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Middle Palaeolithic Artefacts

Middle Palaeolithic artefacts are also recorded from across the site, albeit with concentrations around the best quality chert outcrops at the southern peak, and in front of two small (<3m²) rockshelters.

Figure 1: Distribution of Middle Palaeolithic chipped stone artefacts.

Middle Palaeolithic technologies

Our survey recovered significant quantities of artefacts from diagnostic Middle Palaeolithic technologies, mainly in the form of flakes from discoidal cores, followed by Levallois flake and blade industries, the latter knapped from large uni- and bi-directional cores (Figures 2-3). With regard to modified tool types, we have large numbers of notched and denticulated pieces, followed by side-scrapers made on Levallois and canted asymmetrical flakes, plus a few combination tools plus a few points. We have yet to find anything diagnostic of the Upper Palaeolithic.


The Chronology of Middle Palaeolithic Material

Without absolute dates it is difficult to accord the Middle Palaeolithic material a refined chronology; moreover, a key research question is whether this material was the product of intense moments of exploitation or instead represents quarrying and knapping activity over the long-term during the Middle–Late Pleistocene.  

At least part of the assemblage can be tentatively assigned to the Denticulate Mousterian facies of the Mediterranean coast which first appears in Western Europe during isotope stages 7 and 5 (243,000 – 130,000 BP), becoming more popular during stage 3 between 50,000 – 38,000 years ago (Thiébaut 2010: 379, Fig. 25). 

The Levallois blade component is likely earlier, and/or relates to an early phase of the Denticulate Mousterian, being a diagnostic element of early Middle Palaeolithic assemblages on the Greek mainland and sites of the last interglacial in western Europe and around the Mediterranean ca. 130,000 – 80,000 BP (Huxtable et al. 1992). To the east they are earlier still, a feature of Levantine early Mousterian assemblages dated 100-250 ka (Bar-Yosef & Kuhn, 1999: 326). 

The Stélida material thus provides evidence of exploitation of the Cyclades far earlier than previously thought; the Middle-Late Pleistocene dates are in accord with new evidence of early human occupation/visitation of Crete.

Moreover, in the Aegean and the Mediterranean more generally Levallois technologies are associated exclusively with Neanderthal populations, whereby the Stélida finds arguably provide the first evidence for Neanderthals on Naxos, and in the Cyclades more generally.