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2016-06-20 14:00:45   •   ID: 1444

Scraper from La Ferrassie Rockshelter and the New Excavations at a Classic Site

Figure 1
This is a double convex scraper from La Ferrassie, very typical for the Ferrassie Mousterian "Facies", coming from an old pre-1930 Collection.

La Ferrassie is an archaeological site in Savignac-de-Miremont, in the Dordogne department, France. The site, located in the Vézère valley, consists of a large and deep cave flanked by two rock shelters within a limestone cliff, under which there is a scree slope formatio

After early excavations by E. Rivière, the large Abri was excavated between 1905 and 1934 by Peyrony, who described 11 cultural layers (see below).

The lower ones belonged to a Mousterian with cordiform Bifaces followed by the Ferrassie-Mousterian facies and a sequence from the Early and Mid-Upper Paleolithic until the Noaillian during the Tursac oscillation.

Henri Delporte re-excavated the site in 1968-1973 and Delporte continued work with Tuffreau in 1984 (Chatelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian).

It was in the more eastern part of the site that Delporte continued excavations , focusing especially on cleaning a large sagittal section at the extreme east and a frontal, or longitudinal section  along the back wall of the cave/shelter. Overall Delporte and Tuffreau confirmed the earlier observations.

Most of the deposits in this part of the site were Upper Paleolithic, with some Ferrassie Mousterian deposits at the base, which appeared heavily disturbed and mixed.

Ongoing excavations initiated by Dibble et al. are focusing on the chronology of the oldest strata (the Middle Paleolithic ensemble with bifaces) probably dating to MIS5, and the stata, that were used to define the Ferrassie Mousterian facies.

These strata contained the famous “Neanderthal burials”. More about the issue in one of the next posts.

Interestingly, the Ferrassie Mousterian layers are attributed to MIS 3 by OSL, between 54 ± 3 and 40 ± 2 ka, and thus appear to belong to the final Middle Palaeolithic of the region.

These data fit to ESR dates, of two Neanderthal teeth which also indicate to an MIS3 age.

Regarding that “Ferrassie ensembles” in the Aquitaine are usually said to be MIS5/early MIS4 (at Combe Grenal on geochronological grounds) preceding “Quina ensembles“ which are present during MIS 4 (Roc de Marsal  (F), Jonzac, Quina) – this date would indicate much more synchrony of Bordes different ” Mousterian facies” that previously suggested.

Among the finds were eight Neanderthal skeletons. It is generally suggested that La Ferrassie represents a cemetery with intentional burials.

This site has yielded the largest well preserved collection of contemporaneous Neanderthals from Europe. The space of the Ferrassie Rock shelter was well structured during the Mousterian.

Peyrony detected an ensemble with nine small mounds, six ovate depressions and 7 burials (Adults and Children). A slab of limestone with several hollowed-out depressions was found over the burial of one of the children. 

Although some overcritical Archaeologists deny that any of these observations are valid, Peyronys excavations were meticulous and his stratigraphy was confirmed during the excavations of H. Delporte in the 1970, were another burial was found (La Ferrassie 8). Possibly symbolic artifacts, such as the pierre à cupules that covered LF 6, and a long bone fragment with four series of parallel incisions were also present.

Excavations are ongoing at the site after Dibble`s lamentable decease. C-14 Data largely confined the new Mousterian date (about 45-46 k.a.Cal BP) and gave very consistent results for the Châtelperronian (about 43-41 k.a.Cal BP) as well as for the early Aurignacian (ca 38 k.a.Cal BP); (Talamo 2020).

A recent publication (Balzeau et al. 2020) gave Multidisciplinary evidence that the La Ferrassie 8 Neandertal child was indeed intentionally buried and a date that fits perfectly to the Châtelperronian industry at the site.

This makes the assumption that Neanderthals were the makers of the Châtelperronian a little bit more secure.

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