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2016-06-16 03:10:05   •   ID: 1306

Handaxes from the Somme Valley

Figure 1
These are Acheulean handaxes from the Somme, Aisne and Oise Valleys from old collections, made during the late 19th/early 20th century by workers in the brickyards without any context.

In general the design  of such an artefact does not imply any information about its age. The Paleolithic of the Somme valley in northern France has a long history of Paleolithic research especially at two Paleolithic type localities: Abbeville and St Acheul.

While the “Abbevillian” (sensu Breuil and Bordes) has to be questioned as a original technocomplex, several Acheulean assemblages in St Acheul, Montiers, Cagny, and Abbeville have been dated during the last decades by correlation of absolute dating methods (mainly ESR, but also U/Th) with the available biostratigraphic data (including microvertebrate and malacofauna) to MIS 7-15.

Most of the data indicate that human occupation of the Somme valley has been discontinuous and highly influenced by climate and environmental factors. It seems that our ancestors preferred the interglacial conditions and the transition from late glacial open landscape to open forest environment of early interglacial periods.

At the Somme, Ten stepped alluvial formations have been recognized between 5 and 55 m relative height, each representing an interglacial / glacial cycle. The Middle Pleistocene formations have been extensively evaluated during the last 30 years are therefore of special importance:

  • The Freville Formation (MIS 14–13) with handaxes particularly at Rue Marcelin Berthelot, Saint-Acheul. These handaxes were unfortunately not in situ.


  • The Garenne Formation (MIS 12–11) with the site Cagny-la-Garenne and the Saint Acheul type locality. The famous Atelier Commont overlies the Garenne Formation at Saint-Acheul and was located within younger sediments of unknown age- maybe MIS8/7.


  • The Epinette Formation (MIS 9) , exposed at its type locality, Cagny-l’Epinette.


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.).

At Montières, Commont in 1912 described a Middle Paleolithic assemblage, produced from Levallois flakes, which included numerous elongated blades and pointed handaxes. This ensemble was found in sandy and calcareous layers of the Low Terrace, now attributed to MIS 7. This assemblage appears to be one of the oldest Middle Palaeolithic industries of continental north-west Europe where a volumetric laminar débitage is present.