France Prehistory Part I

France Prehistory 1

According to, there are few countries in the world that offer such importance for prehistory as those which, washed by the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea, extend to the west of the European continent, between the Pyrenees, the Alps and the middle and lower course of the Rhine. The diversity of geological formations means that traces of the stay of Quaternary man have been found everywhere in the floods of rivers, in the dunes and in the deposits of caves. It is therefore not surprising that prehistoric studies originated precisely in France, towards the beginning of the century. XIX, with the explorations made by J. Boucher de Perthes in the ancient floods of the Somma. Until the Iron Age, the chronological classification, now universally adopted for Western Europe,chelléana, civilization), Saint-Acheul (v. Acheuleana, civilization), Levallois (v. Levalloisiana, civilization), Le Moustier (v. Mousteriana, civilization), Aurignac (v. Aurignaciana, civilization), Solutré (v. S olutreana, civilization), La Madeleine (v. Magdalenian, civilization), Mas-d’Azil (v. aziliana, civilization), the Fere-en-Tardenois (tardenoisiana, civilization), and in Aquitaine, where the cultures of the upper Paleolithic and the truly distinguished art of hunters of the reindeer age are more abundantly represented.

Quaternary France is part of the immense region that extends over India, Asia Minor, Western Europe, southern and western eastern Africa, and has gone through various phases of civilization quite similar to each other. In Europe the Alps and the Rhine formed a barrier in ancient times between a western region (Spain, Italy, France, England) and another more eastern one. During the age of the reindeer, France became part of an Atlantic region, connected by means of central Europe with Siberia and in rather distant relations with the Mediterranean group.

Ancient and Middle Paleolithic. – It is above all on the French territories that the two industrial groups of chipped and double-sided stone of the two main phases of the Paleolithic are best represented.

In the north, in Saint-Acheul and Le Havre (Lower Seine), there are important Clactonian deposits, which can be found in Curzon (Drôme), where they are associated with a warm fauna, and overlap the filling of the bottom in the cave of the Observatory (Munich). Strongly impregnated layers of the Clactonian technique, but more often characterized by an early Mousterian technique, exist below the layers with amygdaloids (coups – depoing) late in the deep strata of Combe-Capelle and Micoque (Dordogne), Rochette and La Quina (Charente). In Belgium the Mesvinian stations are similar to those of Clacton (Great Britain). In the gravel deposits of Saint-Acheul there is still a very archaic industry characterized by barely sketched amygdaloid tools in large splinters. These Prechelléan tools are found in Chalosse (Landes) at the base of the Quaternary clays and near the siliceous Senonian. The Chelléo-Acheulean industries appear in France above all in the Pleistocene floods, exploited as sand or gravel pits. The great Acheulean amygdales were also collected on the surface on the highlands occupied by the Quaternary tribes, at a time when they emerged above the level of the maximum floods.

These “double-sided” objects are relatively rare in cave-filling deposits. The Chelléano is clearly located in the valleys of the Somma (Abbeville, Saint-Acheul, etc.) and of the Seine, above all in the region of Paris (Chelles, Bois-Colombes, La Garenne-Colombes, Gennevilliers, Billancourt, Courbevoie, Arcueil (Seine), Moru (Oise), Cergy (Seine-et-Oise). The discoveries made in the center and in the south are still few in number; one can report a typical deposit in Tilloux (Charente), others in Abilly (Vienna) and Marignac (Gironde). Most of these stations have supplied Acheulean double-sided objects. The area of ​​extension of these industries is much wider. The groups of the Somme and the Seine are connected to those of Normandy, with the stations around Rouen and Le Havre, Oise and Seine-et-Marne. The discoveries continue eastwards, in the Saône-et-Loire to Lorraine. The group of central France is represented by the stations of Bergerac (Dordogne), Chez-Pourret of the plateau of Bassaler (Corrèze), of Saint-Amand-de Gave and of Tilloux (Charente); towards the south there is still the Aceulean in Marignac (Gironde), Roqueville, Infernet, Fonsorbes, Cambernard and Saint-Clar (Haute Garonne). In La Micoque (Les Eyzies, Dordogne) we see the last limits of the French “two-sided” industry, whose phases have followed an evolution parallel to that of the chipped stone industries.

The dispersal area of ​​the Mousterian tribes is very extensive: open-air stations of Saint-Acheul, Montières, Sailly-Laurette, Liercourt, etc. and in the valleys of the Cure and Yonne (cave of the Trilobite, in Arcy-surCure); in the Jura in Villère-Versure; in Alsace-Lorraine in Achenheim, Burbach, near Sarre-Union (Bas-Rhin), near Colmar, in Altkirch, Dingsheim, Mommenheim near Strasbourg. In the south, at Grimaldi, the lower deposits contain a warm climate fauna associated with the Mousterian industry. In the southeast, Olha’s rock shelter has provided scrapers and spikes in the upper layer reminiscent of certain pieces from the lower levels of Grimaldi. The Mousterian of the Achaulian-Ana tradition is represented in abundance in the regions of central France. In the Dordogne numerous caves have provided layers of Mousterian industry subjected to layers of the Upper Paleolithic. The most characteristic stations were found at Le Moustier, La Ferrassie, Laussel, Combe-Capelle, Pech-de-l’Azé, Couze, Tabaterie, Sergeac, Abri Audi, in the Dordogne department; to the Chapelle-aux-Saints and Chez-Rose in Corrèze; to Pis-de-la-Vache, in the Lot; in Neschers, in the Puy-de-Dôme. In Charente, next to the important station of La Quina, we must also mention those of Placard, La Chaise, Marignac, Tilloux and Montgaudier. Towards the south-east, the Mousterian was still found in the Bize cave, near Montpellier and in La Bouïchéta, in Ariège.

In Belgium, open-air deposits and caves have provided industries that correspond to the discoveries made on French territory. The Chelléan horizons with warm climate fauna are not yet represented, but the Mesvinian industry of Spiennes, in Hainaut, approaches the Clactonian, and the civilizations of the Acheulean and species of the Mousterian have been discovered at Spy and La Naulette, at the confluence of the Meuse and the Lesse, in Montaigle, in Hastières, in Goyer, in Fond-de-Forêt, in Huccorgne, etc.

France Prehistory 1