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2016-07-06 04:21:06   •   ID: 1456

Versigny and the Quest about the Age of the MTA in N-France

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When I visited “le nord” in the 1980ies, people of this part of France appeared to me alarmingly impoverished. At this time I could not imagine, that decreasing wealth would be a common phenomenon during the coming years for many inhabitants of the western countries after the neoliberal reforms, that started during the 1980ies.

About 1905-1915, Victor Commont , professor at the normal school at Amiens, worked extensively with Paleolithic materials from the region around the Somme Valley and established a local chronology before the WW I. He was also engaged in the survey of sites in the Aisne and Oise region, where he detected most of the “MTA” sites under discussion in this post.

The tireless professor even visited military trenches in in the Picardie / Nord searching for Paleolithic material after the Germans had left the devastated landscapes and after the battlefront had moved towards the German border during the end of the war. During such a trip he fell ill with pneumonia and died in Abbeville on April 4th 1918.

In Northern France the "MTA" is characterized by rather large, triangular and cordiform bifaces made on flakes. At Versigny they are thin and sometimes have a triangular cross-section. In contrast to MTA bifaces from the South West they are rarely biconvex but either simple- flat or plano-convex.

Even if a natural back is present by cortical remnants in artifacts with triangular cross-sections, they never have a "Keilmesser" appearance.

Technologically, Such ensembles include Levallois but also Discoidal components, but it remains unclear the discoidal debitage represents exhausted Levallois cores. Scrapers, "Mousterian"-points and some denticulates are augmented sometimes by “Upper Paleolithic” artifacts (end-scrapers, burins). "MTA" in the North of France ensembles have for example been identified at:

  • St Juste en Chaussee (Oise)
  • Catigny (Oise)
  • Versigny (Oise)
  • Marcoing (Nord)
  • Hamel (Nord)
  • Tillet (Seine et Marne)

Furthermore, researchers have argued, that the "MTA" in N-France encompasses different facies, for example without triangular bifaces but with small handaxes (e.g. Hamel)- but most ensembles are biased by selective sampling. The "MTA" of N-France show some similarities with the MTA  of S/W-France (OIS3) but is dated earlier (OIS 5d–5a). If there are any relations between the two technocomplexes is uncertain.

Recently a rich site with very symmetric triangular handaxes was excavated at Saint-Amand-les-Eaux and absolutely dated to c 50 k.a. (MIS3). Maybe this material can be used to answer some of the open questions. Anyhow, at the moment (2018) we lack of comparative techno-typological studies on non-biased material regarding the "MTA-question".

Our handaxes handaxe (8 and 12 cm long) displays the typical morphological characteristics of the Versigny artifacts, which were collected by Colliez in the 1930ies. Such artifacts are usually made of flint, covered by a thick orange patination. Beside the collection of "belle pieces", no deeper scientific information about Versigny is available.

While other sites (St Juste en Chaussee , Catigny) were scientifically evaluated, Versigny remained a pure "collectors site"