Levallois technique

The Levallois technique (IPA: [lə.va.lwa]) is a name given by archaeologists to a distinctive type of stone knapping developed by precursors to modern humans during the Palaeolithic period.

It is named after nineteenth-century finds of flint tools in the Levallois-Perret suburb of Paris, France. The technique was more sophisticated than earlier methods of lithic reduction, involving the striking of lithic flakes from a prepared lithic core. A striking platform is formed at one end and then the core's edges are trimmed by flaking off pieces around the outline of the intended lithic flake. This creates a domed shape on the side of the core, known as a tortoise core, as the various scars and rounded form are reminiscent of a tortoise's shell. When the striking platform is finally hit, a lithic flake separates from the lithic core with a distinctive plano-convex profile and with all of its edges sharpened by the earlier trimming work.

This method provides much greater control over the size and shape of the final flake which would then be employed as a scraper or knife although the technique could also be adapted to produce projectile points known as Levallois points. Scientists consider the Levallois complex to be a Mode 3 technology, as a result of its diachronic variability. This is one level superior to the Acheulean complex of the Lower Paleolithic.[1]

Production of points & spearheads from a flint stone core, Levallois technique, Mousterian Culture, Tabun Cave, 250,000-50,000 BP (detail)
Production of points & spearheads from a flint stone core, Levallois technique, Mousterian culture, Tabun Cave, Israel, 250,000-50,000 BP. Israel Museum
Levallois Preferencial-Animation
The Levallois technique of flint-knapping


The technique is first found in the Lower Palaeolithic but is most commonly associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industries of the Middle Palaeolithic. In the Levant, the Levallois technique was also used by anatomically modern humans during the Middle Stone Age. In North Africa, the Levallois technique was used in the Middle Stone Age, most notably in the Aterian industry to produce very small projectile points. While Levallois cores do display some variability in their platforms, their flake production surfaces show remarkable uniformity. As the Levallois technique is counterintuitive, teaching the process is necessary and thus language is a prerequisite for such technology. [2]


Stone Core for Making Blades - Boqer Tachtit, Negev, circa 40000 BP (detail)
The Prepared-core technique starts by shaping a flint stone core for making blades (reassembled from blades for illustration purposes), Boqer Tachtit, Negev, Israel, circa 40000 BP.

The distinctive forms of the flakes were originally thought to indicate a wide ranging Levallois culture resulting from the expansion of archaic Homo sapiens out of Africa. However, the wide geographical and temporal spread of the technique has rendered this interpretation obsolete.

Adler et al., further argues that Levallois technology evolved independently in different populations and thus cannot be used as a reliable indicator of Paleolithic human population change and expansion.[3] Aside from technique, the overarching commonality in Levallois complexes is the attention given to maximizing core efficiency. Lycett and von Cramon-Taubedel (2013) measured variability in shape and geometrics relationships between cores over multiple regions, with an outcome that suggests a tendency for knappers to choose planforms with a specific surface morphology. In other words, they conclude that Levallois knappers cared less about the overall outline or shape of their core and more about the striking surface, evidence of complex pre-planning and recognition of an "ideal form" of Levallois core.[2] A recent article by Lycett and Eren (2013) statistically shows the efficiency of the Levallois technique which at times has been called into question. Lycett and Eren created 75 Levallois flakes from 25 Texas Chert nodules. They counted the 3957 flakes and separated them into four stages in order to show efficiency, which grew subsequently in each stage.[4] Based on the comparative study of 567 debitage flakes and 75 preferential Levallois flakes, Lycett and Eren found out the thickness is more evenly distributed and less variable across preferential Levallois flakes, which indicates the thickness is an important factor for efficiency and retouch potential.[5] The experiment[4] also shows that the Levallois core is an economic optimal strategy of raw material (lithic) usage, which means it can generate longest cutting edge per weight unit of raw material. This result also implies that the mobility of prehistoric people was higher when applying Levallois technology; prehistoric people may explore more area with Levallois cores, which can make longer cutting edge than the other flake making technique under same amount of cores, and no need to worry about the lack of raw material to make tools.

Defining Levallois

Pointe levallois Beuzeville MHNT PRE.2009.0.203.2.fond
Levallois point – Beuzeville

There is disagreement when it comes to defining Levallois technology.[6] Archeologists question which attributes and dimensions are specifically associated with Levallois, and argue that there are other techniques with similar cosmetic and functional aspects. Due to these disagreements, there is now a more precise set of criteria that outlines Levallois technology from a geometric standpoint. These criteria are:

  1. Exploitation of the volume of raw material is organized in terms of two intersecting planes, or flaking surfaces;
  2. The two surfaces are hierarchically related, one constituting the striking platform and the other the primary reduction surface;
  3. The primary reduction surface is shaped such that the morphology of the product is pre-determined, which is fundamentally a function of the lateral and distal convexities of the surface;
  4. The fracture plane for removing primary products is sub-parallel to the plane of intersection of the two surfaces; and
  5. The striking platform size and shape is adjusted to allow removal of flakes parallel to this plane, usually through retouch or faceting.[6]



  • Morocco: At Jebel Irhoud, a former barite mine located 100km west of Marrakesh, Levallois tools have been found. Dated as approximately 315,000 years old[7] in 2017, the finds were highly significant to the understanding of both the development of this technique and early humans. John McNabb, archaeologist at the University of Southampton said of this: "The tools the people at Jebel Irhoud were making were based on a knapping technique called Levallois, a sophisticated way of shaping stone tools. The date of 315,000 years ago adds to a growing realisation that Levallois originates a lot earlier than we thought. Is Jebel Irhoud telling us that this new technology is linked to the emergence of the hominin line that will lead to modern humans? Does the new find imply there was more than one hominin lineage in Africa at this time? It really stirs the pot."[8]
  • Egypt: Within the banks of the Nile River, excavations have located within the 30-, 15-, and 10-foot terraces, Levalloisean implements. Within the 30-foot terrace, the implements were originally thought to be early Mousterian, but were later reclassified. The 15- and 10-foot terraces again were classified first as Egyptian Mousterian, but later as developed Lavalloisean.[9]
  • Kenya: Large Levallois flakes struck from boulder cores have been found at the Kapthurin Formation site in western Kenya, near Lake Bogoria and Lake Baringo. The earliest examples come from the Leaky Handaxe Area and the Factory Site. Both examples feature large flakes, approximately 10–20 cm in diameter, and have been dated between 284 and 509 thousand years ago.[10]


  • Syria/Israel: Excavated within a stratigraphic column containing tools from this culture.[9]
  • Afghanistan: Implements located in the Haibak valley.[9]
  • North-east Asia: The extension of the Levallois method to this part of the world now seems undoubtable with recent evidence at Shuidonggou (Northern China) in Mongolia and Altai-Siberia, dating from the Late Pleistocene.[11]
  • Hong Kong: Wong Tei Tung in Sai Kung located in the east New Territories.[12]
  • Pakistan: The Soanian techno-complex from the Soan Valley located in northern Pakistan, has been identified as a Mode-3 Levallois complex.[13]
  • China: Evidence of Levallois technology from the lithic assemblage of the Guanyindong Cave site in southwest China, dated to approximately 170,000–80,000 years ago, is presented by Hu et al. (2018).[14] The first discovered blade site in China was in Shuidonggou in 1923 by Lincent and Teihard de Chardin. When they excavated the location, twelve localities were founded and had an age range of roughly 40,000 – 10,000 BP. Out of the twelve localities, SDG1 proved to be most important with the discovery of numerous unique, elongated blanks and Levallois-like cores found.[15]
  • India: the stratified prehistoric site of Attirampakkam, India, has shown that processes signifying the end of the Acheulian culture and the emergence of a Middle Palaeolithic culture occurred at 385 ± 64 thousand years ago. (ka)[16]

Southern Caucasus

  • Armenia: Nor Geghi 1 archaeological site.[17] The artifacts, found preserved in soil under a later lava flow and dated at 325,000 – 335,000 years old, were a mix of two distinct stone tool technology traditions: bifacial tools and Levallois tools. Daniel Adler suggests that the coexistence of bifacial and Levallois tools at the site provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technology out of existing bifacial technology, and that the artifacts found at Nor Geghi reflect the technological flexibility and variability of a single population. He further concludes that this challenges the view that technological change resulted from population change, and suggests instead that Levallois technology developed independently from existing technology within different human populations who shared a common technological ancestry.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Foley, Robert; Lahr, Marta Mirazón (1997). "Mode 3 technologies and the evolution of modern humans". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 7 (1): 3–36. doi:10.1017/s0959774300001451.
  2. ^ a b Lycett, S.J.; von Cramon-Taubadel, N. (2013). "A 3D morphometric analysis of surface geometry in Levallois cores: patterns of stability and variability across regions and their implications". Journal of Archaeological Science. 40 (3): 1508–1517. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.11.005.
  3. ^ Adler, D. S.; et al. (2014). "Early Levallois technology and the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Southern Caucasus". Science. 345 (6204): 1609–1613. doi:10.1126/science.1256484. PMID 25258079.
  4. ^ a b Lycett, S.J.; M.I., Eren (2013). "Levallois economics: and examination of 'waste' production in experimental produced Levallois reduction sequences". Journal of Archaeological Science. 40 (5): 2384–2392. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2013.01.016.
  5. ^ Eren, M.I.; Lycett, S.J. (2012). "Why Levallois? A Morphometric Comparison of Experimental 'Preferential' Levallois Flakes versus Debitage Flakes". PLoS ONE. 7 (1): 29273. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029273. PMC 3264556. PMID 22291888.
  6. ^ a b Brantingham, P. Jeffrey; Kuhn, Steven L. (2001). "Constraints on Levallois Core Technology: A Mathematical Model". Journal of Archaeological Science. 28 (7): 749. doi:10.1006/jasc.2000.0594.
  7. ^ Callaway, Ewen (2017). "Oldest Homo sapiens fossil claim rewrites our species' history". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.22114.
  8. ^ Sample, Ian (2017-06-07). "Oldest Homo sapiens bones ever found shake foundations of the human story". The Guardian.
  9. ^ a b c Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-395-13592-1.
  10. ^ Tryon, Christian A.; McBrearty, Sally; Texier, Pierre-Jean (December 2005). "Levallois Lithic Technology from the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya: Acheulian Origin and Middle Stone Age Diversity". African Archaeological Review. 22 (4): 199–229. doi:10.1007/s10437-006-9002-5.
  11. ^ Boëda, E. (2013). "Levallois and non-Levallois blade production at Shuidonggou in Ningxia, North China". Quaternary International. 295: 191–203. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.07.020.
  12. ^ 第四節 石製品技術特點
  13. ^ Lycett, Stephen J. (2007). "Is the Soanian tech-complex a Mode 1 or Mode 3 phenomenon? A morphometric assessment". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (9): 1434–1440. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.11.001.
  14. ^ Hu, Yue; Marwick, Ben; Zhang, Jia-Fu; Rui, Xue; Hou, Ya-Mei; Yue, Jian-Ping; Chen, Wen-Rong; Huang, Wei-Wen; Li, Bo (19 November 2018). "Late Middle Pleistocene Levallois stone-tool technology in southwest China". Nature. 565 (7737): 82–85. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0710-1. PMID 30455423.
  15. ^ Peng, Fei; Wang, Huimin; Gao, Xing (2014). "Blade production of Shuidonggou Locality (Northwest China): A technological perspective". Quaternary International. 347: 12–20. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.04.041.
  16. ^ Akhilesh, Kumar; Pappu, Shanti; Rajapara, Haresh M.; Gunnell, Yanni; Shukla, Anil D.; Singhvi, Ashok K. (2018). "Early Middle Palaeolithic culture in India around 385–172 ka reframes Out of Africa models". Nature. 554 (7690): 97–101. doi:10.1038/nature25444. PMID 29388951.
  17. ^ Adler, D. S.; Wilkinson, K. N.; Blockley, S.; Mark, D. F.; Pinhasi, R.; Schmidt-Magee, B. A.; Nahapetyan, S.; Mallol, C.; Berna, F. (2014-09-26). "Early Levallois technology and the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Southern Caucasus". Science. 345 (6204): 1609–1613. doi:10.1126/science.1256484. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 25258079.
  18. ^ Prehistoric Stone Tools Evolved Independently Within Local Populations, Say Researchers". Popular Archaeology, September 2014. [1]

External links


The Ahmarian culture was a Paleolithic archeological industry in Levant dated at 46,000-42,000 BP and thought to be related to Levantine Emiran and younger European Aurignacian cultures.

The word “Ahmarian” was adopted from the archaeological site of Erq el-Ahmar (also written Erk el Ahmar), Israel, a rockshelter in the Judean Desert in the northern Dead Sea Rift. It was explored and excavated by French Prehistorian René Neuville in 1951. The "Ahmarian" category had only been recognized since the 1980s, and was previously designated as "Phase II Upper Paleolithic" or "Ksar Akil Phase B".

Ard Saouda

Ard Saouda or Ard es Saoude (Terres Noires) is a Heavy Neolithic archaeological site of the Qaraoun culture that is located in the Wadi al-Taym, between Rashaya and Marjayoun in Lebanon. It is south of the branch road to Qaraoun and Kaukaba at cote 990, on the surface of fields covered in large blocks of basalt, made from an ancient lava.The Neolithic site was located by M. Billeaux in 1957 left of the road, just before the junction. A further Acheulean site was found downhill to the southwest by Henri Fleisch. The site was extended by further discoveries by M. Le Cavalier and F. and L. Skeels at Jeb Farah. The area is notable for draining mountain waters into the most northerly feeders of the Jordan river.The Acheulean material was published by Fleisch in 1966 with the Neolithic remains studied by Jacques Cauvin. Over three hundred Acheulean bifaces were collected along with various waste, used cores and rough-outs. It was mostly in brown, shiny flint, some with a grey film. The pieces were heavily patinated, sometimes with a number of different patinas. This allowed Fleisch to divide the tools into four groups, Early Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic, Middle/Late Paleolithic, and Upper Paleolithic with Levallois technique being used on cores in later periods. The Heavy Neolithic and Neolithic material was mostly in a creamy chert and consisted of adzes, chisels, oval axes with retouch all over, racloirs, cores and discs. Lorraine Copeland made a collection of similar materials in 1966 and noted the problems assigning material to specific periods. It seemed apparent that the Neolithic flint knappers had re-used older Acheulean tools and that the site had been a factory throughout numerous periods in a long and ancient history.

Celt (tool)

In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Dishna, Egypt

Dishna is an Egyptian settlement west of Qena situated on the north bank of the river Nile.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.


Guanyindong (Chinese: 观音洞; pinyin: Guānyīndòng) or Guanyin Cave is a Palaeolithic cave site, discovered in 1964 in Qianxi County, Guizhou, China.

It contains the earliest evidence of stone artefacts made using the Levallois technique in China.The site has been on the List of Major National Historical and Cultural Sites in Guizhou Qianxi Guanyin dong yizhi (黔西观音洞遗址) since 2001.

Hazar Merd Cave

Hazar Merd is a group of Paleolithic cave sites excavated by Dorothy Garrod in 1928. The caves are located south-southwest of Sulaymaniyah in Sulaymaniyah Governorate in Iraq. Garrod's soundings in two caves in the Hazar Merd group provided evidence of Middle and Epi-Paleolithic occupation.The Dark cave or Ashkawty Tarik in Kurdish has a commanding view of the local valley and is close to a small spring and a village with the same name.

Dark Cave has a single lofty chamber 11 by 12 m wide. The Mousterian layer, level C, is over 3 m thick, containing many hearths and burnt flints and bones. The stone tool assemblage, of flint and chert, is dominated by side scrapers and Mousterian points, with no evidence of the Levallois technique. In the lowest reaches of level C, but still within Mousterian layers, two hand-axes were found. Side-scrapers slightly decrease in popularity towards the top of level C.

The faunal assemblage, although fragmentary, again shows a completely modem aspect, with bones from wild goat, red deer, gazelle, field mouse, mole rat, hare, bat and several birds of woodland and scrub habitat. This evidence, and that from the presence of snails of the species Helix salomonica, indicates a mixed environment of woodland, grassland and scrub, much as exists today. A smaIl sounding in the adjacent Water Cave also revealed evidence of Mousterian occupation.

Garrod did not keep all the excavated material and she only kept those pieces that were topologically informative. Remaining pieces were thrown away at the site.

Hazar Merd and Shanidar Cave are the only excavated Middle Palaeolithic sites in Iraqi Kurdistan.


Krapina (Croatian pronunciation: [krâpina]) is a town in northern Croatia and the administrative centre of Krapina-Zagorje County with a population of 4,482 (2011) and a total municipality population of 12,480 (2011). Krapina is located in the hilly Zagorje region of Croatia, approximately 55 km (34 mi) away from both Zagreb and Varaždin.

Lamoka projectile point

Lamoka projectile points are stone projectile points manufactured by Native Americans what is now the northeastern United States, generally in the time interval of 3500-2500 B.C. They predate the invention of the bow and arrow, and are therefore not true "arrowheads", but rather atlatl dart points. They derive their name from the specimens found at the Lamoka site in Schuyler County, New York.


Levallois may refer to:

Levallois-Perret, a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, France

Nicolas-Eugène Levallois, developer of Village Levallois, now part of Levallois-Perret

Levallois technique, an archaeology term for a type of stone knapping from the Paleolithic period

Levallois SC, a football club based in Levallois-Perret

Levallois Sporting Club, sport club and Olympic training center in Levallois-Perret

Lion Pit

Lion Pit is a 2.5 hectare geological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Grays in Essex. It is a Geological Conservation Review site, and part of the Chafford Gorges Nature Park, which is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.The site is part of a nineteenth-century tramway cutting to carry chalk to riverside wharves. Evidence has been found of flint-knapping using the Levallois technique by Neanderthals 200,000 years ago, and it has even been possible to fit back together some of the flint flakes. Fossils have been found of mammals including, rhinoceros, bison, mammoth and straight-tusked elephant.A public footpath goes through the site from Weymouth Drive to London Road.

Lower Paleolithic

The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 3.3 million years ago when the first evidence for stone tool production and use by hominins appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the Oldowan ("mode 1") and Acheulean ("mode 2") lithics industries.

In African archaeology, the time period roughly corresponds to the Early Stone Age, the earliest finds dating back to 3.3 million years ago, with Lomekwian stone tool technology, spanning Mode 1 stone tool technology, which begins roughly 2.6 million years ago and ends between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago, with Mode 2 technology.The Middle Paleolithic followed the Lower Paleolithic and recorded the appearance of the more advanced prepared-core tool-making technologies such as the Mousterian. Whether the earliest control of fire by hominins dates to the Lower or to the Middle Paleolithic remains an open question.


The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the Neanderthals in Europe, and to a lesser extent the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia. The Mousterian largely defines the latter part of the Middle Paleolithic, the middle of the West Eurasian Old Stone Age. It lasted roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP.

If its predecessor, known as Levallois or "Levallois-Mousterian" is included, the range is extended to as early as c. 300,000–200,000 BP. The main following period is the Aurignacian (c.43,000–28,000 BP) of Homo sapiens.

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Tabun Cave

The Tabun Cave is an excavated site located at Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve, Israel and is one of Human Evolution sites at Mount Carmel, which were proclaimed as having universal value by UNESCO in 2012. The cave was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic (500,000 to around 40,000 years ago). In the course of this period, deposits of sand, silt and clay of up to 25 m (82 ft) accumulated in the cave. Excavations suggest that it features one of the longest sequences of human occupation in the Levant.


The Tabunian is a Palaeolithic stone tool industry that is a Near Eastern variant of the Tayacian and Clactonian of Europe. It was excavated in Israel from layer G at the site of Tabun Cave by Dorothy Garrod and layers E, F and G at Umm Qatafa by R. Neuville and later identified as distinct by Francis Clark Howell. The tools of this culture are characterized by a lack of bifaces and use of Levallois technique is absent.

Tell Khardane

Tell Khardane is a Heavy Neolithic archaeological site of the Qaraoun culture north northeast of Aammiq, Lebanon on the road to Chtaura. Several Heavy Neolithic flints including picks, scrapers, blades and flakes were found in fields that surround the tell mound. Many had been produced using the Levallois technique.

Tool stone

In archaeology, a tool stone is a type of stone that is used to manufacture stone tools,

or stones used as the raw material for tools.Generally speaking, tools that require a sharp edge are made using cryptocrystalline materials that fracture in an easily controlled conchoidal manner.

Cryptocrystalline tool stones include flint and chert, which are fine-grained sedimentary materials; rhyolite and felsite, which are igneous flowstones; and obsidian, a form of natural glass created by igneous processes. These materials fracture in a predictable fashion, and are easily resharpened. For more information on this subject, see lithic reduction.

Large-grained materials, such as basalt, granite, and sandstone, may also be used as tool stones, but for a very different purpose: they are ideal for ground stone artifacts. Whereas cryptocrystalline materials are most useful for killing and processing animals, large-grained materials are usually used for processing plant matter. Their rough faces often make excellent surfaces for grinding plant seeds. With much effort, some large-grained stones may be ground down into awls, adzes, and axes.

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