Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Levallois tools in Capps, Alabama, USA

I have written several posts on Levallois tools, and today want to share a very interesting text I came across:

Capps A Levallois-Like Flaked Stone Technology in North America
Chapter 3 in Early Human Life on the Southeastern Coastal Plain by Blaine Ensor, ed. by Albert Goodyear and Christopher Moore, 2018

It describes the Capps site in Henry County, southeastern Alabama, USA where many tools manufactured using Levallois techniques have been found. This technique is old (300 Kya) and was used -and developed- by Neanderthals, it replaced the more primitive Acheulean lithic industry used by Homo erectus. And it was very successful, because it survived until some 40 kya.

The author mentions other sites in the US:

Map showing other sites, from Ensor's book.

They are indeed old, the author states that "The uniform heavy patination and staining of the Capps-Shelley artifacts certainly suggest some antiquity, but they cannot be used to date theartifacts... [making it unlikely] that Capps technology is related to Clovis or later Holocene cultures."

It should be pointed out that Levallois tools from the Old World originated some 350,000 years ago, and were used by Neanderthals.

So who made these Capps, Alabama tools? (modern humans or Neanderthals?) When were they made? (within the last 15,000 years? or long before that date?

Further reading: The Capps and Shelley Sites: Capps technology and implications for New World Prehistory by H. Blaine Ensor

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  1. I'm not far northwest of that Site. I find clamshell shaped hand axes and levoilois type unifacial blades with patination and caliche calculus on worked blades.

  2. Very suggestive findings!!, but it´s a pity their absolute lack of geological context
    As it is known (and as treated in detail in your blog), Levallois flaking method has been registered on archaeological contexts of very different regions, spanning a wide chronological interval…strongly suggesting the possibility that, in many cases, it was independently conceived or “reinvented”, often with local variants.
    But, even when its utilization began to be seldom observed in the Old World after 40 Ka or so, because of its gradual replacement by laminar technologies, apparently it did not disappear completely until more recent times…
    As a local example of this last, “Levallois like” cores has been found in Argentina too, at two places; Cabo San Vicente and Península Mitre, N and SE respectively of Tierra del Fuego. Just like Alabama tools, they were found at surface…but most probably, they only could have come from the Mid Holocene sediments layers of these places.

    I think that given the fact that there no idea of a possible geological context,…considerable care should be taken at the time to speculate for a tentative age from these lithics… because if judged only from their morphology, then we should take into account some precedents of “Late Levallois”, like the above mentioned... and if evaluated from their taphonomic attributes, it should be considered that a lithic artifact is, in general, always less “diagnostic” respect to antiquity than for example; a bone tool…in which several aspects of its mineralization can be seen (even only with a 20X lens) , and they can often provide enough elements of judgment in order to, for example;…identify a Late Holocene/actual origin, or to rule up an Holocene/Terminal Pleistocene or later one, or to identify a >80 Ka old bone…with not too big mistakes.
    The heavy patination and staining mentioned by the author are more difficult aspects to evaluate, but if so evidently are they present in these artifacts… then, certainly they could suggest an antiquity for them, at least well within Pleistocene times.

    The underlying question, which is in close tune with the essence of your post, would be;
    ¿Why not is possible that these Levallois tools, as well as other “weird” cultural signals found in America, could be related to a local, particular and ancient evolution of genus Homo… not necessarily the same nor as consistent along time as in “Old World”…, but some of which´s manifestations were approximately convergent ??...
    What we do know, is that there has been no insurmountable impediments for those Homo who where in Asia since Low Pleistocene ages (either early immigrants from Africa or Asian locally evolved, ??) to try to put their feet into these lands… and some of them could have succeeded in their attempts….
    ¿Did they really contribute in tangible form to genus Homo?...Who knows?...Perhaps they always developed their existence within a frame of very low population density and isolation, and for this reason their remains have so low archaeological visibility...
    ¿What if the earliest signs found in America were left by “dead branches” of Homo (or other hominid genus)???...
    Another very interesting and triggering subject!
    Best regards

  3. Very interesting; The Levallois technique used and developed by Neanderthals is important.

    Have you (and readers of this blog) ever seen the documentary named: "The Last Tasmanian"?
    It is a documentary produced (Ronin Films)/ released in 1978.

    In this documentary film it follows the work of Dr Rhys Jones (archaeologist and anthropologist).
    The full documentary can be watched on 'you tube'; some very interesting information can be seen and heard on around (between) the 14-26 minute mark regarding (loss of) tool technology.
    Another very important part of the documentary which is most relevant to this blogpost (Levallois tools in Capps, Alabama, USA) can be seen around (between) 1hour 30min - 1hour 33min mark regarding stone tool technology.

    When you have watched those parts of the documentary; especially around the 1hour 30min mark; Yes you will see that the Tasmanian Aboriginals produced stone tools most similar if not identical to Neanderthal stone tools.
    Meaning the tools in southeastern Alabama (southeastern north America) could have been made within 15,000 years.

    The interesting part of North America is the presence of Denisovan DNA in some North American natives namely the Ojibwa and Cree who are concentrated around the Great Lakes region.
    It is known that Denisovans and Neanderthals have produced offspring. This could mean that a mixed Denisovan; Neanderthal and AMH could have migrated from the Great Lakes region down the Mississippi river into southeastern north America and produced the southern Alabama Levallois (stone) tools.

    There is so much to be (re-)discovered; - Urisahatu

    The Last Tasmanian 1978 FULL DOCUMENTARY

    The Coming of the Thunder People: Denisovan Hybrids, Shamanism and the American Genesis - by Andrew Collins

  4. Marcelo,

    Your reply was well written and well received.
    I recently investigated the stone tool tech that pre contact Australian Aboriginal people had at the time of European arrival.
    They had a technology comparable to levallois. I think south India also had a late mode 3.
    I wish our soil wasn't so acidic, then perhaps we could have some dna to test and remains to examine.
    Perhaps these primitive type stone tools can be attributed to the ancestors of modern Native American people. I can't help but think about how their transition from Mode 3 to Mode 4 is similar to our modern example of transitioning from plowing with mules to plowing with tractors. Same basic tools but with refinements and innovations.
    Perhaps there were no demands or need for innovation until 12,000 years ago in the Americas.
    I would like to imagine the possibility of an archaic lineage of people arriving half a million years earlier than what is now accepted. Austin does a great job of bringing forward evidence to demonstrate the possibility. That's why I enjoy visiting this website see what is on his mind and what he has found.
    Best Regards.

    1. Hello William
      Your investigations about a Late Mode 3, are a very interesting subject…because either developed by means of rescued ancestral knowledge (who knows??) or simply reinvented, a so late Levallois technology, in this case in Australia, would be another clear example of how Old World´s “standard sequence” for the evolution of the lithic technology, from Mode 1 (or even 0, if valid) to Mode 4, and fundamentally it´s timing,…cannot be extrapolated as if to other regions.
      I totally agree with your paragraph “…Perhaps there were no demands or need of innovation until 12000 years ago in the Americas...”, because in my opinion (I am not more than a studious amateur in these subjects), it is consistent with some important aspects about the lithic technology developed in America.
      It is known that since Terminal Pleistocene times (since 14 to 12 Ka or so) our continent began to receive increasingly large immigrations. This increased population density (perhaps not evenly distributed) probably led, locally, to more complex human “societies”, for which the need of more sophisticated lithic tools was imperative, not only to hunt more efficiently… but also to support other aspects of their existence, such as; more defined hierarchical relationships among them, and an ever increasing interchange of goods and culture with neighbours.
      In this sense, and as an example, Clovis Culture´s beautifully made projectile points, could have had a more complex functionality than merely having been superb hunting tools…Most probably, these people were stimulated to manufacture this kind of artifacts, precisely by the need of innovation you are talking about.
      On the other hand, the lack of this demand is clearly seen in the well known pre-Clovis sites, and is particularly noticeable in the sites of the Piauï region (Brasil) such as Pedra Furada and Toca da Tira Peia…where a rudimentary technology, not much more elaborated than Oldowan Mode 1, was employed by their settlers to fulfill their requirements. These people (probably H. sapiens too) could have had almost equivalent “potential” cognitive capabilities to Clovis people…but it´s obvious that, at least in their environment, they didn´t have the need to develop more than this.
      At this respect, and precisely referring to Australia, Mark Moore (2013) holds that the presence of sophisticated artifacts (among them, bifacial lanceolate points) in the Australian archaeological record, is suggestively correlated with the demography proxies of each region at the estimated time they were found.
      Regardless if whether there is consensus about this or not, I speculate that Moore´s hypothesis could make sense in South America too, because, apart from pre-Clovis sites, many Holocene archaeological contexts in the region, particularly those expected to have been less populated or somewhat isolated, also exhibit a remarkably “poor” and/or primitive lithic technology.
      Returning to the main subject of this post, any Levallois evidence is absolutely interesting…and Alabama artifacts, (and probably your findings near this place, too!!...), even being them out of geological context, if they really present suggestive signs of having been buried since a long time, an origin well within Pleistocene ages for them, never could be ruled up

      As you, I am another reader of Austin´s blog, who appreciates the very interesting topics addressed here, the way they are treated, and also the possibility to leave a comment.
      Best regards


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