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Issues and perspectives of the Alpine Neolithic:

the case of the Maurienne (Savoie – France)


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In this paper, we question the significance of “Alpine” research on the Neolithic, applying both a theoretical and practical approach based on the example of the Maurienne valley (Savoie). The adjective “Alpine”, accompanied by that of “Neolithic”, might have only a geographic sense. We nonetheless believe that it makes an implicit reference to the “Alpine economy”, a concept developed by geographers to describe a modern economic system concentrated on the raising of bovids for the production of cheese. Though comparisons between the modern era and the Neolithic are dangerous, the concept of mobility seems to be a common point and a corollary of that of identity. The necessity of a regional approach led us to conduct research in the high Maurienne, an east-west axial valley on the internal Alps. An ancient, relatively abundant documentation and fieldwork conducted by several volunteer archaeologists shows several occupation points in this territory between 500 and 1500 m in altitude, with a few points as high as 2200 m. The first dated occupations are attributed to the Vasi a Bocca Quadrata culture (2nd half of the Vth millennium BC), but it is not until the Final Neolithic that two excavated sites give insight into the settlement patterns. Information concerning the resources exploited by human groups is rich in this case and reveals regional markers. Therefore, rather than think of an Alpine Neolithic, we prefer to speak of a Neolithic occupation in the Alps.

To cite this article

THIRAULT É., 2009 – Issues and Perspectives of the Alpine Neolithic: the Case of the Maurienne (Savoie – France), P@lethnology, Varia, 398-414.