2022-10-07 16:48:04 • ID: 2352
The Solutrean People- An Outdated Fiction
Figure 1 shows a Point a Face plane from Laugerie Haute at Les Eyzies in the Perigord, made of fine grained Bergeracois Flint.
While the Point in Figure 1 only shows a very limited retouch on the tip, Figure 2 shows a "classical" Pointe a Face Plane (Subtype A according to Smith), also from Laugerie haute, exhibiting an unifacial covering retouch.
One might ask if the two examples really belong to the same class of artifacts and if Smith has incorrectly lumped different tools into the same category.
In favor of Smith's classification stands the reality that in the Southwest French Upper Paleolithic, leaf like points with minimally invasive retouch as shown in Figure 1, occur exclusively in the Solutrean and that there are versatile transitions between all subtypes (A-E). Comparable pieces are known only from the Early Ahmarian in the Levant and the Early Epigravettian of the Ligurian coast and the Gargano- a clear convergence.
The high diversity among Pointes a face Plane may be explained by differnt functions: armature point, knife or both (F. Bordes, 1974-b).
Pointes a face Plane subtype E are typical for Laugerie Haute Est Layer 31, excavated by F. Bordes (F. Bordes et P. E. L. Smith; 1957-1959) which is part of Peyrony's Stratum H′ (lower Solutrean; Solutréen à Pointes à face plane).
A Point a face Plane Type E is essentially a pointed blade, single or double tipped, with flat retouch concentrated around the tip. More about these points-see: 1607 and 1268
It is important to mention that, since the point types do not replace one another but are instead added on to existing types, the occurrence of a Pointe à face Plan does not automatically indicate a Lower Solutrean.
At Laugerie this artifact is not restricted to the initial Solutrean but also present in layer Ha″ (middle Solutrean; Solutréen à Feuilles de Laurier) as well and even co-occurs with shouldered points in the Upper Solutrean occupations. The same holds true for the Solutrean layers at Badegoule and Fourneau du Diable.
The French Solutrean is first known from P. Smith's great synthesis, published in 1966, which takes up Peyrony's typological classification into Protosolutrean, Lower Solutrean, Middle Solutrean and Upper Solutrean, to which P. Smith added a Final Solutrean.
Later, François Djindjian provided a statistical analysis of the Solutrean lithic industry, which shows a break between, on the one hand, a Protosolutean and an early Solutrean (ex-lower) in a very cold and dry environment, limited to Aquitaine and Ardèche and, on the other hand a recent Solutrean with covering retouch (ex-middle and upper) in the very cold and humid environment of the Laugerie episode. The recent Solutrean is not only found in S/W-France but also in the more Northern areas (Poitou, Ile-de-France, Saône) (Djindjian et al. 2019).
The question increasingly arises whether historical taxonomy has any meaning at all. Does the affiliation of an ensemble to the Early or Late Solutrean say anything about the subsidence strategies and the behavioural repertoire of our ancestors or provide any contribution to Local Population Genetics?
Bifacial foliates have been appearing and disappearing from time to time since the MSA at various locations in Eurasia and Africa.
Their production may testify the need to achieve a maximum thinning of the artifacts, presumably to achieve a better hafting - but even this assumption is tentative. However, no meaningful cultural history can be practiced with such an approach.
As for the population genetics issue, I agree with Natasha Reynolds: "Given the known problems with the cultural taxonomic framework as it currently exists, it is clearly inappropriate to equate cultural taxonomic units with past populations. In some cases, there may have been population continuity between chronologically or geographically distinct taxonomic units; in others, taxonomic units may subsume multiple distinct prehistoric populations. Cultural taxonomic units, at whatever scale, should not be treated as representing discrete, monolithic cultural phases; nor should they be correlated with discrete, distinctive past populations" (Reynolds 2020).