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2020-01-20 09:01:30   •   ID: 2146

150 years of research at Solutré

Figure 1
This is a 17 cm long Leafpoint from Solutré, near Mâcon (Saône et Loire)- see also here: 1042 , here 1144 , here: 1475 and here: 1231 .

The basal tip is broken during prehistoric times and although the tool is very thin (3-4 mm), the final execution was rather careless performed, without pressure flaking. The patina is typical for the site.

If the point was created by the façonnage technique remains unclear. It could have been made by a long blade also- a technique known from a limited examples from the Solutrean.

Anyhow our point clearly resembles larger lanceolate examples from the site

Europe, between ca. 22 kyr and 20 kyr cal BP, saw the developement of new specialized tool-kits maybe as an adaption to harsh enviromental condition during the LGM.

In the S/W these tools are characterized by a variety of diagnostic projectile points and knives with bifacial retouch designated as Solutrean.

Straus (2005) proposed that Solutrean populations employed more specialized subsistence systems, relative to earlier Upper Paleolithic technocomplexes, to exploit regions rich in game but under harsh climatic conditions.

Figure 2
In the S/E of Europe, hunter-gatherers of the LGM created a technocomplex, called Epigravettian, characterized by shouldered and backed projectile points produced by unifacial retouch, while bifacial elements are rare in these ensembles.

In France, the Solutrean was restricted to climatically favored landscapes like the Aquitaine, the Charente, and the Pointu.

Sites North of the Loire are small isolated geographical pockets like the Grotte Rochefort (Saint-Pierre-sur-Erve, Mayenne, France) and Solutré.

Near the Type-Site, at Volgu, there is only one isolated Solutrean cache known. It consists of at least 15 bifacial Leafpoints found in the late 19th century in Saône-et-Loire near the confluence of the Arroux and Loire Rivers, about 60km west of Solutré.

The Volgu cache may symbolically mark the border of the habitable world during this extraordinary harsh and cold times.

The site of Solutré, near Mâcon (Saône et Loire), was discovered in 1866 and has been excavated over a period of more than 130 years.

The most important excavations were conducted by by Henry de Ferry, Adrien Arcelin and the Abbé Antoine Ducrost (until 1907). Important work, especially about the stratigraphy was performed by Abbé Breuil and F. Arcelin, the son of A. Arcelin (1922 à 1928. Important work continued under the supervision of J. Combier since the 80ies.

Figure 3
The Upper Pasleolithic deposits were found over an area of 2,5 ha. It was during the Magdalenian that it showed the greatest extension, in particular to the north-west and south-east of Crot du Charnier, linked to butchering and butchery activities. Scattered artifacts in the landscape, without any indications for habitation structures speak for repeated short time hunting activities during the middle and upper Magdalenian.

The Solutrean strata, represented a more permanent base camp with habitation structures, traces of fire and the evidence of artisanal and artistic activities. The two habitation structures were located in the southeast corner of Crot du Charnier and in the central sector of Terre-Sève, favored by the slightly inclined terrain.

Unfortunately much of the early excavated and rich the Material was dispersed to at least 7 larger institutions in France, GB and the US. Many artifacts are still in private collections.

The Solutrean is characterized by laurel-leaf points (pointes de Laurier), much of them rather small (median length about 5 cm). Broken and intact large points, like the one shown here, up to 19 cm long, remain the highlights of Museum-collections.

Some of the large points are designated as "grand couteaux a bord paralelles", very similar to the example shown here. Some large points may be preforms, well known from Perigordian sites, and others may have served as knifes (Combier 2016).

We find some tanged pieces and asymmetrical points type Montaud. Broken examples were re-used as endscrapers and becs. There are no Points a face plane or late Solutrean shouldered points.The ensemble entierly belongs to a Middle Solutrean. Figure 4 shows Solutré today after the last excavations (Courteously by Thilo Parg)

Figure 4
During the Solutrean, Solutré was not a simple temporary hunting place, as it was the case at Solutré at other times.

Isolated in the East of France at the outmost margins of the Solutrean world, people at Solutré probability arriving from the West, have survived under hardest climatic stress and successfully practiced high efficiency selective reindeer hunting. Faunal analysis showed that hunting occurred during the winter months and again during Spring (April / May).

Suggested Reading:

Solutré : Jean Combier (Ed). Volume du 150e anniversaire; 2016.

Le Solutréen 40 ans après Smith’66. Tours : Fédération pour l'édition de la Revue archéologique du Centre de la France, 2013. 480 p. (Supplément à la Revue archéologique du centre de la France, 47)