01-2018, tome 115, 1, p. 7-42 - Yan Axel Gómez Coutouly — Apogée et déclin de la méthode Yubetsu. Les débitages lamellaires par pression  dans le Nord Pacifique lors du peuplement du Nouveau Monde (de la fin du Pléistocène au début de l’Holocène)

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01-2018, tome 115, 1, p. 7-42 - Yan Axel Gómez Coutouly — Apogée et déclin de la méthode Yubetsu. Les débitages lamellaires par pression dans le Nord Pacifique lors du peuplement du Nouveau Monde (de la fin du Pléistocène au début de l’Holocène)

Cette recherche se fonde sur un travail doctoral portant sur la diffusion du phénomène lamellaire dans le Nord Pacifique. La progression du débitage de lamelles selon cette technique a été suivie, depuis son origine en Extrême-Orient il y a environ 20 000 ans jusqu’à sa diffusion vers le Canada en passant par la Sibérie et l’Alaska. Les débitages de lamelles par pression sont un marqueur privilégié permettant de mettre en évidence les migrations et les interactions des groupes humains préhistoriques, comme l’on montré les travaux pionniers de M.-L. Inizan il y a plusieurs décennies. L’analyse a été traitée par l’étude directe de 24 séries datées entre ca 22000 et 9000 cal. BP en provenance de l’Extrême-Orient russe (Primorye), de la Sibérie (Yakoutie, Kolyma, Tchoukotka et Kamtchatka) et du Nord-Ouest de l’Amérique du Nord (Alaska et Colombie-Britannique), en plus de l’étude de matériel plus ponctuel de sites récents. Ce travail inclut la Béringie et les territoires limitrophes à ce continent, notamment ceux de l’Extrême-Orient asiatique (comme le Primorye) et ceux de la côte nord-ouest de l’Amérique du Nord (comme la Colombie-Britannique). Nous étendons notre étude à ces territoires car ils sont essentiels à la compréhension des industries à composante lamellaire par pression : l’Extrême-Orient serait le berceau du débitage lamellaire par pression et la Colombie-Britannique marque la limite sud de la diffusion de cette technique sur le continent américain. Dans cet article, nous analysons la progression du débitage lamellaire par pression et les différentes méthodes de débitage utilisées (méthodes Yubetsu, Horoka, Campus, etc.) depuis l’Extrême-Orient jusqu’au Canada, en discutant notamment de la diffusion (ou non diffusion) de certaines méthodes.


Mots-clés : débitage par pression, lamelles,Nord Pacifique, peuplement du Nouveau Monde.


Rise and Fall of the Yubetsu Method: pressure-flaked microblade débitage
in the North Pacific during the Peopling of the New World (from the End of the Pleistocene to the Early Holocene)  7

Abstract: This research is based on a doctoral thesis on the diffusion of microblade technology in the North Pacific, from the Far East to its dispersal to Canada through Siberia and Alaska. This is a pioneering work where, for the first time, distant and difficult-to-access collections from both sides of the Bering Strait have been systematically studied using the same analytical protocol. The progression of pressure-flaked microblade knapping has been tracked, from its origin in the Far East about 25,000 years ago until its diffusion to Canada. Pressure-flaked microblades are a privileged marker allowing migrations and interactions of prehistoric human groups to be witnessed, and are here used to follow the progression of these industries to North America within the context of the initial colonization of the New World. Indeed, few tool types or techniques allow such traceability. It is precisely for this reason that, as early as the 1930s, N. C. Nelson suggested for the first time a possible cultural connection between Asia and America, based on the similarities between microblade cores from Shabarakh Usu in Mongolia and the Campus site in Alaska. Since then, numerous studies have been carried out on microblade industries in north-east Asia and north-western America, including the pioneering work of M.-L. Inizan, who recognized the culturally relevant character of tracking the progression of the pressure technique for producing microblades.

In this article, we analyse region by region the microblade components, distribution and the knapping methods used for the production of pressure-flaked microblades (Yubetsu method, Horoka method, Campus method, etc.), discussing in particular the diffusion (or non-diffusion) of certain methods. The analysis was made through the direct study of 24 collections dated between c. 22000 and 9000 cal. BP from the Russian Far East (Primorye), Siberia (Yakutia, Kolyma, Tchoukotka and Kamchatka) and north-western North America (Alaska and British Columbia), as well as some younger materials for comparison. This work includes the area of Beringia and some of its neighbouring territories, such as the Asian Far East (Primorye) and the north-west coast of North America (British Columbia), because they are essential to the understanding of pressure-flaked industries. Indeed, the Far East is probably the cradle of the pressure-flaking knapping technique of microblades, and British Columbia signs the southern limit of the diffusion of this technology on the American continent. In the Russian Far East, the study took into account prehistoric sites from southern Primorye, including three main sites: Ustinovka-6 (Zerkalnaya Valley), Molodezhnaya-1 (Ilistaya Valley) and Risovoye-1 (Arsenievska Valley). Other smaller assemblages were also examined for comparison: Gorbatka-2, 3 and 5, Novovarvarovka-1 and Ivanovka-2 and 3. The region of Siberia was studied through ten assemblages from four large regions: Yakutia (Dyuktai Cave, Verkhne-Troitskaya, Ezhantsy and Berelekh), Kolyma (Druchak-Vetrenny, Kheta and Lenchik), Kamchatka (Ushki Lake-1 and Ushki Lake-5) and Chukotka (Tytylvaam-4 and Ayon). Concerning North America, the studied assemblages come from interior Alaska (Swan Point, Dry Creek II and Panguingue Creek), north-central Alaska (Amakomanak), the Aleutian Islands (Anangula), the south-east coast of Alaska (Thorne River) and British Columbia (Richardson Island, Arrow Creek-1 and Namu).

From the Far East, we have studied directly only the Russian region of the Primorye where the Ustinovka complex represents the regional facies of industries with a microblade component. The chrono-cultural framework of the region remains very uncertain today, given the lack of absolute dating. Unlike what we have documented in Siberia (where the Yubetsu method prevails) and Alaska (where the Campus method prevails), the Primorye (and other parts of the Far East) is characterized by a multiplicity of knapping methods, sometimes even within a single assemblage. These include the Yubetsu method (on a bifacial preform), the Horoka method (on flake blanks), the Unewara method (on pebble blanks), the Togeshita method (on blade blanks), the Campus method (on flake blanks), as well as microblade cores on a range of diverse blanks. The study of the Russian Far East brings a different perspective because, unlike Siberia and North America, a whole laminar production is associated with these assemblages.

In Siberia, the discovery of the Dyuktai Cave by Y. A. Mochanov in 1967 gave rise to the first definition of the Dyuktai complex, the Siberian facies of microblade-bearing industries. In Siberia, the productions associated with microblade industries include bifacial pieces, burins, endscrapers, large retouched flakes and sometimes large retouched blades. The earliest sites of this complex appear reliably starting at c. 16000–15 000 cal. BP. In these Siberian regions (Yakutia, Kolyma, Chukotka, Kamchatka), microblade cores are mainly produced according to the Yubetsu method, both on studied sites (Dyuktai Cave, Verkhne-Troitskaya, Ushki Lake-1, Ushki Lake-5, Druchak-Vetrenny, Tytylvaam, etc.) and in published assemblages. However, several variants of the Yubetsu method have been documented, with different core sizes, different technical procedures to prepare the striking platform and various pressure-flaking knapping techniques.

The earliest human occupation known to date in Alaska is the CZ4b level of Swan Point, starting c. 14500 cal. BP. This assemblage is mainly made up of Yubetsu-type microblade cores and burins, making it the only prehistoric site in Alaska with a systematic production of Yubetsu cores. Indeed, the more recent sites of the Denali complex, from c. 12500 cal. BP, are characterized by the use of the Campus method, as well as conical or tabular shape microblade cores later on during the Holocene period. The first microblade sites on the north-west Pacific coast of America (starting around 10500 cal. BP) are located in south-eastern Alaska and British Columbia, and are generally considered to be an extension of the Denali complex (although the lithic productions associated with the microblade industries are very different from those from interior Alaska). Microblade sites from the coast are characterized by the presence of some wedge-shaped cores (sometimes using the Campus method), but also of conical and tabular microblade cores.


Keywords: Pressure flaking knapping, microblades, North Pacific , peopling of the New World.