France Prehistory Part II

France Prehistory 2

Upper Paleolithic. – The breakdown of the Upper Paleolithic shows the hunting peoples, who occupied our territories at the time, in perpetual movement. A good number of stations, such as the caves and rock shelters of Lespugue (Upper Garonne) have been inhabited only temporarily: they are hunting stations. On the other hand, life in the Pyrenees caves was at least limited to winter. The geographical distribution of certain decorative motifs in weapons and tools, the discovery of sea shells transported to considerable distances, allow us to form an idea of ​​the extent of these seasonal displacements. The history of the occupation of these stations is written in their archaeological layers, which, as in Isturitz (Lower Pyrenees), overlap starting from the Mousterian up to the last times of the Upper Paleolithic.

According to, the distribution of human stations of the upper Paleolithic includes the following groups:

The valleys that descend from the Pyrenees offer a set of stations, which have characteristics in common with those of Spain, in the territory of the Cantabrians: Arudy, Isturitz (Low Pyrenees); Aurensan, Gargas, Lorthet, Lourdes (High Pyrenees); Aurignac, Gourdan, Lespugue group, Marsoulas, Tarté (Upper Garonne); Enlène, Massat, Mas-d’Azil, Niaux, La Vache, Le Portel, Tuc d’Audoubert, Les Trois-Frères, Les Églises, Bédeilhac, Monstespan (Ariège). The stations of the departments of the Landes (Brassempouy and Sordes) and Narbonne (La Crouzade, Aude) connect with this territory of the Pyrenees.

South of the central plateau, the limestone plateau (causses) and the strongly sunken sides of the rivers are perforated by caves and natural shelters which sometimes form real troglodyte villages: Le Bruniquel (Tarnet-Garonne); Cabrerets, Coumba del Bouïtou, Font-Robert, Font-Ives, Lacoste, Noailles (Corrèze); Lacave ,. Pis-de-la-Vache, Reilhac (Lot). To this group we must add another, north of this same central plateau, in the departments of Vienna, Charente and Indre, which form the crossing bridge with the stations of the east: La Goulaine, Solutré, Volgu (Saône- et-Loire), La Bonne-Femme, Châteaucreux-sur-Suran, La Colombière, La Grande-Baille, Sous-Sac (Ain), Bobache (Drôme); Le Figuier (Ardèche). Through the Rhone and Ain valleys, through the Jura (Arlay, Balme-d’Epy, Mesnay), and the Haute-Marne (Farincourt, Loire, Roche-Plate) meets with the stations of Alsace (Achenheim, Hochfelden, Sierenz, Lingolsheim, Holzheim, Oberlag), Switzerland and Central Europe; through the Garonne valley (Pair-non-Pair) with the stations of the Pyrenean region.

The Périgord group forms an intense hotbed of civilization, mainly in the Magdalenian period, along these valleys, flanked by high cliffs perforated by a large number of caves and rock shelters: La Mouthe, Fond-de Gaume, Les Combarelles, La Madeleine, high and low Laugerie, Les Eyzies; Mairie de Teyjat, La Calévie, Bernifal, La Crozeà-Gontran, Le Cap-Blanc, Commarque, Daire, Chancelade, La Gravette, Limeuil, Abri Mège, the Rebière valley, Le Ruth, Bourdeilles, to name but the most famous. In the Allier department, the Châtelperron field provided prototypes of the flat-backed blade, which characterizes the second Aurignacian. The Solutrean of La Salpêtrière, in Gard, links the French stations to the contemporary depots of northern Spain.

In the north, the discoveries are sporadic: they are open-air stations and some rock shelters in the Somme valley. The occupation of the caves in Belgium was short-lived (Le Coléoptère, in Juzaine; Furfoz, Goyer, Spy, Trou de Châleux, Trou Magrite, etc.).

Finally, the stations of the Provencal and Ligurian coast, among which the Balzi Rossi (Baoussé-Roussé), Grimaldi and the Observatory are the most important, form an independent group, in which the development of civilization has not proceeded as in the rest French territory.

From the point of view of the distribution of industries, it is observed that the Aurignacian extends above all in the center, while the Solutrean is represented above all in the south-west. The Pyrenean regions and Périgord are the main centers of Magdalenian civilization.

Mesolithic. – The civilizations of this period are also very well represented in the French regions. The Brazilian is found in Ariège (Mas-d’Azil, Montfort, etc.), in the Haute Garonne (Lespugue, etc.), in the Aude, in the Hautes Pyrenees (Lourdes, Lorthet), in the Lot, in the Dordogne (La Madeleine, Le Soucy, Laugerie, Longueroche), in the Landes (Sordes), in Vienna (Chaffaud) and in the Drôme (Bobache). In the northern regions, the microlithic industries of the Tardenoisian cover vast territories in Normandy, Vexin and Artois. They reach as far as the lower course of the Loire in the west, as far as Lorraine in the east. In the south-west, the Ilbarritz field, near Biarritz (Low Pyrenees), has given traces closely related to the Cantabrian Asturian.

Neolithic and Eneolithic. – The area of ​​dispersion of the Azilo-Tardenoisian civilizations represents in France the arrival of the first nuclei of Mediterranean peoples, just as the Campignans (see campignana, civilization) reflect the first approach of the Neolithic flint cutters, in the northern and central regions (Lower Seine, Oise, Seine-et-Oise, Marne, Somma, Eure, Calvados, Sarthe, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, Loiret, Vienna, Charente, Dordogne).

Contrary to what is known throughout the Paleolithic, France was not, in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, a hearth of civilization: on the contrary, it was influenced by the most diverse cultures in those ages: migrations and currents of civilization have found their point of arrival there or passed through it; there are phenomena whose origin should be sought elsewhere. Thus it is that in the east the lakeside villages are nothing but the extension of the pile dwellings of Switzerland, and that the burial caves of the south must be logically reconnected with those of the Iberian peninsula. France constitutes in these periods only a province, with quite different aspects, in the whole of the civilizations of Neolithic Europe.

Three great regions, the south, the northern plain and Brittany, show, to the present state of our knowledge, that they have above all exercised a notable action. Among these territories appear secondary groups, located in countries less favored by nature or even less known from the archaeological point of view. Others appear to be connected with foreign ethnic groups.

The oldest Neolithic civilization is represented by the large group of caves with funeral deposits in the south-east, which extends from the Aube department to that of the Maritime Alps. The caves of the region of Narbonne (Aude), of Bédeilhac, Fontanet, Niaux and Sabar (Ariège), of MontSarge (Aveyron), of Montouliers (Hérault), of the Baumes-Chaudes, of Puignadoire. (Lozère), Saint-Martin and Baumes-de-Bails (Alpes-Maritimes) represent the oldest group of this phase of the final Neolithic.

France Prehistory 2