariandusi, Kenya 30 Lava M2 (Handaxe)13 Kharga Oasis (KOl0c), Egypt 17 Chert M2 (Handaxe)14 Lewa, Kenya 30 Lava M2 (Handaxe)15 Olduvai Gorge (Bed II), Tanzania 13 Quartz, lava M2 (Handaxe)16 Morgah, Pakistan 21 Quartzite M2 (Handaxe)17 St. Acheul, France 30 Chert M2 (Handaxe)18 Tabun Cave (Ed), Israel 30 Chert M2 (Handaxe)21 Bakers Hole, Kent, UK 23 Chert M322 Bezez Cave (Level B), Adlun, Lebanon 28 Chert M323 El Arabah, Abydos, Egypt 16 Chert M324 El Wad (Level F), Israel 27 Chert M325 Fitz James, Oise, France 11 Chert M326 Kamagambo, Kenya 13 Quartzite, chert M327 Kharga Oasis (KO6e), Egypt 11 Chert M328 Muguruk, Kenya 12 Lava M329 Soan Valley, Pakistan 11 Quartzite M330 Victoria West 36 Lava (Dolerite) Para-Levallois
S.J. Lycett et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 1110–1117 

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