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.

    1. we have literally tons of levallois type points and tools in northeast Ohio because the area was a huge city that is now being defrauded by the state of ohio a huge cover up .probably because the site proves these ancients were more advanced that the powers to be want you to know , Mining coal , making geopolymer ceramics, Glass , and more than likely steel , Ohio government is intentionally permitting the ancient City and Burials destroyed! want pictures e-mail me, Scott , they appear gravettian

  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

    1. southern Italy, the Pontinian Industry includes a lot of "pseudo Levalloisiann" tools dating to as recent as 7000 Levallosian was not restricted to the Mousterian Culture.

  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

  5. I live in south Alabama and extensively hunted/collected the same general area (within 50km) as the Capps and Shelley sites since theclate 70's. I actually surface collected from both of those soecific sites a few times in the late 70's to mid 80's. As noted in Ensor's paper, "collector bias" meant that I sought more productive sites as far as finding "arrowheads" (bifaces).
    In later years I developed more appreciation for the potential of pre-Clovis sites and renewed my interest in colecting from such sites. In addition, I discovered a single component Clovis site in east-central Georgia in 1988 and have surface collected from it ever since. That site is within 100km of the Topper Site.
    Subsequently, after careful collecting and curation of 'all' materials from a number of sites in southeast AL, I have identified a few sites I believe to possess "Capps Technology". A few key attributes are (1) Levallois-esque blades, scrapers, and flake knives (2) heavy patination with no thermal alteration (3) a glaring absence of bifaces and other tools typically found on Clovis and later sites. That said...
    IF we are looking at pre-Clovis (>13,100 BP) in the case of Capps, it seems to be different from the assemblages at other probable pre-Clovis sites, i.e. Topper, Cactus Hill, Gault, etc. That would be terribly interesting for so many reasons. Do different assemblages from pre-Clovis sites indicate different cultural in, did the different groups of pre-Clovis immigrants arrive from different ancestral lands each bringing a lithic tradition with attributes/features peculiar to each?
    Anyway, my musings really aren't that different from any by Ensor or as others have written here.
    I do want to make one comment: I firmly believe the majority of, perhaps nearly every, Clovis and related point types were hafted knives vs. projectile (spear) points. 90% of Clovis exhibit at least slight if not significant resharpening commensurate with use as cutting tools vs. projectile points. It's become a rather popular theory the last several years among some researchers to assign great importance to the appearance of different fluted point types (specifically Redstone) as supporting theories about climate change at the end of the pleistocene. That is, Redstone fluted points have been cited as evidence of changes in hunting strategies due to selection of prey animals somehow 'more suitable' for Redstone-tipped spears/darts. If we 'reassign' fluted points to a role as knives vs. projectile points, theories about prey selection based on the use of Redstone vs Clovis are negated.
    Anyway, all for now.
    Charles Ray

    1. Hello Charles
      I am a fossil hunter/collector too, and my archaeological (and also paleontological) findings come from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I run with the same problem as you : most of my material lacks geological context…a limiting aspect , yes..but this is precisely what leads to me to the need to study each piece with the best possible depth. As you, I also investigate for “another version” for the history of first peopling in America.
      Your findings are indeed very important…because particularly in North America, given the very high frequency of bifacially shaped tools registered in their archaeological record during Terminal Pleistocene ages ( and well within Holocene too..), either attributed to Clovis or to similar and/or subsequent cultures… having you found these sites with a suggestive absence of said “signature lithics”, and clear evidence of “Levallois like” tools, and additionally they are heavy patinated….then, I think you can rule up a “Late Mode 3” manifestation (some of them were registered in Argentina at Mid Holocene), with minimal risks of being wrong…and therefore, have almost 100% degree of confidence that its original archaeological context (even being it not found up to now) is, definitely, more deeply inserted into the Pleistocene.
      In my region, I have found only weak traces of Levallois…up to the point that, honestly, I am not sure if it´s about of a local variant of the method, or simply they are similar byproducts of other less predeterminated methods of flaking , as for example discoidal flaking….being most of my lithic collection, composed of rudimentary flaked pieces, resembling a more or less elaborated Mode 1. Even when such technology was found even in late sites, for many reasons I am sure that all this material was eroded from Pleistocene layers.
      Even if we are somewhat beyond the subject of the post, I would like to reply respect to your belief about a different role for Clovis and similar bifacially flaked tools, because is very interesting. I think that, at least , their alternate use as knifes really makes sense to me, too….though I believe in an even more broad functionality of this fine artifacts. In fact, they also could have had symbolic meaning in a society with an increasingly complexity in its structure.
      Anyway, we will never know by sure about these aspects…and I would add, that also we have to deal with the ignorance about all the tools they could have implemented with wood….
      Particularly, I have found clear signs suggesting that this material was widely used, because of the suggestively high proportion of tools (even bone tools) with notches and denticulates, (aspect also present in some recognized sites) ….which leads me to speculate that this regional Homo (and may be other, too), could perhaps have manufactured 100% wood spears, and only utilized lithics to shape them…but it´s only another speculation.
      Best regards

  6. I don't know if anyone is interested but I found a beautiful quartz "Levallois Point" buried deep in the glacial sands of Cape Cod (when they dug a test pit for some construction).

    These sands were deposited during flood events in the last 20K years but the tool is un-weathered. I read that dating of glacial sands is possible.


    1. Awesome finding!!..and also nice photos of it.
      Whether used as a projectil point or simply as a scraper (hardly could we know by sure about this aspect…), this lithic appears to have all the attributes concerning Levallois technology… and it was flaked on quartz, which is a raw material considerably more complicated to be shaped than others like chert or flint, thus suggesting a certain level of skillness involved in its manufacture.
      About the possibility of dating of its sedimentary matrix; Yes, it is possible to obtain a reasonably accurate range of ages for them by means of Optically Stimulated Luminiscense (OSL) method. However, the sample not only has to be closely representative of the exact place you found it, but also must be extracted from non disturbed parts within the geological layer, and obviously, following the appropriate procedures.
      What you have found is absolutely interesting, because apart from its intrinsic beauty, the possibility of a really ancient origin of it (that is; well before Clovis times…) is worth to be seriously contemplated…

      Best regards


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