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2016-06-17 03:51:56   •   ID: 1386

Abri Castanet and the Aurignacian I in S/W-France

Figure 1
Figure 1: This is a double end-scraper and a burin from the Aurignacian I at Abri Castanet (Castelmerle; Figure 2), already introduced during an earlier post The Vallon des Roches (also called Vallon de Castelmerle) in Sergeac is a side valley of the Vézère, located just 9 km south of Montignac-Lascaux on the left bank of the Vézère. The “Vallon” seems to have been a favorite place in the early Upper Paleolithic.

More than 10 different rock shelters under limestone abris, which were inhabited during the last glacial are known and were partially excavated during the beginning of the last century. Studies on Aurignacian inventories from the greater Aquitaine have shown a great industrial homogeneity that characterizes the early stages (Aurignacian I). In short, the assemblages of “domestic” tools are for the most part made on blades, with some tools made on flakes as well.

The range of domestic tools is dominated by endscrapers and retouched blades, but includes also some burins and splintered pieces in variable proportions. Blade debitage is mostly performed on unipolar cores using soft hammer percussion technique.

The production of bladelets corresponds to a separate chaîne opératoire, and is mostly carried out through the reduction of “carinated scrapers”, which in fact are bladelet cores. At Abri Castanet, first systematic excavations were performed by D. Peyrony and yield Aurignacian I and II-levels.

Figure 2
Excavations conducted by a Franco-American team from New York University and CNRS at Nanterre outside Paris, at the southern extremity of the Abri Castanet from the 1990ies concerned a dense, perhaps repetitive, occupation of Early Aurignacian ( Aurignacian I) with antler split based points, such as those described by Denis Peyrony in the northern half of this site.

Six C-14 dates on bone date this stratum to an age of 34 to 32 k.a. BP. Charcoal and pollen samples indicate a cold, open environment. Reindeer largely dominate the faunal remains. Analysis of reindeer teeth showed that they were hunted during the winter and spring months.

The lithic assemblage is rather homogeneous and simple  and typical of the Aurignacian I of the Aquitaine region. Raw materials were imported from the nearby Périgord and the Charente (Turonian flint, “grain de mil” flint). 75 % of the 200 tools collected are simple or double end-scrapers, similar to the double end-scraper shown in this post, retouched blades and scrapers on retouched blades.

Next in abundance are 21 carinated scrapers, all with wide fronts, followed by a few pointed blades, becs, denticulates and pièces esquillées, and only two burins. It has to be assumed, that numerous bladelets were produced from the carinated scrapers, but only around ten retouched or altered bladelets could be detected during the modern excavations.

This suggests that this important class of artifacts could have been used as armatures, “exported” from the site and lost / discarded elsewhere. Similar bladelets or fragments were recovered from the back dirt of ancient excavations. According to the Peyrony collections, most are attributable to this same Aurignacian I with split based points.