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2014-07-13 20:26:47   •   ID: 1172

Acheulean in Northern France: Handaxe from the Yonne Valley

Figure 1
This is a larger (16 cm long) asymmetric Biface from the Yonne Valley in N-France.

Researches during the last 20 years on both fluvial and loess sequences of the main river valleys in Northern France (Somme, Seine and Yonne) are based on an interdisciplinary approach combining stratigraphy, sedimentology, bioclimatic studies and advanced dating methods (U/Th, ESR, OSL).

From a general point of view, it seems likely that Human occupation of the Somme, Seine and Yonne basins has been discontinuous and highly influenced by climatic and environmental factors.

In the Somme basin the oldest demonstrated human occupations are dated at a maximum 500 k.a. (Early OIS 12, Cagny-la-Garenne) and are already represented by an evolved Acheulean.

In the Seine basin, the oldest Acheulean archaeological level has been evidenced at La Celle, within a tufa sequence attributed to MIS 11 and dated at 400-420 k.a by U/Th and ESR. Between 450 ad 200 ka the data are relatively rare and less accurate but the archaeological sites were nevertheless mainly located during interglacial periods (La Celle, Saint-Acheul, Soucy, Cagny-Epinette) or during climatic transition (Early or Late glacial cycles).

According newer biostratigraphic and ESR data, even older Acheulian findings were present in the high terrace of the Somme at the Carpentier-quarry and at Moulin Quignon at Abbeville. These sites date to the second half of the Cromerian and therefore to MIS15.

They represent together with the new discovered Rue du Manège site at Amiens the oldest Acheulian in continental N/W-Europe (ca. 600-550 k.a.).

Since 1994, archaeological supervision of a gravel quarry located on the middle terrace of the River Yonne at Soucy (Yonne), in the north of Burgundy some 120 km south east of Paris, has permitted the discovery of several prehistoric sites included in middle Pleistocene sequences.  

Since the quarry was opened in 1990, nine archaeological horizons have been identified across 6 sites, four of which have been excavated (Soucy 1, 3, 5 and 6) and two of which have been preserved in situ for  excavation at a future date. Stratigraphic, biological and radiometric dating places these sites between c.345 and 365 k.a. (MIS10/9). 

The Soucy localities tell a story of successive hominin occupations in a fluvial landscape. Many of the occupations show distinctive patterns of behavior by the presence or absence of typical Acheulian bifaces.

It is likely that the main river valleys from the south side of the Channel (Somme, Seine and their tributaries ), represent main migration routes during periods of low sea levels and may also contain very old Acheulean occupations contemporaneous of the older phase of the Cromerian complex (± 500-650 k.a.), that are still to be evidenced.

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