Pebble tool artefacts in The Netherlands and Belgium, a brief review

"Pebble tool" artefacts in the Netherlands and Belgium, a brief review
The so called  "pebble tool culture" ("industries archaïques sur galets aménagés", the so called European Oldowan) (1) co- existed in Europe with the traditional Acheulean based on assemblages with hand-axes. The Acheulean tradition followed after the (African) Oldowan, - 1,4 million years ago in Africa, and ended about 200.000 years ago and also could be regarded as a regional sub-tradition (Kusimba and Smith, 2001).
The chopper- chopping tool industries (based on pebble tools) usually are limited to the early- and middle- Acheulean phases, between roughly 900.000 BP and 300.000, before the rising of the Levallois technique.
This transitional processes, both in changing hominids (H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis) as well as in changing applied techniques still is unclear. Most likely this has something to do with changing environments (changing climate and changing biomes and dispersion as a response) but other possibilities are the accessibility and availability of raw material, the different dispersion pathways, followed by different groups of hominids  and slowly changing cultural traditions.
Pebble tools (French  Galets aménagés, German: Geröllstein Werkzeuge) are artifacts, made of river stones and could also be made of quartz, quartzite and even of conglomerates / breccias (in the North Western -European regions) or volcanic rocks, sandstones, schists and limestones from solid bedrock.
Roughly flaked, depending on the raw material type, the material was transformed into useful tools, (like choppers, chopping tools, pics etc.). This tool type appears during a very long prehistoric period, with an emphasis on the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic period. However, we also know pebble tools from the Mesolithic (as reported from the Dutch Middle - Limburg region of Posterholt, Mesolithic tools made on so called "Maaseitjes", very small pebbles) and from the Neolithic.(see Schmitz, website).  This use in later periods also has been demonstrated by finds from  field prospections by the author, where small river -flint pebble tools (<3 cm) were discovered  at Plasmolen - St. Jansberg in Northern Limburg (NL) which have a Weichselian eolian cover-sand context, with a Mesolithic date.
Pebble tools in these latter periods are often considered as supplemental tools, in addition to (typical and generally established) flint assemblages, serving for special - often heavy duty - purposes, where flint would easily spall, so they are chosen and adapted because of the special characteristics of the material. Another  reason for the making of such tools is the absence of e.g. flint and chert, so the an inferior quality of flint or even another stone type is chosen.

The Netherlands

Pebble tool artefacts, forming a whole, logical assemblage, found in The Netherlands and adjacent area, are not recognized by the  National  official archaeological organisation (2), (see i.e. Wouters, Fransen, Kessels, 1981); and see other examples at The APAN website. So, officially, a pebble tool culture of the Mode- 1 / Mode- 2 technology, applied on riverbed contexts, does not exist in The Netherlands.
On the other hand the reports of pebble tools or pebble tool culture traditions  in The Netherlands are numerous. In the 80's, Wouters et. al reported in Archeologische Berichten (Archeologische Berichten 10:19- 117, Elst)  the finds of large numbers of small and very small adapted (flint-)pebbles of fluvial origin found at Jabeek, named the  Chopper Chopping tool Complex (C.C.C.), (Wouters 1981; Watanabe 1985; Yingsan 1994). See for a description Jabeekian Collection on OriginsNet These collections are absolutely not officially recognized and even regarded as "road pavement"(!) even when they were found in a pit... Maybe such a small pebble based culture could be placed in the LPMT (the Lower Palaeolithic Microlithic Tradition,see e.g.  Burdukiewicz  2004, Parth Chauhan, 2009).
Pebble tools were reported from the Rhenen II- Industry , found in the Saalian moraine "stuwwalcomplex" of Kwintelooijen (3) and can be found in e.g. the collection of Offerman-Heykens ( Offerman-Heykens, J. & C. Brouwer-Groeneveld, 1990; Van Balen, website) A picture of one officially recognized pebble tool you find  here
In Woerden ( Utrecht, The Netherlands)  stone tools have been found at 36 meters below present groundwater level, together with a Pleistocene fauna, belonging to the possible oldest traces of human presence in North- Western Europe.(4)
In the Rhenen II Industry there is also a micro - CCC (micro Chopper - Chopping tool - Complex) see also the web-link  OriginsNet Rhenen II pebble tools. 
Similar tools recently were discovered  in the Belgian Kempen area (see elsewhere at Arbannig ), but from a very different period, definitely not the Waalian, a stage of the Calabrian, (5) Middle- Pleistocene(1,45 till 1,20 ma.). The tools from the Kempen area would have an ultimate age of ca. 
400 .000 BP with a max. of 550.000 BP (based on chronostratigraphical information from this region).

In 2010, a Dutch amateur archaeologist and veterinarian, Mrt. Van der Drift, found typical artefacts. made in a Mode 1 technique and which are  published by the APAN in an online article, the oldest artefacts from the Netherlands (text in English) 
Various types of  such Mode 1 tools were found in the wider Gulpen region in South Limburg, NL, These tools however must have been transported over long distance, regarding the rounding of the ribs and the polished surfaces.
The estimated age for these artifacts has been derived from the Maas/Meuse  terrace sequence, for the Kosberg terrace = ca. 1,8 mya (see : Maasafzettingen), but the exact stratigraphical and geological  position for the artifacts remains unclear and water worn features indicate post - depositional transport by the river.
Such a late Pliocene / early Pleistocene date is of course not without discussion, as these artifacts of ca 1,8 million years of age ( =the beginning of the Calabrian stage, M.I.S, 65/ 64, see Cita et al., 2008) would leave a gap of ca  1,0  -  1,4 million years compared to  any other artifacts ever found in the Rhine- Meuse region of the Lower countries, both in Germany and  e.g. Lorraine in Northern France, In the latter region, only Lower Palaeolithic surface stations are known (Guillaume 1982; Janot, 1988).
In case of artifacts, only dated by means of a relative chronostratigraphical age of the river terrace where they were found, that is supposed to be 1,8 million old, profound stratigraphical evidence from its original context would be essential. 
These remarks however are not supposing it is absolutely excluded  Homo erectus has ever reached this part of North-Western Europe during the Out of Africa 1...(6). In this case it is remarkable, the predecessor of the Neanderthal man did reach some  surrounding countries,such as Germany and England, but did have no interest in the old landscape of South Limburg, which must have been attractive as well by the old Pleistocene Maas river landscape and given opportunities for hunting and raw materials ) e.g. dissolved flint.
In the collection of the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden, Leiden (NL), there are (possible) pebble tools like the one in this image. (This artifact has not been  found in the Netherlands). Notice the big similarity with the pebble tools from the Belgian Kempen, discussed on this web-log. 

Germany, Rhine valley
From a site near Palenberg / Aachen, Germany there is a report of possible stones, used by early humans - sculptures or tools is unclear. These Jaspis stones- finds (1970) by J. Itermann, would be dated as Lower Palaeolithic, - even from a late- Pliocene period ( 2 million years ago), but both the lack of a defined  geological context as well as any recognizable tools from this site, makes it impossible to say anything about this site.(7)  In the German  Eifel region , near Kärlich in the Rhine Valley, pebble tools/ flakes  of Holsteinian date have been discovered  at the surface (Bosinski et al. 1980; Bosinski 1981). At the Kärlich  A, Bb -pit ,near Koblenz,  the so called  "Kärlich -interglacial "( corresponding with MIS 11 Kröger et al., 1988  or corresponding to MIS 9 Gaudzinski et al., 1996) has been established by  the occurrence of taxa like Azolla filiculoides, Pterocarya and Celtis australis (Urban, 2008)
In the wider Rhine valley, other pre- Holstein finds were made at Miesenheim 1, Dorn-Dürkheim 3 and at Winningen. Finds from the Kärlich A horizons would have a MIS 23 date (Würges, 1984, 1986; Bosinski, 1992) (MIS 23) and would be  the earliest indication of a human presence in Germany from a stratified context.  However, the morphology of the artifacts appears very simple, and the artifacts were questioned by the Dutch authors Roebroeks and van Kolfschoten, 1995; Baales et al., 2000).
Miesenheim I, (at the Nette River)  A small assemblage of five quartz and quartzite flakes was found in situ and could be related to a warmer period, possible an interglacial, possibly corresponding with  Kärlich Layer H and dated ca  450.000 BP, so placed into the  MIS 13 stage, directly  predating the Holsteinian.

In France, many sites are discovered where pebble tool industries were found (i.e. river terraces of the Haute -Garonne), but  for this review only  the site of Pointes- aux- Oies in Wimereux is interesting, where  a pebble tool complex has been found at the beach, attributed to the Cromerian period (Tuffreau 1979) and has been is mentioned. (8); see e.g. images de chopping tools de Wimereux. Many ateliers of the Late Middle Pleistocene (Acheulean) have been  found in the wider source areas of the Moselle and  Meuse river in Lorraine (Guillaume 1974), many showing adaptation of quartz and quartzites, made in found  open air sites in this region.


The oldest (gravel related, estimated Lower Palaeolithic) tools from Belgium were reported from the Halembaye region (north west of the town Liege), where artifacts were found  at the surface  related with the upper Maas/ Meuse terrace gravels , giving them a late  Cromerian date (Cahen, 1984).
In Belgium, pebble tools, as part of a bigger diachronic assemblage  only have been  reported from the Belle -Roche site in Sprimont, see J.-M.Cordy et M. Ulrix-Closset (1981).
These pebble tools are not without discussion, since the stratigraphical position is unclear (flushed into a cave). According to the excavators they have a possible age of 400.000 years, corresponding with MIS 11.

The Belgian Kempen area: this website
The pebble tools, presented at this web-log have been recognized by several other (amateur-) archaeologists  from France. The questions about  these tools are focused on its original stratigraphical position, its corresponding tool-  technology in Europe, and the meaning of such pebble tool cultures for the region. The few in situ finds make it hopeful to place the tools in any chronostratigraphical framework, so far this framework is very incomplete, for many reasons. One of the reasons is that besides of the fact surface finds always appear to be out of original context, the chronostratigraphy of the Lower Paleolithic in the Kempen region is very complex.
At this web-log the stratigraphy of the possible context is highly discussed and  besides of the discovered information about the pebble tools from this region, there 's always the restraint because of the fact we deal with "surface finds" even though lots of artifacts are found directly from visible stratigraphies and several artifacts were picked out of recognizable horizons from eroding surfaces, which could be identified as overlaying the Holstein complex horizons ( integrated horizons in  deep red colors, with changing horizons of very fine sandy substrate and clay- lenses).
During many field prospections by the author, pebble tool artifacts from the Netherlands (originating from the Maas / Meuse terraces) have been noticed, from locations near Bemelen , Valkenburg a/ d Geul  and Ryckholt, so in a restricted area related to former river terraces. 
The quartz chopping tool of Visé Caster in Belgium, see this image , has most expressive features for attribution to the Lower Palaeolithic period, comparable with finds from the Halembaye.
Limited in numbers, showing different applied technologies, these tools are quite different from those from the Belgian Kempen region, which seems to be an extended industry which used an appropriate good quality pebble clast, which does not occur frequently at the Pleistocene Maas shore. The attribution of such tools to a period is very difficult and direct relations with local terrace gravels only give some indications about a possible date, so cannot be validated for the Lower Palaeolithic, only have the indication for it.

Conclusion The summary of this brief review about pebble tools in The Netherlands and Belgium ends in the conclusion, 'pebble tools' or Mode 1/ or Mode 2 tools  in the Rhine Meuse - region  are not always without discussion, as could be expected from surface finds. The lack of well documented excavations in well known stratigraphical contexts makes the subject diffuse and open to speculations.

However, the focus on the subject is too small, due to - in my opinion- the  erroneous prevailing view, that in the Middle -Pleistocene areas of the Lower Countries tools with such a high age and made in an European Oldowan  simply would not occur.   
Maybe, it would be much better to recognize a possible continuity of the dispersion area of H. erectus from the south / east into the Dutch/ Belgian border regions; at least the geological conditions are not adversely to make possible finds from the Middle Pleistocene.
(1) A pebble tool culture or pebble tool tradition usually is associated with Homo erectus or its European variant "H. heidelbergensis." The question is, if this co- existing tradition was commonly used by totally different groups, or i.c. H. erectus would have chosen other tool production strategies depending on the abundance of certain raw stone materials. 
Differences in raw material use could depend on availability of this raw material sources or be a seasonal  'occasional' fact.  So far, in the Kempen area 11 different pebble tool locations are defined, showing pebble tool production was common for the region in particular periods of prehistoric times.
(2)  Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, Amersfoort
(3) R.T. van Balen & F.S. Busschers  PDF Human presence in the central Netherlands during early MIS 6 (~170-190 Ka): evidence from early Middle Palaeolithic artefacts in ice-pushed Rhine-Meuse sediments; Netherlands Journal of Geosciences — Geologie en Mijnbouw  89 – 1  2010
(4) see abstract: T. Van Kolfschoten, A remarkable collection of Late Pleistocene reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) remains from Woerden (The Netherlands); in:Quaternary International 238
and : Leidenuniv. Bioarchaeology research projects
(5) Calabrian, wikipedia
(6) The oldest artifacts from Boxgrove (England) have a possibly MIS 14- MIS 13 date, estimated 500.000 BP; but finds at the clay-pit of Kärlich A, were estimated to belong to a stage of MIS 23 (Jaramillo event, 990.000 BP, Bosinski, but this is contradicted by W. Roebroeks and Van Kolfschoten)
(7) Hermann Schwabedissen Archaeological research Eiszeitalter u. Gegenwart Band 23/24 Öhringen/Württ., 1973 : 343
(8)  Alain  Tuffreau;  Quelques observations sur le Paléolithique de la Pointe-aux-Oies à Wimereux (Pas-de-Calais)  Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 1971  nr.   E &T 2  [Persée]

Prehistorie en vroegste geschiedenis van ons land -PDF; Drs. L. Louwe Kooijmans / Dr. P. Stuart : " Deze choppers zijn gemaakt uit grote rolstenen ('pebble tools') en slechts aan een zijde bewerkt tot vuistbijl- en schrabber-achtige werktuigen.
In Belgie kennen we uit deze tijd vrij veel vondsten en in Zuid-Nederland zijn in de laatste jaren enkele tientallen vuistbijlen bekend geworden

It is a pity no images of pebble tools - witnesses of the earliest presence in our countries- could be found in the paper. 
Rhenen II pebble tools images, Origins Net  
Photo © A. Wouters. In Wouters, A., Franssen, C, and Kessels. A. (1981). Typologie van de artefacten van de Chopper-Chopping Tool Complexen. Archaeologische Berichten 10:18-117. Stichtung Archaeologische Berichten, Elst, NL.

Cita, M.B. ,   Capraro,L.,   Ciaranfi,N.,  Di Stefano,E.,   Lirer, F., Maiorano, P.,  Maria Marino, M., Raffi6, I.,  Rio, D., Sprovieri, R,  Stefanelli, S. and  Vai, G.B.  ( 2008) The Calabrian Stage redefined PDF 

Artefacts de galets aménagées aux Pays-Bas et en Belgique, un bref aperçu

La soi-disant «culture de l'outil de galets" ("industries archaïques sur galets amenages", que l'on appelle Oldowayen européen) (1) co-existent en Europe avec l'Acheuléen traditionnelle basée sur des assemblages avec des bifaces. La tradition acheuléenne suivi après la  Oldowayen  en Afrique- il y a 1,4 millions années en Afrique, et a pris fin il ya environ 200.000 ans et  pourrait être considéré comme un sous-tradition régionale (Kusimba & Smith, 2001).
Les industries  d'outils "chopper- chopping tools" (basés sur les outils de galets) sont généralement limités à des phases précoces de l'Acheuléen et intermédiaire, entre Environ 900 000 BP et 300 000 BP, avant le lever de la technique Levallois. 
Cette guérison processus de transition, les os dans l'évolution des hominidés (H. heidelbergensis et H. neanderthalensis) ainsi que dans les techniques appliquées évolution est encore incertaine. Très probablement ce qui a quelque chose à voir avec les changeants des environnements (climat), mais d'autres possibilités sont la disponibilité des matières premières, les différentes voies de dispersion suivie par les différents groupes d'hominidés, ou de l'évolution des traditions culturelles.

*in progress...

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