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2022-02-14 16:46:35   •   ID: 2308

Revisiting Fourneau du Diable: Focus on the Gravettian

Plate 1 ; Courteously by Don Hitchcock
Figure 1
The Fourneau du Diable site (Plate 1) has already introduced into this Blog and is still of great Importance for the Upper Paleolithic in the Perigord. About the Middle and Upper Solutrean at the site; see: 1582 ; other comments about Fourneau du Diable are to be found here: 1626 , here: 1348 , and here: 2046 .

The site was recognized as early as 1863. Adrien and Gabriel De Mortillet in 1909 already highlighted the Solutrean component: "At Bourdeilles, in the Dronne valley, de Vibraye collected an Solutrean industry in two caves, the Trou de la Chèvre and the Fourneau du Diable. M. de Lentilbac collected characteristic points of this industry in a field near the caves".

More systematic Research was conducted in 1919 by D. Peyrony, who discovered the first Half-Reliefs from the Solutrean in 1924. The Stratigraphy was described by Peyrony (1932) and was confirmed by the study of the material in the thesis of Sonneville-Bordes in 1960. The Site was classified as a historical monument on 25/11/1980.

Figure 2
The richness of the excavated remains, as well as the identification of habitat structures, ascribed to the Paleolithic by Peyrony-but according to the last excavations from historical times as well the Solutrean bas relief have made Fourneau du Diable a reference site for the Solutrean as already described in earlier posts.

Since renewed excavations have taken place during the recent years, they have provided a much more differentiated picture than has been published so far. Thus, a renewed post on the subject is justified. The revision mainly concerns the Archaeology, especially of the Middle Gravettian and is focused on the Gravettian layers from the lower Terrace.

Figure 1 shows a classic Point a Cran from the late Solutrean at the Upper Terrace. Figures 2-4 display a classic middle sized, 6 cm long, Gravette Point, from the lower Teracce, photographed from different ventral and dorsal views.

Figure 3
A Gravette point, characteristic of the Gravettian taphonomic unit, is not simply a "pointed blade with a straight back" .

A more precise definition was given by D. de Sonneville-Bordes and J. Perrot (1956, p. 547): "generally very sharp point, on a narrow and slender blade with a rectilinear back, or very slightly curved, reworked by very abrupt retouching often starting from the two faces, with sometimes supplementary retouching direct or reversed on the other edge, at the base or the distal side of the point".

With a few exceptions, this definition has stood the test of time because it prevents an undifferentiated widening of the term.

Figure 4
The Gravette of this post resembles a piece shown in de Sonneville-Bordes and J. Perrot's publication depicting a find from "Masnaigre, à retouches inverses à la base; n° 27".

Nevertheless, the interpretation of Fourneau du Diable remained limited until recently due to the selective nature of the collections and the limited geo-archaeological data.

Since 2015, renewed excavations at the Fourneau du Diable has made it possible to understand its particular morphology. At the time of the Paleolithic occupations, the space was structured by weathering channels and marked by the presence of large rock-arches, now partially collapsed.

R. Daniel was the first to draw attention to a pronounced Noaillian occupation of the lower terrace (Daniel 1969).

The inventory compiled by de Sonneville-Bordes of the 550 tools from the excavations made by D. Peyrony in the basal level of the lower terrace, mentions only 6 rather large Noailles Burins (1,08% of the retouched tools).

Figure 5
Daniels own re-excavations at the lower terrace, in contrast yielded 10 Noailles Burins out of a total of 134 lithic tools (7 %). The same results were found during the renewed excavations since 2015. (Daniel 1969, Vignoles et al. 2019). This discrepancies point to a sampling bias of Peyrony's own excavation, because smaller items were often simply ignored during his times.

The remaining artifacts accompanying Daniels ensemble and the new material since 2015 were identical to those described by D. Peyrony and de Sonneville-Bordes: Endscrapers, Burins, Truncated Pieces, Gravettes and Microgravettes.

Similar to the example, of a 2 cm long Noailles Burin from the site, shown in this post (Figure 5), these flints are grey-blue, black, white, or creamy examples and even made of Jasper -see 1348 .

It is therefore pretty clear, that the lower terrace contained a Noaillien (Middle Gravettian), while diagnostic pieces from an early Gravettian were absent in the collections (Flechettes, Font-Robert Points). Anyhow, I have one Flechette in my own collection from the site-but "one swallow does not make a spring".

Raysse "burins" have not been recognized by previous investigators in the material of the basal layer of the Lower Terrace, although they have now detected in both the old collections and the new material (Vignoles et al. 2019). Reviewing my own collection I was astonished to have an example in my personal sample,too (Figure5).

Figure 6
Since the 2000s, the late Noaillian has been re-classified as "Rayssian", characterized by the so called Raysse burin-cores, blades with “oblique lateral faceting” on the platform, for the production of subsequently retouched "Picardie"-bladelets; which were probably components of a sophisticated multi-component hunting weapon system.

The Noaillian predates the Rayssian stratigraphically in the archaeological record in the Perigord. A good example is the well excavated site of the Abri Pataud (David 1995).

While the Noaillian is mainly centered in southwestern France especially in the Southern Perigord, the Pyrénées as well as in Cantabria and Italy, the geographic distribution of the Rayssian lies mainly in northern France, for example in the northern Aquitaine, Region Centre, Brittany and Burgundy.

It remains unclear whether the succession of the Noaillien towards a Rayssian indicate two phases of a uniform evolution or rather the adaptation of humans to different habitats.

Furthermore, the Noailles Burin, which is not a projectile, is compared to the final product of the Rayssian- "Picardie"-bladelets that played a role in weapon systems (Klaric 2008, Klaric 2015, Banks et al. 2019, Vignoles et al. 2019).

It is always problematic to compare two different artifact classes to creating a chronology - in Germany they say: you can't compare apples with pears.....

Suggested Reading and Provenance:

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

M. Otte (Ed) : Les Gravettiens; 2013

Provenance: Collection Bigot (Figure 1-5; FR) and Collection Halm (Figure 6; GER)