THE MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC SITE OF VAJO SALSONE IN THE MONTI LESSINI, ITALIAN ALPS. FIRST REPORT ON THE ARCHAEOFAUNA AND LITHIC ASSEMBLAGE WITH FOLIATE TOOLS.

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Marco Peresani
Davide Delpiano
Ursula Thun Hohenstein
Gianluca Arnetta
Hugues-Alexandre Blain
Vittoriana Espedito
Juan Manuel López-García
Alessandro Poti
Ugo Sauro
Davide Visentin
Giorgio Chelidonio
Davide Margaritora
Yvonne Tafelmaier
Lorena Beltrame
Cristina Failla
Federico Pellegrini
Paolo Pellegrini

Abstract

This first report aims to illustrate the Middle Palaeolithic site of Vajo Salsone in the Monti Lessini plateau in the eastern Italian Alps, its geological and geomorphological context, the conditions leading to its discovery occurred after a road cutting, and the archaeological excavation of a karst structure where the sediments, faunal and cultural remains were still preserved. The karst infill is a massive clast-supported breccia with abundant animal bones and lithic artifacts coated of carbonate encrustations. The first analysis of the samples of small and large mammal assemblages recovered in the karst deposits has revealed the abundance of Microtus arvalis, a rodent currently reported to live in open environments and in relatively drier regions of northern Italy. Still, mosaic habitats with the presence of stony areas and scattered low scrubs are suggested by the presence of H. viridiflavus among the herpetofauna. Amongst the abundant faunal assemblage, the most common represented species are Cervus elaphus, Capreolus capreolus and Rupicapra rupicapra along with few carnivores. At the present state, only red deer bones showed taphonomic evidence ascribable to hunting and exploitation, similarly to other Middle Palaeolihic sites of the region. The lithic industry consists of a huge number of chert artifacts produced using Levallois as the main knapping method together with an ephemeral use of discoid and volumetric blade exploitation. No appreciable difference in the taphonomic layout has been observed between the by- and end-products of these technologies. Predetermined blanks, cores and numberless of flat, elongated, cortical flakes attest the integrity of the Levallois reduction sequences. Retouched tools are mostly simple, double, often converging and, occasionally, transverse scrapers, and retouched points. In addition to these typical Mousterian tools, the distinguishing feature of Vajo Salsone is the presence of foliate tools made through invasive bifacial shaping, an already known model in Central Europe. Based on what resulted from our preliminary data, we have provisionally reconstructed the morphogenesis of the site in accordance with the following hypothesis: 1) in the basal part of a wall, inside a large natural niche evolved by weathering and karst processes, groups of Neanderthals settled, leading to the deposition of anthropogenic sediments; 2) following phenomena of rockfall and toppling of large blocks, retreat of the wall and dismantling of the large niche occurred, together with the erosion of the sediments of the shelter. These sediments were transported down-valley and partly trapped in a small karst shaft. Even though most of the evidence from the Vajo Salsone lithic assemblage is comparable with the one of other sites in the region and the northern Mediterranean area, it does however provide new details about the Late Pleistocene cultural scenario, thus contributing to enrich the Middle Palaeolithic picture.

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How to Cite
Peresani, M., Delpiano, D., Hohenstein, U. T., Arnetta, G., Blain, H.-A., Espedito, V., López-García, J. M. ., Poti, A., Sauro, U., Visentin, D., Chelidonio, G., Margaritora, . D., Tafelmaier, Y., Beltrame, L., Failla, C., Pellegrini, F., & Pellegrini, P. (2022). THE MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC SITE OF VAJO SALSONE IN THE MONTI LESSINI, ITALIAN ALPS. FIRST REPORT ON THE ARCHAEOFAUNA AND LITHIC ASSEMBLAGE WITH FOLIATE TOOLS. Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary, 35(1), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.26382/AMQ.2022.01
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