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2022-07-31 08:13:03   •   ID: 2343

Single Component Sites and the late Mousterian in S/W-France

Figure 1
Figure 1: An early Middle Paleolithic Handaxe from the Bergerac Region, Figure 2: Cordiform MTA Handaxe from the Bergeracois and Figure 3: Two Mousterian Points from the Type Station of the Mousterian: Le Moustier.

More than 40 years ago L.Binford wrote: "Viewed from the perspective of a living system, an occupation can be defined as the uninterrupted use of a place by participants in a cultural system.

The material consequences of an occupation represent a document regarding an organizational aspect or phase of operation of the cultural system under study (Binford 1981)". Binford in his systematic aproach basically differentiated between single and multiple component (Palimpsest) sites.

Sites having evidence for only one occupation are called single component sites. Such sites are rare and invaluable to archaeologists because the inevitable data bias that a multi-layer site introduces through post-depositional modification can be avoided.

More stratigraphically complex sites are called multicomponent sites. Components are often identified by the presence of particular industries, the association of particular artifact types, or by horizon markers.

Figure 2
Archeological paradigmatic for single component / single stay-sites is still the Maastricht-Belvedere complex in the Netherlands, with multiple in-situ sites, embedded in fine-grained fluvial sediments containing fully temperate faunas, most probably attributable to MIS 7.

TL dates suggest an age between 250–290 k.a. Some of the sites (for example Site C) display Levallois technology, while at others (for example Site K) most of the knapping is from discoid cores. An extensive full account of this groundbreaking large-scale rescue excavations can be found here: Maastricht-Belvedere

Due to policy of a Preventive Archaeology in rich Western European countries, the number of single component Sites has increased significantly during the last two decades, and this Post briefly describes important lessons that can be learned by these sites about the Late Middle Paleolithic in S/W France.

What are the hallmarks of a Single Component Site ?

  • Stratigraphic evidence of a brief human presence at the site

  • Spatial pattering; refitting and rejoining of artifacts

  • Evidence of a specific material economy

  • Evidence of a specific technological system

  • Evidence of specific artifact transport patterns

  • Figure 3
    Courbin et al. have recently reported about a late Middle Paleolithic site with these characteristics in S/W-France: Bout-des-Verges (Bergerac, Dordogne)where large-scale investigations were carried out (Courbin et al. 2020).

    They were able to demonstrate the simultaneity of an in situ artifact concentration that was based on a bifacial scheme associated with a Levallois Chaine Operatoire and two smaller concentrations based on a unifacial scheme and discoid production.

    The analysis of raw material units, refittings and conjoinigs played a crucial role in evaluating the raw material economy and the techno-typological systems on the site. The majority of discoidal products were exported for future use, while the imported bifaces and Levallois scrapers with longer use-lives were transported multiple times by Neanderthal groups (Courbin et al. 2020).

    By the way, this finding can help to resolve the old question: What was the last Mousterian in S/W France? The question may be wrong and the answer more ambiguous than expected.

    Depending on the site function and other even important factors it may be sometimes a MTA with a Levallois or Discoid Chaine Operatoire or an unifacial Discoidal Middle Paleolithic....

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