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An updated inventory of the Isturitz type bone points of the cantabrian region

Actualisation de l’inventaire des pointes de type Isturitz de la région cantabrique
Joseba Rios-Garaizar and Diego Garate
p. 233-245
This article is a translation of:
Actualisation de l’inventaire des pointes de type Isturitz de la région cantabrique

Abstracts

In this work we present a review of the Isturitz type bone point assemblage of the cantabrian Gravettian, which includes the already known pieces from Bolinkoba, Usategi and Aitzbitarte III, and also the point recently discovered in Askondo site. This review includes technological and use-wear analyses which helped to identify two major types: light fusiform points (Aitzbitarte III and Askondo) and massive triangular points (Bolinkoba and Usategi). Also, we noted that the spatial distribution of the Isturitz type points in the cantabrian region is similar to the distribution of the sites defined as Gravettian rich in Noailles burins. This evidence, combined with the available information about raw material mobility, the technological organization and the artistic manifestations, suggest a particular territorial articulation of this region during the Gravettian.

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Full text

We wish to thank the directors of the Gipuzkoa Centre for Archaeological Material and the Archaeological Museum of Biscay for facilitating the study of the archaeological material presented in this article. Pauline Buthaud translated the Spanish manuscript into French. We also wish to thank those who reviewed this article, and in particular Cristina San Juan-Foucher, for their comments and corrections to the original manuscript.

Introduction

1Isturitz type tools are one of the most characteristic and representative Gravettian tools in Western Europe (San Juan-Foucher and Vercoutère 2003). These tools are particularly abundant in the Pyrenees region, where they are associated with the Noailles facies of the Gravettian (Foucher 2013; San Juan-Foucher 2013), although they are also present in Dordogne (Goutas 2008; San Juan-Foucher and Vercoutère 2003), and perhaps in several sites in the north of France (Goutas 2013). In the Iberian Peninsula, this type of bone tool is only known in the Cantabrian region, and more precisely, in the east of this region. This geographical area contains a concentration of Gravettian sites rich in Noailles burins, the most important of which are, from west to east, Bolinkoba,

2Antoliña, Amalda and Aitzbitarte III. The latter site displays clear links with the southwest of France, and in particular with the nearby site of Isturitz, as far as raw materials, techno-typology and undoubtedly the subsistence economy are concerned (Altuna et al. 2011; Normand et al. 2013).

3The number of Isturitz type points found in the Cantabrian region is very limited (fig. 1). Up until 2010, only three specimenspiecees had been identified, from Bolinkoba, Aitzbitarte III and Usategi (Corchón 1986; Mujica 1983; San Juan-Foucher and Vercoutère 2003), to which we must now add the point fragment discovered in Askondo Cave (Garate and Rios-Garaizar 2013). The distribution of these pieces in the Cantabrian region coincides with the distribution of the Gravettian rich in Noailles burins and implies that a link may exist between the eastern Cantabrian sites and those of the western Pyrenees (where Isturitz and Aitzbitarte III are the most emblematic). It is thus possible to differentiate them from those in the central and western Cantabrian zone.

4A significant aspect of the Isturitz type points is the consistency of the technical procedures used to make them and the limited variability in shape, which is restricted to several primary types (Goutas 2008). However, their function remains uncertain as few direct functional data are available, due to the fact that only the proximal end of most of the points is intact. Therefore, functional inferences were obtained almost exclusively from the morphology of the pieces, the position and the nature of certain specific characteristics, such as dorsal and lateral striations or notches.

Figure 1 - Map showing the archaeological sites with Isturitz type points around the Bay of Biscay. Modified after N. Goutas 2008. Map modified after the original by Eric Gaba.

Figure 1 - Map showing the archaeological sites with Isturitz type points around the Bay of Biscay. Modified after N. Goutas 2008. Map modified after the original by Eric Gaba.

5During the course of this study, we are going to conduct a technological and functional description of the Isturitz type points from the Iberian Peninsula in relation with their archaeological contexts. This will enable us to evaluate the importance of these pieces for understanding the Gravettian in the Cantabrian region and any possible links with the Pyrenees sites.

1 - Materials and Methods

6We used the methodology proposed by N. Goutas (2008) in order to describe the objects. The points were observed visually and with Olympus SZX1 and Nikon stereomicroscopes at the Arkeologi Museoa – Biscay Archaeological Museum (Bilbao) and the Gipuzkoa Centre for Archaeological material (Saint-Sebastien). In addition, we provide the maximum point dimensions, as well as the thickness and the width at different distances from the proximal end to evaluate the degree of thinning (tab. 1). The morphological and technological characteristics are summarized in table 2.

1.1 – Askondo

7Up until now, this piece represents the most western discovery of an Isturitz point. It was found on the surface of Askondo Cave, located on the edge of Urkiola National Park, in the 1980s. Later, in 2010, an important complex of “pre-Magdalenian” art was discovered in the same cave, dated to 23 760 ±110 uncal BP (14C AMS, Beta –303671), based on the 14C AMS analysis of a bone stuck in the wall near a decorated panel (Garate and Rios-Garaizar 2013). Moreover, in the entrance of this site, an archaeological sequence composed of Middle Paleolithic levels, as well as several levels dated between 31 000 and 17 000 BP (Rios-Garaizar; Garate, Regalado 2012), were discovered. The point was curated in the Hontza Museoa until 2011 and is currently stored in the Arkeologi Museoa in Bilbao. The piece is well conserved, but bears a recent fracture on one end and is covered with varnish, which makes observation difficult (fig. 2). For this reason, the raw material was initially determined as bone (Rios-Garaizar and Mozota Holgueras 2012), then after more detailed examination, as antler.

8The point is fusiform, with parallel edges in the central zone and convergent edges in the proximal zone. The pointed proximal end is slightly offset in relation to the longitudinal axis of the piece, creating a typical lateral bevel morphology. The section is biconvex and the upper and lower surfaces converge at an angle of 80º.

9The -1489546594 debitage method probably began with grooving the antler, and then the blank was undoubtedly extracted by a fracture produced by bending, although no technical marks allow us to confirm this.

10The blank was shaped by scraping the outer antler surface, thereby creating a relatively smooth surface (fig. 2a). This scraping is much more intensive and regular on the surfaces near the edges to form an angle. On the lower surface, the scraping is less intensive and part of the spongy tissue is preserved. Characteristic incisions were then made on the upper surface and on the edges of the proximal third of the piece (fig. 2c, b). On the upper surface, the incisions are fine, not very deep, and transverse to the longitudinal axis. On the edges, the incisions are deeper and shorter (5-2.7 mm) and do not occur at regular intervals.

1.2 - Bolinkoba

11At the site of Bolinkoba, located in the same mountainous massif as Askondo, a proximal fragment of an Isturitz type point was found in level F. This level presents a high density of objects, with 760 retouched lithic pieces, dominated by burins, including 50 Noailles type burins. There are also La Gravette points and Vachons points. The bone industry is also abundant, with pointed bone shardschips and rib fragments decorated with series of lateral incisions, which are similar to those from Isturitz (San Juan-Foucher 2013). The assemblage also contains personal ornaments made on Littorina and Nassa reticulata shells (Garate 2012). The fauna is mainly made up of ibex, with significant carnivore presence, including the fox, the panther, the wolf and the bear (Castaños 1983). The point is currently kept in the reserve of the Arkeologi Museoa in Bilbao. The piece is well conserved, although it presents several recent fractures (fig. 3b), which probably occurred during excavation, as well as slight corrosion on the upper surface (fig. 3c).

12The morphology of the preserved end of the piece is triangular, with the two edges converging at the longitudinal axis. The whole piece was probably fusiform. The section is biconvex and asymmetric, the upper and lower surfaces of the left edge converge to form an acute bevel, whereas the right edge is chamfered.

13The piece presents technological marks linked to the blank extraction process, consisting mostly of grooving traces (fig. 3j). The point was then shaped by two scraping phases; one of coarse scraping and a second of finer scraping or abrasion, which almost totally erased the first. This scraping affects the whole of the upper surface and only part of the lower surface, thereby preserving part of the spongy antler tissue. After that, incisions were made on the edges and the upper surface of the proximal end of the piece. These consist of simple, or at times, multiple lines

Table 1 - Measurements of the analyzed Isturitz type points.

Table 1 - Measurements of the analyzed Isturitz type points.

Table 2 - Morphological and technological features of analyzed Isturitz type points.

Table 2 - Morphological and technological features of analyzed Isturitz type points.

Figure 2 - Isturitz type point from Askondo.

Figure 2 - Isturitz type point from Askondo.

Figure 3 - Isturitz type point from Bolinkoba.

Figure 3 - Isturitz type point from Bolinkoba.

14Relatively deep and short (6 mm) parallel incisions (fig. 3f, e), transverse to the longitudinal axis of the piece, were made on the upper surface. On the surface furthest from the point, these incisions seem to be finer and longer, but as this part of the piece is badly conserved, we cannot confirm this categorically (fig. 3c). The incisions on the left and right lateral edges are different. On the right edge, the incisions are very short (<3 mm), and are made from the lower surface and from the upper surface, positioned face to face (fig. 3a, g, h, i). On the left edge, a single series of deep incisions appears, made at regular intervals (fig. 3d). There are no parallel incisions on the ventral surface.

1.3 - Usategi

15The site of Usategi Cave is located at the source of Oria Valley. Excavations carried out by J. M. Barandiarán in the 1970s brought to light a stratigraphy with five levels. In level III, a fragment of an Isturitz point was discovered among several lithic and bone remains (Barandiarán 1977). This piece is currently conserved in the Gipuzkoa Centre forArchaeological Material in Saint-Sebastien. It is a proximal fragment of a cervid antler point. The fracture is ancient and concerns the medial proximal part of the piece. In addition, the piece displays alteration resulting from the corrosion of the upper surface, which eliminated part of the compact tissue (fig. 4).

16The point is sub-triangular in shape. The edges converge along the longitudinal axis of the piece. The section is rectangular with rounded angles.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1 - Map showing the archaeological sites with Isturitz type points around the Bay of Biscay. Modified after N. Goutas 2008. Map modified after the original by Eric Gaba.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-1.png
File image/png, 3.9M
Title Table 1 - Measurements of the analyzed Isturitz type points.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-2.png
File image/png, 10k
Title Table 2 - Morphological and technological features of analyzed Isturitz type points.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-3.png
File image/png, 16k
Title Figure 2 - Isturitz type point from Askondo.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-4.png
File image/png, 3.8M
Title Figure 3 - Isturitz type point from Bolinkoba.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-5.png
File image/png, 4.0M
Title Figure 4 - Isturitz type point from Usategi.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-6.png
File image/png, 6.5M
Title Figure 5 - Isturitz type point from Aitzbitarte III.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/docannexe/image/3015/img-7.png
File image/png, 4.3M
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References

Bibliographical reference

Joseba Rios-Garaizar and Diego Garate, « An updated inventory of the Isturitz type bone points of the cantabrian region », PALEO, 25 | 2014, 233-245.

Electronic reference

Joseba Rios-Garaizar and Diego Garate, « An updated inventory of the Isturitz type bone points of the cantabrian region », PALEO [Online], 25 | 2014, Online since 28 July 2015, connection on 14 December 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/paleo/3015

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