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Dynamique d’occupation au Paléolithique moyen, apport de l’analyse croisée géo-archéologique et techno-économique du site « les pièces de Monsieur Jarnac » à Bourg-Charente (Charente)

Abstract : The Palaeolithic site of Bourg-Charente (Charente, France) is a multi-level site excavated in 2012 as part of preventive archaeology. The site is located on the right bank of the Charente River in colluvial deposits overlying an alluvial terrace. Two main archaeological levels are distinguished. A Middle Palaeolithic assemblage TL-dated to 47.8 ± 3.7 ka and 45.9 ± 4.1 ka is preserved in a MIS3 interstadial palaeosol (Saint Acheul-Villiers-Adam Soil Complex). The overlying colluvium has yielded an Upper Palaeolithic assemblage TL-dated to 38.5 ± 3.0 ka. The main subject addressed in this paper is whether the activity areas found in the best-preserved part of the Middle Paleolithic level were synchronous in part or in their totality, and what this implies for the occupation pattern of the site. We will discuss this question in light of an integrated approach based on geological, taphonomical and archaeological analyses.The best-preserved area extends over 400 m² and yields mainly lithic artefacts of various types and sizes concentrated in groups. An extended area of artefacts in the middle is made up of tools (defined by typology or functional aspects, mostly denticulates and notches), flakes and debris derived from the production of flakes with an abrupt natural back. Functional analysis points to butchery activities and the processing of animal skins. Artefacts from the knapping of one or two blocks of siliceous material are found in limited groups covering one to four square meters on the edge of the area. The numerous refits and small number of blocks suggest that each concentration is a short knapping event to produce flakes. The lithic assemblage belongs to the "Discoid debitage with denticulates" technocomplex. Comparative morpho-functional analysis of the lithic concentrations indicates both variations and similarities between assemblages, the meaning of which remains difficult to assess. All the lithic artefacts, which show only slight vertical scattering in the upper part of the palaeosol, could come from a single occupation comprising a spatially circumscribed debitage near a larger, more diversified activity zone including animal processing activities.However, the taphonomic analysis shows a contrasting preservation of lithic concentrations, which is not characteristic of a single occupation. Detailed stratigraphic analyses reveal superimposed concentrations that have retained their integrity or, conversely, have been affected by downhill creep and hydraulic sorting in a periglacial context. This could reflect the succession of relatively temperate and cold periods typical of MIS3. If this interpretation is correct, it implies that repeated Middle Palaeolithic occupations occurred over several millennia.Since the best-preserved concentrations (each probably corresponding to a distinct occupation phase), contain only a small number of tools, we assume that human groups were small and/or that activities were limited in space (processing a carcass or part of a carcass) and time. The small groups belonged to the same technological universe, but had specific techno-functional traits. The paleoethnological study carried out on this site leds us to question the behaviour of Mousterian groups at the end of the Middle Palaeolithic. Here it shows that groups occupied the same place several times, seemingly for similar activities, leading to the constitution of a single, techno-economically coherent level. The case of the Middle Palaeolithic site of Bourg-Charente may be representative of many other sites and suggests that caution is needed in the analysis of large lithic accumulations even if they appear as coherent occupation units.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 26, 2022 - 5:54:18 PM
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Nelly Connet, Pascal Bertran, Émilie Claud, Blandine Larmignat, Ève Boitard-Bidaut. Dynamique d’occupation au Paléolithique moyen, apport de l’analyse croisée géo-archéologique et techno-économique du site « les pièces de Monsieur Jarnac » à Bourg-Charente (Charente). Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, Société préhistorique française, 2022, 119 (2), pp.179-211. ⟨hal-03738906⟩

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