Using microartifacts to infer Middle Pleistocene lifeways at Schöningen, Germany.
While archeologists usually favor the study of large and diagnostic lithic artifacts, this study illustrates the invaluable contribution of lithic microartifacts for interpreting hominin lifeways. Across a 64 m area of the Middle Pleistocene lakeshore site of Schöningen 13 II-3 in Northern Germany, we recovered a total of 57 small and micro flint artifacts, four small debris pieces, three natural fragments and three bone retouchers in close association with the skeleton of an extinct Eurasian straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). This area lacks the type of formal knapped stone tools that would normally constitute the focus of archeological interpretations. By adopting a holistic approach, including morpho-technical analysis, experimental archeology, and use-wear and residue analyses, we demonstrate that these small and microartifacts are resharpening flakes that tell the story of the site. Fifteen resharpening flakes preserve microwear traces of processing wood. Microscopic residues of wood adhered to the former working edges of the tools corroborate this observation. Additionally, hominins used a sharp-edged, natural fragment of flint to process fresh animal tissue, which likely originates from the butchery of the elephant. These results provide unique, 300,000-year-old evidence for the functionally interconnected use of lithic, osseous and wood technologies. Furthermore, we document in-situ transformations of stone tools and the presence of both curational and expedient behaviors, thereby demonstrating the temporal depth of hominin activities at the lakeshore where the elephant died, and in the broader landscape as a whole.