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2021-10-20 10:40:56   •   ID: 2273

A Middle Pleistocene Chopper from Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (Essonne)

Figure 1
This is an isolated "Pebble Tool" (9x7x3,5 cm) found at a field near Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France.

The find spot is located aproximately 23.5 km from the center of Paris, in the arrondissement of Palaiseau, in the Essonne department, in the Île-de-France region. The Marne with some minor tributaries is about 7 km in the East and was probably an important axis of paleodemographic connections, especially during the Middle Pleistocene.

The ventral side of the heavily patinated flint artifact shows predominantly the original cortex, while the dorsal side, as seen in Figure 1, is covered by at least three generations of progressively finer retouches.

In addition, the dorsal side shows continuous knapping refinement, especially in the distal region, and an intentional notch at the distal-lateral circumference of the tool.

From the regions of Northern France in particularly, we have accustomed to a " classic " Acheulian, as we know it since MIS 15 from the Somme region and in abundance also from MIS (13), 11 / 9 from the basins of the Seine, Aisne, Oise and Yonne- see 1306 , often regarded as the only entity before the Middle Paleolithic.

We tend to forget that during the 20th century in Brittany, Middle Pleistocene inventories ("Colombanian" according to Monnier), characterized mainly by a "core and flake" industry, - by the absence or only rare presence of non-Classic Handaxes and Cleavers and a variety of simple flake-tools (non-facetted denticulates and notches and very few scrapers) and Choppers were described. Some of them were preserved in situ and secondary mixing can be excluded.

Figure 2
These findings may not be a purely regional phenomenon, but seem to be part of a Pan-European mosaic of different technical traditions during the Lower Palaeolithic, which can not be fully explained by site-function, raw material, duration of stay and site function.

Such Sites and stratigraphic successions are known from France (e.g. Menez–Dregan I, Terra Amata, Caune de l’Arago); Italy (e.g. La Polledrara, Castel di Guido, Notarchirico); Spain (e.g. Atapuerca); the UK (e.g. Barnham, Clacton-on-Sea, Swanscombe). See for example: 1104

In addition, it must be remembered that Middle Pleistocene "microlithic" inventories are known east of the Rhine that cannot be classified as Acheulian: I think of sites like Bilzingsleben, Schöningen and Vértesszőlős.

In my view, it would be appropriate to re-introduce the importance of local traditions over a "long durée" as recently suggested exemplary by Ravon for the site of Menez–Dregan I- a succession of levels with bifacial technology and of some others without (Anne-Lyse Ravon 2019).

Menez-Dregan I is a Lower Palaeolithic site situated at Plouhinec, Finistère, in Brittany. It is an ancient marine cave whose roof has gradually collapsed. The Archaeological succession shows exactly the phenomenon, described above, over a long period of time between ca. 450 and 150 k.a.

By the way: Beside the overwhelming Paleolithic Material from 17 layers at Menez-Dreganan, several Megalithic sites have been discovered nearby.

Here I have a suggestion for a little trip: Along an approximately 1,5 km long coastal walking trail you can visit various monuments from Palaeolithic to Neolithic periods and in the information center "Centre d'interprétation de Menez Dregan" you may get a pretty good impression how people adapted and lived more than 450 k.a. near the Atlantic cost in always changing landscapes from the Middle Pleistocene the Holocene.

Regarding the Neolithic, excavations and restorations allowed to reconstruct the ground plan of one of the cairns with an almost square chamber (3,8 × 3,6 m) and a straight passage encountering it from the side. It is a "passage grave"

Another enclosure is of the same type, but larger (6,2 × 4,8 m) and with a passage of 3,75 m.

The excavations have brought to light some finds and a burial site that was overlooked in the 19th century, when first excavations started.

The Megalithic sites in 3-D are visualized here: Menez

Suggested Reading:

Mc Nabb: The British Lower Palaeolithic: Stones in Contention; 2007

De Lumley (Ed): Caune de l'Arago - Tautavel-en-Roussillon, Pyrénées-Orientales, France Tome 6, Individualisation des unités archéostratigraphiques; 2015