Grinding Stones and Pestles from the Szeletian Layer of Brînzeni-1 Grotto (Republic of Moldova) (in the Light of Experimental and Traceological Study, Data of Organic Remains Analysis and 3D Scanning)
In assemblages of produced items from many Paleolithic sites, the large objects from various types of stone of a natural form or with a surface slightly processed by chipping or picketage draw certain attention. Some of them were supposedly assigned to the group of grinding stones/pestles used for grinding plant materials.
Currently, a group of specialists is developing a complex technique for their study. Important results of applying this technique were obtained during the study of lithic produced items from the lower layer of Brînzeni-1 grotto, located on the left bank of the Prut river (Republic of Moldova). These artifacts, found during the excavations of the grotto by N. A. Chetraru in the 60s of the last century, were initially compared with the eastern variant of the Szeletian culture, dating to 26,600 ± 370 (OxA 4122) and 26,200 ± 360 (OxA 4132). Subsequently, the Brînzeni complex was recognized as symbiotic, transitional from Moustier to the Upper Paleolithic often referred to as Moldavian Szelet.
Brînzeni findings are made of different rocks: shell rock, sandstone, and limestone. They look like flat slabs of various configurations, and narrow, elongated, and oval in profile pebbles. Some of them are of their natural form, while others have a slight picketage of certain surface segments.
35 items are analyzed using the functional method. Of great interest is a series of tools used as the lower (8 items) and upper grinding stones (3 items). All tools differ from each other in different degrees of utilization.
The most distinctive wear scars are found on a flat limestone slab, which served as the lower grinding stone, broken in prehistoric times. In the assemblage there are also 3 slabs, on the working parts of which not only the marks of grinding are found, but also the places with a meshy surface, showing that grinding and breaking of the plant material with light percussion were simultaneously performed on the slab.
Among the three grinders (the upper grinding stones or pestles), one tool made of the elongated, flat-convex in the cross-section pebble, like the slab described above, was broken in prehistoric times. Clear marks of utilization are found on several segments of the tool.
Based on the data of microanalysis, 11 items are defined as the lower and upper grinding stones. Similar marks of utilization, common to the processing of vegetation, are also found on tools from the settlement of Kostenki-16.
This interpretation is confirmed by experiments during which the grinding of meadow grasses seeds was carried out.
The analysis of organic remains found on the working surfaces of the studied items showed starch grains similar to the starches of the wheat family wild grasses. This fact confirms the use of stone tools by gatherers of the Moldavian Szelet era for processing plant materials.
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