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Title: Microlith  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Epipaleolithic, Stone Age, Stone tool, Lithic technology, Balangoda Man
Collection: Lithics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Two skeletons in the Tomb of Téviec

In France, one unusual find stands out: in the Mesolithic cemetery of Téviec, in Morbihan, one of the skeletons that has been found has a geometric microlith lodged in one of its vertebra. All indications suggest that the person died because of this projectile; whether by intention or by accident is unknown. It is widely agreed that geometric microliths were mainly used in hunting and fishing, but they may also have been used as weapons.[1]


Well-preserved examples from Mesolithic deposits in Scandinavia have been found at the sites of Loshult, at Osby in Sweden, and Tværmose, at Vinderup in Denmark. These finds, some of which have been preserved practically intact due to the special conditions of the peat bogs, have included wooden arrows with microliths attached to the tip by resinous substances and cords.


There are many examples of possible tools from Mesolithic deposits in England. Possibly the best known is a microlith from West Yorkshire, where 35 microliths appear to be associated with a single projectile. In Urra Moor, North Yorkshire, 25 microliths give the appearance of being related to one another, due to the extreme regularity and symmetry of their arrangement in the ground.[14]

The study of English and European artifacts in general has revealed that projectiles were made with a widely variable number of microliths: in Tværmose there was only one, in Loshult there were two (one for the tip and the other as a fin),[15] in White Hassocks, in West Yorkshire, more than 40 have been found together; the average is between 6 and 18 pieces for each projectile.[14]


Early research regard the microlithic industry in India as a Holocene phenomenon, however a new research provides solid data to put the South Asia microliths industry up to 35 ka across whole South Asia subcontinent. This new research also synthesize the data from genetic, paleoenvironmental and archaeological research, and propose that the emergence of microlith in India subcontinent could reflect the increase of population and adaptation of environmental deterioration.[16]


Crystal spear tips, ca. 8000–7000 BCE, on display at Sion History museum

Laminar microliths are common artifacts from the Upper Paleolithic and the Epipaleolithic, to such a degree that numerous studies have used them as markers to date different phases of prehistoric cultures.

During the Epipaleolithic and the Mesolithic, the presence of laminar or geometric microliths serves to date the deposits of different cultural traditions. For instance, in the Atlas Mountains of northwest Africa, the end of the Upper Paleolithic period coincides with the end of the Aterian tradition of producing laminar microliths, and deposits can be dated by the presence or absence of these artifacts. In the Near East, the laminar microliths of the Kebarian culture were superseded by the geometric microliths of the Natufian tradition a little more than 11,000 years ago. This pattern is repeated throughout the Mediterranean basin and across Europe in general.[3][17]

A similar thing is found in England, where the preponderance of elongated microliths, as opposed to other frequently occurring forms, has permitted the Mesolithic to be separated into two phases: the Earlier Mesolithic of about 8300–6700 BCE, or the ancient and laminar Mesolithic, and the Later Mesolithic, or the recent and geometric Mesolithic. Deposits can be thus dated based upon the assemblage of artifacts found.[18]


  1. ^ a b Piel-Desruisseaux, Jean-Luccite (1986). Outils préhistoriques. Forme. Fabrication. Utilisation. Masson, Paris.   (pages 147–9)
  2. ^ Pelegrin, Jacques (1988). "Débitage expérimental par pression. Du plus petit au plus grand". Journée d'études technologiques en Préhistoire (Notes et monographies techniques, nº 25). Technologie préhistorique.   (pages 37–53)
  3. ^ a b c Fortea Pérez, Francisco Javier (1973). Los complejos microlaminares y geométricos del Epipaleolítico mediterráneo español.  
  4. ^ Brézillon, Michel (1971). La dénomination des objets de pierre taillée.  
  5. ^ Brézillon, Michel (1971). La dénomination des objets de pierre taillée.  
  6. ^ González Echegaray, J. (1964). Excavaciones en la terraza de El Khiam (Jordania). Bibliotheca Praehistorica Hispana. 
  7. ^ Geometric shapes, as we have seen, are present in many laminar microliths: for example the Dufour bladelet is an elongated lunate shape, the El-Emireh point is a triangle and the Adelaide point is a trapeze, the El-Wad point is spindle shaped; and there are many other examples.
  8. ^ Bordes, F. y Fitte, P. (1964). "Microlithes du Magdalénien supérieur de la Gare de Gouze (Dordogne)". Miscelánea en homenaje al Abate Henri Breuil. Vol. I. Barcelona. page 264. 
  9. ^ Some of the earlier researchers, such as Octobon Octobon, E. (1920). "La question tardenoisienne. Montbani". Revue Anthropologique. page 107. ), Peyrony and Noone (Peyrony, D. y Noone H. V. V. (1938). "Usage possible des microburins" 2 (numéro 3). Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française. , believed that these microburins had a useful function. Currently it has been demonstrated that these microburins did not have a function, at least not intentionally, although it cannot be ruled out that they were not reused at some point.
  10. ^ Piel-Desruisseaux, Jean-Luc (1986). Outils préhistoriques. Forme. Fabrication. Utilisation. Masson, Paris.   (pages 123-127)
  11. ^ Personal communication: Excavation Director André Leroi-Gourhan
  12. ^ Barton, R. N. E. y Bergman, C. A. (1982). "Hunters at Hengistbury: some evidence from experimental archaeology" 14 (Number 2). World Archaeology. ISSN 0043-8243. 
  13. ^ M. Lenoir has found knapping similar to that used in chiseled bladelets from Gironde, but considered this to be a coincidence and attributed the marks to the fact that the microliths were mounted on the tip of a projectile. A similar line of enquiry has also been followed by Lawrence H. Keeley, who has studied a wide range of bladelets from the French site at Buisson Campin, in Verberie, Oise.
  14. ^ a b Myers, Andrew (1989). "Reliable and mantainable technological strategies in the Mesolithic of mainland Britain". Time, energy and stone tools: New directions in Archaeology (edited by Robin Torrence). Cambridge University Press,   (Pages 78–91)
  15. ^ Petersson, M. (1951). Microlithen als Pfeilspitzen. Ein Fund aus dem Lilla-Loshult Moor: Ksp. Loshult, Skane. Meddelanden fram Lunds Universitets (Historika Museum). (Pagies 123–37). 
  16. ^ Petraglia et al (2009). "Population increase and environmental deterioration correspond with microlithic innovations in South Asia ca. 35,000 years ago". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (30): 12261–12266. 
  17. ^ Professor Fortea has been able to distinguish two traditions in the Epipaleolithic period based in the Spanish Mediterranean , the "Microlaminar Complex" (with three separate phases: that of Sant Grégori de Falset, that based on the Cova de Les Mallaetes in Valencia and that of the Epigravettian) and the "Geometric Complex" (with two phases: the Filador and the Cocina, which receive their names from caves located on the eastern coast of Spain).
  18. ^ Myers, Andrew (1989), op. cit. page 78. The same author has suggested that the geometric microliths may replace one or two rows of teeth in the bone harpoons commonly found in the Upper Paleolithic at the end of the Upper Magdalanian (page 84)
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