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2017-03-06 14:51:29   •   ID: 1585

A small Handaxe from Fontmaure (Vienne)

Figure 1
This is a 7 cm long Handaxe from the the Fontmaure site near Vellèches, Vienne department, France. The  Fontmaure site was first recognized in 1905, plundered by amateures until 1935 ,and finally destructed by quarry operations. Fontmaure is famous for its multicolored jasper artefacts. Artifacts from the site represent a long time span between the Acheulian and the Neolithic.

During his excavations in the 1930ies, the physician L Pradel distinguished two distict Mousterian occupation levels. The first one was characterized by numerous small cordiform and triangular handaxes (< 10cm), and non-levallois mousterian tools (“MTA-A”?). The upper stratum exhibited features of a mousterian with numerous “upper paleolithic” artifacts, especially backed knifes. The blades for these tools are dechached from prismatic cores (“Mousterien a lames”).

Unfortunately there are no absolute dates for this interesting ensemble. It could date back to OIS3 or even OIS5. Fontmaure artefacts are typically small, which reflects the  challenging task of processing an extremely splitery and inhomogeneous raw material. This is also documented by numerous unfinished flakes (sold for much money today) at the site.

While handaxes and blades are usually made from the local jasper, Mousterian points were also sometimes produced from Grand-Pressigny flint, which was imported in some quantities. While the modern viewer is fascinated by the beauty of Fontmaure-artifacts , it has to be questioned if the Neanderthals were equally  intrigued. Until now, no raw-material transport to other Mousterian sites beyond a radius of 50 km was demonstrated, and even during the Upper Paleolithic the evidence is scare ( Some pieces from the "Perigordian II" at Les Cottes and from the"Aurignacian V" at Laugerie-Haute).

To give an impression about the variety of the raw-materials see Figure 2

Figure 2