Microliths ( from Ancient Greek μικρός microphones, small ',' short ',' low ' and ancient Greek λιθος líthos, stone ') are stone-age miniature devices of up to 3 cm in size. As raw material good fissile pebble stone such as flint or volcanic glass obsidian was used have been made ​​of the so-called Kompositgeräte. Typical Kompositgeräten include sickles, in which several microliths are assembled in a wooden shaft to a more complex device. Some forms were mainly used as arrowheads. In archeology, a distinction microliths from special, very small blades ( micro blades) and geometric microliths (eg trapezoidal), which were prepared by the controlled fracturing and subsequent retouching larger blades.

Microliths are typical of the Mesolithic and Epipalaeolithic. The internal chronology of the Mesolithic is mainly due to the changing frequencies of these unit operations. In recent hunter-gatherer cultures also artfully crafted arrowheads made ​​of glass are known. In parts of Turkey have been used for the production of microliths threshing.

Causes the formation

To see scarf: scarf ( pre-and early history )

The reason for their emergence in the Stone Age Gerätetechologie one assumes also environmental reasons, when conditionally developed as in the European Mesolithic by the end of the Ice Age, large areas of forest, which narrowed the movement of people and forced them to deal more economical with the available raw materials and also to exploit food sources that they had been spurned such as mussels and snails ( the large shell heaps are typical of Mesolithic sites ) or the Aleutian spread on the same barren islands. The aridization North Africa from about the third millennium BC, but also in other parts of the world left behind as a global phenomenon of the late Holocene traces should belong here. Similar climatic processes are expected also during the highlights of the last great ice age ( in Central and Western Europe ( Würm ) 60000-12000 BP) have occurred, which was accompanied by a strong dry period in subtropical and tropical areas.


After it had been assumed earlier, microliths were a late development of the Paleolithic, we now know that they existed in almost all stone-age culture complexes, albeit in a locality to locality of fluctuating number. Cause this research sent union change was the fact that they have been previously received little attention or overlooked because of rough excavation methods.


In Africa microliths are typical of the African Later Stone Age, where they occur 40000-20000 years ago for the first time and probably developed from the Abschlagtechiken of the Middle Stone Age. From southern Africa multiple sites with approximately 65,000 years old deposits are known, which is referred to as Howieson 's Poort. Characteristic are devices that meet apart from the size, the microliths later stages. It always involves only a few thousand years, then the big microliths are gone.

In South Africa, they occur approximately 40,000 years ago. In the North African Capsien (9000-3000 BC) they are particularly common. In sub-Saharan Africa, but found also microliths, which are slightly larger and considerably older. The microliths of the Howieson 's Poort industry employs around 95000-80000 years old (according to another dating of the Cambridge History of Africa 70000-60000 ), and Zaire reaches an uninterrupted series mikrolithischer industries in the cave of Matupi 32000-40000 years ago.


Be microliths Also in Europe already associated with biface complexes (eg Tautavel ), where they, however, do not form a veritable miktolithische industries, but are as viewed in Africa as a processing aspect of the classic Acheulean. A unique interpretation of this finding there is not, but it is striking that it almost always is at the appropriate stations Lower Palaeolithic of Europe occupied by long term or frequently visited places that had served as a central warehouse where large-scale activities were exercised where small-sized stone tools were necessary or simply useful. This could include a decreasing raw material supply be about come from Silex, which necessarily had to occur at such places over time. The same applies to the many mittelpaläolithischen Fund places in Europe where used tiny reductions, the number of elaborated tools such as scrapers and knives bigger exceed many times over. In its classical form elaborate variety microliths and now unique identifiable industries, however, occur especially since the Aurignacian ( earliest 45000-25000 or 15,000 BP) but especially in the late Magdalenian (ca. 17000-11000 BP = years before present: Before Present ) Upper Palaeolithic on. In southern Russia, it gave them 25,000 years ago, in northern Germany 13,000 years ago. Above all, they can be found in the European Mesolithic, where one divides the Mikrolithenindustrien in Northern Europe in three periods: the Maglemosian culture (ca. 8000-5600 BP), the Kongemose culture ( 7600-6500 BP) and the Ertebølle culture ( 6500-5200 bp). Harnesses are also manufactured in the Funnel Beaker culture.

North America

Microliths occur on the North American continent at the end of the Paleo-Indian and the beginning of the Archaic period. They had special significance in the Arctic regions, in particular the cultures of the Eskimos and Aleuts of the Arctic stage III. There is a pronounced industrial microblades. The stage III split 2500-1900 BC by the Paleo-Indian stage II decreases, and the Eskimos were in the north instead of the Paläoindianer now became the defining element. This arctic small appliances industry mainly includes sophisticated micro- blades, which served as the cutting of composite of several pieces of bone, ivory and wood appliances. The cultural tradition might as anthropological findings suggest about the Aleutian Islands, have had quite in Eastern Siberia their roots and expanded rapidly to Greenland from. From the Arctic small appliances tradition multiple subtypes emerged during propagation to the east: especially the Independence I culture (Canada and Greenland), the Pre- Dorset culture (Canada) and the Pre-Dorset culture in Greenland.

In addition, microliths are characteristic of the Poverty Point culture in the lower reaches of the Mississippi River at the end of the Archaic period.


In the Upper Paleolithic microliths in northern China are even demonstrated for the Homo erectus, who stayed there until about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, as recent anthropological findings show and had not credited yet such a complex fine motor performance, especially its devices complexes otherwise relatively large and are rather coarse and mostly made in nuclear technology and not in reduction technology. The microlithic finds in this context are even more numerous and go to many sites in the thousands, but also show a significant regional and temporal variation.

Elsewhere in East and Central Asia can be found in the late Paleolithic and Neolithic numerous microlithic tools, most of the blade type, which are rarely retouched secondary. In Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria, there was apparently particularly long deep into the local Neolithic into it. With the beginning of the ceramic and stone groundwood by about 3000 BC in these regions, these devices tradition fades.

From about 4000 BC geometric microliths occur on Sulawesi ( Celebes ).


The Australian Small Tool tradition dates from the period 4000-3000 BC Thus, geometric microliths were approximately in the Kenniff Cave in Carnarvon National Park in Queensland found that one of the layer sequence stratigraphy based on 5000-2500 BC could be dated. .

Types and production

One distinguishes the European occurring only in the Mesolithic geometric (eg trapezoidal ) of the non-geometric microliths.

Geometric microliths were made ​​using the so-called notch technique (stress fracture technique ) from so-called micro- blades. Lateral grooves on a blade this is specifically broken. Subsequent retouching ( modification of discounts or blades of flint with light pressure or shock, so that sharp edges or blunt ends or perforations occur ) brings the fragments into the desired shape. A score residual (micro - Scribe) remains as a typical piece of waste. Such notch residues are found in North Africa, especially in the Ibéromaurusien ( 15500-12000 BP), in Europe they are found to be rather random residual product already in the Gravettian or the simultaneous Pavlovian (Czech Republic ) ( 26000-19000 BP). In form, a distinction is triangular, square, segments and trapezoids. Like all microliths were used in combination devices as spikes or teeth, partially cross- scarfed and fastened with resin. Formally, there are strong regional differences.

Non- geometric microliths were made and retouched from very small blades ( louvers ). Particularly common here are the so-called "simple micro-tips ". They are defined so that the angle at the tip must not be greater than 45 °. There is only one retouching at the end, but not at the back. They come from the late Upper Paleolithic ago were simple to make and usually found as arrowheads use.

A second variant is the technically demanding " Sauveterrespitze ". It is symmetrical, very pointed and sometimes has two peaks. Sauveterrespitzen were spread throughout Europe.

The third variant is referred to as "micro tip back " and includes all retouched on the back tips of the Mesolithic, which do not belong to the first or second type. The fourth type finally finds the " triangle top," whose form arises from the fact that the base is retouched cross, so that a triangle with a 90 ° angle.