The use of the lateral tranchet blow technique at Nesher Ramla (Israel): A new cultural marker in the Levantine Middle Paleolithic?

Marion Prévost, Laura Centi, Yossi Zaidner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The open-air Middle Paleolithic site at Nesher Ramla, Israel, dated to the end of Marine Isotope Stage 6 and Marine Isotope Stage 5, is characterized by extensive use of the lateral tranchet blow technique. This technique consists of the removal of an elongated thin spall along the retouched edge of the blank. In Nesher Ramla, this technique is used for producing a specific tool kit component: unifacially retouched tools with a lateral tranchet blow (LTB). The tools with LTB were systematically produced throughout the 8-m-thick Middle Paleolithic sequence of Nesher Ramla representing the major typological category in some of the layers. Together with tools with LTB, the assemblages contain large numbers of LTB spalls. Here we present a detailed techno-morphological analysis of the tools and spalls from Nesher Ramla Unit III, one of the richest archaeological layers of the site. Our results suggest that the goal of the LTB technique at Nesher Ramla was to manufacture a tool with an edge that is partially retouched and partially sharp, i.e., shaped by LTB. The LTB technique employs a long knapping routine, including a series of compulsory and optional steps, implying non-opportunistic behavior. Although on-site use of the LTB technique is attested, the fact that these tools were also often introduced to the site as finished objects further emphasizes their importance and suggests that most of them were not produced on-site in response to an immediate need for sharp edges. This tool type represents a new, previously unreported component in the Levantine Middle Paleolithic toolkit. A comparison with other archaeological units along the 8-m-thick stratigraphy of Nesher Ramla suggests that the LTB technique was one of the major techniques for manufacturing tools at that site and that the tools with LTB represent a cultural marker for Nesher Ramla hominins and possibly a new cultural marker in the Levantine Middle Paleolithic. According to a comparison of tools shaped by LTB from other geographic and temporal contexts, most notably, the central European Keilmesser, the Nesher Ramla tools with LTB were likely designed and used by right-handed hominins in a longitudinal cutting motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-147
Number of pages20
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Middle paleolithic/levant/lithic technology/tool manufacture/handedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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