France Prehistory Part III

France Prehistory 3

In the middle of the Aeneolithic age, a new civilization emerged in the same region that lasted until the first period of the Bronze Age. Already the furnishings of the caves of Saint-Vérédème (Gard), of Sartanette (Bouches of the Rhone), of Balmo del Carrat (Aude), of Bas-Moulins (Monaco), de l’Homme-Mort and of Cabra (Lozère) testify the arrival of populations who brought with them the Pyrenean-Catalan megaliths. According to, this new Pyrenean civilization coexists for some time with that of the burial caves, but its influence on this group remains very weak. It is characterized by megalithic funeral monuments, whose objects are identical to those collected in the Pyrenean-type burials beyond the Pyrenees. From the geographical distribution on the territory of France of the stations that belong to it, it is logical to deduce the foreign origin of the new arrivals who descended on the northern side of the range through the passages located at both ends of it. To the west, the Halliade group occupies the departments of Gers, the High Pyrenees (Puy-Mayou, Marque-Dessvs, Deux-Menhirs) and the Low Pyrenees (Tailhan, Pontac), but its extent is quite limited. It is not the same in the east, where the populations from the Albères and Catalonia spread across the Roussillon towards the Aude, the Mediterranean coast and the Cévennes (Hérault, Lozère, Aveyron), reaching the Rhone (Gard, Bouches du Rhône), then, through the Ardèche (cave of Lanoi), they make their influence felt up to the alpine territories (caves of Savigny, Savoy).

In the northern plain, where, after Campignano, the civilization known as the flint developed, the Pyrenean influence is felt, in full Eneolithic times. The most important group is made up of the covered altées of the valleys of the Seine and the Oise, with which the artificial caves excavated in the valley of the Marne must be reconnected. The departments of the Charente and the Deux-Sèvres mark the western limits of their expansion: however they have pushed some offshoots as far as Upper Vienna.

Outside the sphere of action of this Pyrenean civilization, Brittany forms a separate, autonomous group which extends over the departments of Finistère, Morbihan and a part of that of the lower Loire. The influence of the Portuguese and Spanish bell-shaped cultures played an important part in the development of the civilization of the Breton group.

On the outskirts of the areas occupied by these major groups there are areas with poorly defined contours, in which the action and reaction of the flint cultures and Pyrenean megaliths are manifested. The cysts of Frau du Breton and Frau de Crozals (Tarn-et-Garonne), the covered galleries of Fargues (Lot-et-Garonne), the burial cave of Villehonneur (Charente) have provided an archaeological material which tends to prove the existence, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, of an expansion of the Pyrenean civilization towards the area occupied by the Breton megaliths. The border between the two great civilizations of the south and north passes through the departments of Charente, Upper Vienna, and Dordogne, which, like that of the Gironde, underwent the

To the east, if the fortified stations of the Moselle seem to depend on the civilization of the bell-glass, the villages of Saint-Loup and Louvarèse (Isère), the field of Chassey (Saône-et-Loire) are more closely related to the Pyrenean group. Certain characters also allow us to recognize in this last station an influence of the civilization of the Seine-Oise-Marne region. Finally, in Lorraine, as in all the territories of eastern France, some industrial types (battle axes) originating from Central Europe appear.

In these regions areas were formed which are nothing more than nuclei occupied by populations from neighboring countries. The stilts of the lakes of Clairvaux, Châlain (Jura) and Annecy (Haute-Savoie) are closely linked with the lakeside villages of Switzerland; the tombs of Fontaine-le-Puits (Savoy) and Champcella (High Alps) correspond to the pit tombs of northern Italy and the Swiss Hockergräber.

Bronze Age. – During the Bronze Age, three main currents exerted their action on the territory of France, and gave rise to three great archaeological provinces: the south-eastern one in close contact with western Switzerland and northern Italy; the western one which continues to be influenced by the Iberian Peninsula; that of the eastern territories facing the Rhine valley and southern Germany. In general, the Neolithic stations do not appear to have been abandoned: on the contrary, there is a continuity of occupation (field of Chassey, Saone-et-Loire; Le Fort-Harrouard, Eure-et-Loir).

In the first period of the Bronze Age, five main groups can be distinguished, corresponding to a double commercial current: the eastern group of Savoy and the Jura (Fontaine-le-Puits, Savoy); the Cévennes group, with offshoots towards Provence (La Liquisse, Aveyron; Durfort, Gard); the Gironde group (Cabut, Gironde; Singleyrac, Dordogne); the Breton group, which extends over the departments of Finistère, Côtes-du-Nord, Morbihan, and also Normandy; the north-eastern group, from the Allier department to Lorraine, through Franche-Comté.

In the Jura some tumuli can be attributed to the second period of the Bronze Age (fields and tombs of Mesnay, near Arbois). In the third period of the bronze, as in Germany, the mounds multiply and their distribution area widens. The eastern territories, Lorraine, Burgundy and Franche-Comté, are called to exercise a preponderant part. The tombs (Courtavant, Aube) closely resemble those of the left bank of the Rhine and the objects of furnishings offer the greatest analogies with those collected in the tombs of Germany. In the fourth period, the mounds still gain ground; around noon they reach the department of Lozère (La Roche-Rousse); towards the north they reach the Upper Marne. At the same time, cremation cemeteries are also known, Urnenfelder). The two groups of necropolis correspond to two groups of populations. The mounds represent the expansion of the Celts in France, the urn fields that of the foreign elements marching to the west, who came from further away than the Celts, since they spread in France the pottery of the Lusatian type (H. Hubert), rather than that of the peoples of the Alpine race, who, with their union with the men of the mounds, would have formed the Celts in eastern Gemiania (E. Rademacher). At the end of the Bronze Age, the area of ​​expansion of a type of weapon, the tabbed swords, which covers and limits the expansion area of ​​the mounds to the west and south (region of Paris, Cher, Vézère, Vaucluse, Drôme and Varo) must be considered as an index of the progress of the Celts.

For the deposits relating to the Iron Age see Gallic civilization.

France Prehistory 3