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2015-02-24 19:48:26   •   ID: 1221

Handaxe from the “Presles et Boves” gravels at Vailly-sur-Aisne

Figure 1
This is a still razor sharp elongated handaxe (14 cm long) from the Aisne valley. Although most handaxes of France were made of flint, there remain some important exceptions: The Aisne Valley, where Quartzite bifaces largely outnumber the handaxes made of flint and some valleys in S/W-France (especially the Garonne and Tarn valleys and their tributaries) and several sites in the Spanish meseta. In the S/W large quartzite cobbles that do not need extensive decortication and shaping prior to the removal of flakes were commonly used for the production of often crude bifaces.

At the Aisne, the chaine operatoire of Handaxes was often more delicate, especially during the Mousterian. Here Quartzite is found in large blocks and the raw material is an extremely fine grained Quartzite, which remains among the finest Quartzite I personally know from Europe.

The river Aisne belongs to the drainage basin of the river Seine in northern France. Its source lies between Verdun and Reims, and the valley stretches to the confluence of the river with the river Oise, near Compiegne. The Aisne gravels were and are of great value for concrete manufacture and road building, and large-scale gravel extraction have destroyed the landscape.

The valley floor and terraces are covered by gravel and loam and were the focus of settlement from the early Paleolithic through the early middle Ages. In 1865 Lambert drew the attention to a large collection of paleontological materials.

First discoveries of Paleolithic artifacts were made in the 1870ies and during the next decades large quantities of Acheulian and Mousterian instruments were assembled in private collections. Aisne-artifacts have been also stored in the Museums in Paris and Caen and Soissons.

While Victor Commont (1909, 1913, 1914), worked extensively with Paleolithic materials from the region around the Somme Valley and established a local chronology, there was no one who was interested in the scientific evaluation of the rich archeological findings in the Aisne valley.

In contrast to the Somme valley, almost no stratigraphic observations were made.

Also in contrast to the Somme, Sites with undisturbed context were not known, mainly because periglacial phenomena which disturbed the original surfaces.

The collections have been built up on exceptional pieces and are heavily biased.

The handaxe shown here comes from an old collection of artifacts from the gravels of “Presles et Boves” at Vailly-sur-Aisne, were numerous handaxes, mainly made of quartzite were collected during the early 20th century.

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