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Between new and inherited technical behaviours: a case study from the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Southern France

Abstract : The beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic in Western Europe is traditionally associated with the emergence of new, more complex and standardised debitage technologies, such as Levallois technology. These changes occurred in the archaeological record between MIS 9 and MIS 6. This paper aims to evaluate the processes of technical change at work in Southern France, tracking innovations and persistent behaviours and potential shifts, to describe the process of transition and compare the Southeast and Southwest of France. We revised several major sites from Ardèche and Dordogne through the technological analysis of seven lithic assemblages in areas rich in good-quality raw materials, mostly flint. Technological analysis shows common features in lithic strategies and industries that can all be attributed to the Early Middle Palaeolithic. The features are a diversity of debitage methods and spatiotemporal management of the chaînes opératoires (ramification and artefact mobility). At the same time, algorithmic methods (Système par Surface de Débitage Alternées: SSDA) continue to be used, in the same way as large cutting tools (LCTs), although they are rare (pebble tools, bifaces and ‘mixed matrices’). These LCTs are persistent technologies from the Acheulean technocomplex. Gradual mosaic-type changes in the lithic record are particularly well demonstrated through the sequence of Orgnac 3, where a local onset of Levallois technologies appears to occur. Both in the Southeast and Southwest of France, the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic transition records gradual and asynchronous behavioural changes as early as MIS 9 to MIS 6. These shifts are not only due to increased hominin cognition. Abilities of human groups to adapt to diversified environments and regional cultural processes may also have played a key role. Several lithic technocomplexes coexisted between MIS 9 and 6 in these two areas and although differences in local strategies are obvious, similar trajectories towards MP behaviour can be detected.
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 12, 2020 - 1:28:19 PM
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Cyrielle Mathias, Laurence Bourguignon, Michel Brenet, Sophie Grégoire, Marie-Hélène Moncel. Between new and inherited technical behaviours: a case study from the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Southern France. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Springer, 2020, 12 (7), pp.146. ⟨10.1007/s12520-020-01114-1⟩. ⟨hal-02908708⟩

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