Acheulean technology found in British Isles

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Acheulean technology found in British Isles

#1  Postby Spearthrower » Jul 01, 2022 4:49 pm ... sos.211904

Northern Europe experienced cycles of hominin habitation and absence during the Middle Pleistocene. Fluvial gravel terrace sites in the east of Britain and north of France provide a majority of the data contributing to this understanding, mostly through the presence or absence of stone-tool artefacts. To date, however, relatively few sites have been radiometrically dated, and many have not been excavated in modern times, leading to an over-reliance on selectively sampled and poorly dated lithic assemblages. This includes Fordwich (Kent, UK), where over 330 bifaces were discovered through industrial quarrying in the 1920s. Here, we present the first excavation and dating of artefacts discovered in situ at Fordwich, alongside their technological analysis and relationship to those previously recovered. The site is demonstrated to retain deposits of Lower Palaeolithic artefacts, with 251 flakes, scrapers and cores identified to date. Infrared-radiofluorescence (IR-RF) dating of feldspar reveals 112 artefacts to have come from levels dating to at least 570 ± 36 to 513 ± 30 thousand years ago (ka) and are most plausibly assigned to an MIS 14 deposition, with artefacts produced during MIS 15 (approx. 560–620 ka). Indeed, these IR-RF samples provide minimum ages for artefacts. Combined with evidence from exposures linked to the original quarrying activities, a similar MIS 15 age is suggested for the more than 330 handaxe artefacts discovered in the 1920s. The remaining excavated artefacts come from levels dated to between 347 ± 22 and 385 ± 21 ka (MIS 10 or 11), with this later age interpreted to reflect post-MIS 14 deposition by substrate gullying and solifluction. These data demonstrate Fordwich to be one of the earliest Palaeolithic sites in northwestern Europe, and to retain the only large Acheulean handaxe assemblage directly dated to pre-MIS 13. Thus, Fordwich is determined to be a crucial piece of the pre-Anglian Palaeolithic puzzle in northern Europe.

An interesting part of this that takes us back to the Creationist claims of design:

3.2. Identification and analysis of lithic artefacts

Due to the fluvial deposition of the sediment [2,20] we anticipated there to be occasional challenges when identifying artefacts. Thus, a highly conservative approach to artefact identification was followed. All stone objects displaying features suggestive of anthropogenic modification were collected through sieving or in situ excavation. These objects were then subjected to analysis by three experienced Palaeolithic archaeologists (TP, MP and AK), two of whom have considerable experience identifying lithic artefacts from high-energy fluvial sediments, including in British Quaternary sequences. For an artefact to be considered for inclusion in subsequent technological analyses, agreement on its anthropogenic origin between all three analysts was required.

Artefact condition (degree of rolling) was subjectively assessed on a scale of 1–4, as is common in lithic archaeology (e.g. [10,41]). All artefacts were considered in natural lighting and made use of low-magnification optical aids. Once assessed, each artefact was grouped and compared with others of the same scale for verification. Methods to quantify differences in edge curvature (i.e. rolling) on lithic objects do exist [42,43], but for the present purposes these techniques were not deemed necessary. For reference, flakes ‘C’ and ‘D’ in figure 6 were scaled at level 4, flake ‘H’ was scaled at level 2, while the right flake in figure 8 was scaled at rounding level 1 (i.e. it was considered exceptionally fresh with little to no taphonomic damage).

It's really hard to be sure of design when natural forces such as the motion of a river can produce apparent features that could be perceived as designed. You need to establish robust metrics that can be employed on objects of known as well as unknown provenance to see how accurately they perform.

But what's interesting is how good the human brain is at doing this. While we can probably already create an AI that uses machine learning that would be faster and better, the human brain is still exquisitely geared to inferring design, and this ability can be honed with experiential practice and given methodological viability with good scientific practices.
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