3 2 2016

Technological homogeneity within the Arabian Nubian Complex: Comparing chert and quartzite assemblages from central and southern Arabia

Yamandú H. Hilbert, Rémy Crassard, Jeffrey I. Rose, Jeanne M. Geiling, Vitaly I. Usik


Nubian Levallois technology is the defining characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic or Middle Stone Age technocomplex known as the Nubian Complex. Until recently, this technocomplex was found exclusively in northeastern Africa; however, archaeological surveys conducted across the Arabian Peninsula in the last decade have expanded the known distribution of this technological phenomenon. Since 2009, researchers from separate archaeological missions have mapped sites yielding Nubian cores and debitage, and by extension Nubian technology, in the southern, central and northernmost parts of the Arabia Peninsula. Nubian Complex artifacts in central and southern Arabia were made using different raw materials: in Al-Kharj (central Saudi Arabia) Middle Paleolithic industries were made exclusively on quartzite, while in Dhofar (southern Oman) chert was the only knappable material available for use. Given these differences, we sought to examine the influence of raw material variability on core morphology and size. Contrary to initial hypothesis, this study finds that the differences recorded are not a function of raw material properties. In both areas, Nubian cores were reduced using the same technological systems producing a set of preferential blanks. Rather, the recorded differences from raw material constrains were primarily due to knapping accidents, which occur in higher proportions at quartzite-based assemblages from Al-Kharj (specifically the siret fracture) compared with the chert assemblages from Dhofar. In sum, we argue that raw material had little effect on Nubian Levallois core technology and was not a constraint on Nubian Complex artisans.


Nubian technology; raw material; Arabian Peninsula; Afro-Arabian Nubian Complex; Middle Paleolithic; Middle Stone Age

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