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2021-03-13 15:18:53   •   ID: 2245

The Rhodanian in the Gorges de Verdon

Figure 1
The Gorges du Verdon (Figure 1; Wikimedia Commons) is a large river canyon, indeed the largest in Western Europe, located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of Southeastern France. It is about 25 km long and up to 700 metres deep and was formed by the Verdon River after the last glaciation.

In between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the river has cut a ravine to a depth of 700 meters through the limestone mass. At the end of the canyon, the Verdon flows into the artificial Lake of Sainte-Croix.

Figures 2-4 display a convergent tool, found during the first part of the 20th century by Dr. Bousquet, a keen collector of Paleolithic tools.

It was found by him in a non named small cave with glacial paleonthological remains and some thick non- Levallois, mainly cortical flakes.

Figure 2
This convergent tool (scraper or point) was made from an elongated, heavily patinated elongated flint flake with Demi-Quina retouches and a typical middle Paleolithic design. There are some remnants of the original cortex on the base.

Techno-Typologically the Point / Convergent scraper fits well into the spectrum of the French Middle Paleolithic Rhodanian Facies.

The Rhodanian / (occasionally called Charentian oriental in earlier publications) superficially resembles the classic Charentian in the Aquitaine. The Rhodanian facies is found in the Rhone valley, Gorges du Verdome, Gardon and the Ardèche. Made on thick flakes, scrapers often show a retouche Quina or Demi-Quina.

Transversal and Double scrapers, especially Limaces and dejete examples and scrapers "a dos aminci" (secondary thinning) are characteristic for the Rhodanian Middle Paleolithic.

Bifacial points are often present. The operational sequences producing thick flakes are more diversified compared with the classic Quina Mousterian in the Perigord and the Charente including discoidal, laminar and Levallois patterns.

In the opinion of French researchers, the Rhodanian facies is far from the typical Quina facies described in the SW of France (in particular by the lack of the typical Quina debitage). It is mainly dated to the MIS 4.

A typical scraper from the Rhodanian at Soyons is to be seen here: 1648

Figure3
It is difficult now to use the Bordesian term of Charentian for such ensembles, because of a high diversity of facies depending on raw materials and activities (Marie-Hélène Moncel, 2021 personal communication).

One of the most prominent localities containing Rhodanian Ensembles in the Gorges du Verdon is the Baume-Bonne site.

Baume Bonne consists of a cave and a large rock-shelter, which opens on the right bank of the Verdon, on the commune of Quinson, south of the department of the Alpes-de-Haute.

The site was introduced into the scientific discourse after promising sondages by Bernard Bottet in 1946 during a session of the Société préhistorique française à la Sorbonne in Paris and remained a reference of the local Palaeolithic (Bottet, 1946).

It was also the first large Palaeolithic Archaeological operation in the Haute Provence, while other parts of the region had been archaeological investigated already since the 19th century.

The cave filling was strongly modified by the dissolution and recrystallization of carbonates and phosphates, as well as by mechanical alterations and partial emptying and erosion.

Figure 4
The lithic industry is abundant and essentially made up of local rocks, flint (75%) and chaille (25%). It reflects a gradual evolution from an Lower Paleolithic with rare bifaces and poorly organized and economical debitage, to a Middle Paleolithic with well-controlled debitage, with a focus on diversified production.

Most strata have been absolutely dated by different methods (U-Th, ESR) which makes Baume Bonne an important site for the Middle Paleolithic chronology in S/E-France.

The deposits were characterized in particular by a long chronostratigraphic sequence, unique in this region, from late MIS10 to MIS 3.

Earlier Ensembles are characterized by rare Bifaces; Points de Quinson- see 1554 , Points de Tayac, "Protolimaces" according to de Lumely, abundance of the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme”-most probably inevitable by the thickness of the blanks, Chopper and Chopping tools, Denticulated tools and Encoches.

Later Ensembles, beginning with MIS8 show a slow disappearance of Bifaces and Chopping tools and the advent of Levallois techniques, beside Kombewa, Discoid and laminar operational sequences. The evolving Rhodanian in special contains well executed bifacial foliates, highlighted in many Textbooks.

The gradual evolution of an early Middle Paleolithic at Baume Bonne has some counterparts in S-France near the Middle Loire Basin , especially at Arago- see: 1696 , over the lower levels (H, I and K) of Aldène Cave and at Orgnac 3.

In Spain, The Atapuerca Middle Pleistocene sites of Galleria and Gran Dolina show a similar evolutionary trend in sites ranging from around 500-300 k.a.

The Upper Palaeolithic at Baume Bonne is contested in strata after 32 k.a. and is characterised by Gravettian and Epigravettian ensembles.

Within this chronological and technological framework, the Artifact of this post could be possibly assigned to the Rhodanian and to MIS4.