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2017-03-06 06:32:01   •   ID: 1582

The Solutean at Fourneau du Diable in the Greater Aquitaine

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Fourneau du Diable is a Rock Shelter open to the south at the junction of the Moneries and Dronne valley (right bank) between Brantome and Bourdeilles.

Other sites in the vicinity are the cave of Pey de l'Azé (Solutréen supérieur), des Bernous (Moustérien, Aurignacien), abri des Bernous (Solutréen supérieur), abris des Francillous, grotte de Montama (Aurignacien), and the even famous Trou de la Chèvre (Moustérien, Gravettien, Aurignacien).

The Fourneau du Diablesite was first recognized as early as 1863 and later excavated by D. Perony, who established the gross  stratigraphy for the upper and lower terasse and published his results in 1932. Peyronyies ilustrations were, as usually crude, but there are very fine photographs of the Solutrean samples.

The site  consists of two terraces  in a line of cliffs, named upper and lower terasse.The lower one is located halfway up the slope, the other on the summit near the cliff.

The Lower terrace is occupied by a deposit of Gravettian age, directly overlaid by a Middle Solutrean horizon. According to Sonneville Bordes, the Solutrean ensemble is characterized by Solutrean Laurel leaf points (26% of all artifacts), while Pointes a face plane, Feuilles de saule and Pointes a cran were found in marginal quantities (around 1% of all artifacts each). I will report about the Gravettian of the lower Terrace later: see 2308

The Upper Terrace remains one key site for the Solutrean in the Aquitaine. It consists of three layers. Pointes a face plane were found in low quantities around 1% of the ensemble in all three strata, while an decreasing number of Laurel leaf points (from 16 to 2%) was recognized over the stratigraphy.

In contrast, Feuilles de saule ( from 1-5%) and more impressive, Pointes a cran typiques and atypiques increased from 17 to 52% over the succession (Sonneville Bordes 1960).

In Europe, points with hafting specializations are resented by a variety of shouldered and tanged points from the Gravettian, Pavlovien, "Willendorf-Kostenkian", Solutrean, Epigravettian and Magdalenian. In Asia tanged points are found early in the upper Paleolithic and were prevalent in some areas after the LGM. Because of the presence of a clearly defined penetrating triangle combined with an elongated hafting mechanism, this class of projectiles  tends to be long and thin.

It has been demonstrated that shouldered points became narrower and thinner over time, suggesting the more efficient use of raw material and increasing skills of Homo Sapiens in producing such a sophisticated weaponry.

The tip cross-sectional area (TCSA, calculated by the formula: 1/2 maximum width x maximum thickness) is one variable that influences the penetration of a projectile. The smaller the TCSA, the higher is the killing efficiency.  

For Solutrean shouldered points the TCSA is lower than the TCSA for MSA-, Levallois-, Clovis- and Folsom- Points and within the range of values found for Neolithic arrow-heads (Villa 2009).

It can be suggested that the late Solutrean points could have been used for the bow and arrow technology, allthough there is no direct evidence for this technology before the younger Dryas (Ahrensburgian).

Suggested Reading:

Peyrony D., 1932: The prehistoric sites of Bourdeilles (Dordogne), Archives of Human Paleontology Institute, 13 | 2001, n. 10, Paris, Masson, 98 p.

D. de Sonneville Bordes: Le Paléolithique supérieur en Périgord. Delmas imp., Bordeaux 1960, 580 p., 295 fig., 64 tabl.(Thèse de Doctorat es Sciences); 1960

Provenance: Collection Peyrony (FR) and later Collection Van der Keulen (BE); The piece is displayed in many textbooks- For example in:

F. Bordes: Leçons sur le Paléolithique, CNRS, Vol 3; 1984.

F. Bordes: The old Stone Age; 1968 (also available in German)

MH Alimen and MJ Steve (Eds): Weltgeschichte Band 1, Vorgeschichte

and of corse in the seminal Work by Philip Smith: Le Solutreen en France. Bordeaux: Imprimeries Delmas, Memoire no. 5; 1966.