The function of small tools in Europe during the Middle Pleistocene: The case of Marathousa 1 (Megalopolis, Greece)

  • Juliette Guibert-Cardin CEPAM
  • Vangelis Tourloukis Paleoanthropology, Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment
  • Nicholas Thompson
  • Eleni Panagopoulou Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology
  • Katerina Harvati Paleoanthropology, Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment
  • Elisa Nicoud Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, CEPAM
  • Sylvie Beyries Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, CEPAM
Keywords: Lower Palaeolithic; Middle Pleistocene; Greece; small tools; taphonomy; use-wear analysis; techno-morpho-functional analysis


Small flake industries are a commonly identified component of Lower Paleolithic archaeological assemblages in Eurasia. Utilized as blanks for tools, at many sites, their functions are often poorly understood. Here we present a preliminary traceological analysis of lithics from Marathousa 1 (MAR-1; Megalopolis, Greece). MAR-1 dates to ca. 400-500 ka BP and is one of the oldest open-air sites in South-Eastern Europe. It has yielded a lithic assemblage made almost exclusively of small-sized flakes found in direct association with diverse megafauna including elephants, hippo and deer.

For this preliminary study, a total of 223 artifacts were sampled for a taphonomical analysis and 13 for a functional analysis. The lithic artifacts from MAR-1 are exceptionally well-preserved and are only slightly affected by chemical alterations. They are therefore ideal for a techno-morpho-functional analysis. Use-wear traces confirm on-site butchery. Our results also confirm that plants were worked at the site, whereas technological traces, rarely observed on lithics from this age, can also be seen on a number of specimens. Whereas both retouched and unretouched tools contribute significantly to the MAR-1 toolkit, shapes are varied, and at this phase of the study do not appear morphologically or technologically standardized. However, backing (natural or retouched) opposite to a sharp edge can be observed on numerous specimens. When compared to the sparse functional data available on small tools from Lower Paleolithic Europe and the Levant, small flake tools include a wide variety of techno-functional types. To fully begin to understand this diversity, lithic toolkits must be considered in relation to the rest of the assemblage and the accompanying contextual data, including information from technological, archaeozoological, and palaeoenvironmental datasets.


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How to Cite
Guibert-Cardin, J., Tourloukis, V., Thompson, N., Panagopoulou, E., Harvati, K., Nicoud, E., & Beyries, S. (2022). The function of small tools in Europe during the Middle Pleistocene: The case of Marathousa 1 (Megalopolis, Greece). Journal of Lithic Studies, 9(1), 29 p.
Research Articles