Tag Archives: Pyrénées


A comparison of the lithic industries
from two Azilian sites in Aquitaine:

how to Interpret Different Degrees
of Technical Simplification?


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The Azilian is generally characterized by a simplification of lithic industries, associated with a regional exploitation of raw materials. The variability of these manifestations is studied here through an analysis of the lithic assemblages of two regions where this culture appears to have evolved differently. Two sites are compared, the Pagès rockshelter (Lot, France) and Troubat cave-rockshelter (Hautes-Pyrénées, France), both located in the Aquitaine region, but in very different environmental contexts. Through this comparison, it is possible to address questions concerning adaptations to the environment (reductions sequences that are simple, but applied to two specific environmental contexts) and distinct cultural practices. These differences can be seen in the reduction techniques, even if they remain simple in both cases. At the Pyrenean site, they reveal practices linked to environmental constraints, which are also integrated with regional cultural practices, and reflected in the techno-economic organization.

To cite this article

Fat Cheung C., 2014 – A Comparison of the Lithic Industries from Two Azilian Sites in Aquitaine: How to Interpret Different Degrees of Technical Simplification?, P@lethnology, Varia, 28 p.


Archaeological Signatures of Hunting Activities
Applied to Comparisons of Mousterian, Chatelperronian
and Aurignacian Industries in the Pyrenees:

The Nature of Hunting Tools and Site Functions

François BACHELLERIE, François BON, Marianne DESCHAMPS,
Christian NORMAND, Jacques PELEGRIN, Jérôme PRIMAULT,

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Comparisons of lithic industries originating from a sample of sites in the Pyrenees and their Vasco-Cantabrian extension show the existence of different degrees of functional specialization, and that this specialization was more pronounced in Chatelperronian contexts than in Aurignacian ones. In the Chatelperronian, specialized sites where hunting activities took a major place (“hunting camps”) are correlated to consisted of occupations that had diverse functions, while in the Aurignacian there was only one site type: multifunctional installations where hunting was an important activity, but not the only one. To correctly interpret these results, however, we must consider the difficulty of comparing the functional attributes of industries with very different weapon systems; it is necessary to take into account the relative visibility, from one assemblage to another, of hunting weapons armed with apical lithic points (Chatelperronian model) as opposed to instruments armed with antler or wood points, only some of which had retouched or non retouched bladelets attached to them (Early Aurignacian model).

This methodological discussion of the archaeological attributes of hunting activities depending on the contexts and the industries considered becomes even more pertinent when we go back even further in time to compare these data with those the Late Mousterian in this same region.

That being, the combination of two criteria – the nature of hunting equipment and the probable specialization of some sites in relation to this activity – allows us to address questions concerning the reasons for this apparent contrast between the Chatelperronian and the cultures by which it is preceded and followed. This approach can lead to new research perspectives on the evolution of human behavior at the time of change from the Middle to Upper Paleolithic.

To cite this article

Bachellerie F., Bon F., Deschamps M., Eizenberg L., Henry-Gambier D., Mourre V., Normand C., Pelegrin J., Primault J., Scandiuzzi R., Thiébaut C., 2011 – Archaeological Signatures of Hunting Activities Applied to Comparisons of Mousterian, Chatelperronian and Aurignacian Industries in the Pyrenees: The Nature of Hunting Tools and Site Functions, in Bon F., Costamagno S., Valdeyron N. (eds.), Hunting Camps in Prehistory. Current Archaeological Approaches, Proceedings of the International Symposium, May 13-15 2009, University Toulouse II – Le Mirail, P@lethnology, 3, 131-167.


The Diversity of Hunting Camps
in the Pyrenean Gravettian

Aurélien SIMONET

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In the Pyrenean Gravettian, several types of sites that vary in terms of their technical elements and/or the density of their assemblages can be interpreted as hunting camps. How can this archaeological diversity contribute to social and economic interpretations of the human groups that occupied these sites? It appears that in the context of a centralized organization of the Pyrenean territory, in which Brassempouy and Isturitz played key economic, social and spiritual roles, the concept of a hunting camp applies to several types of sites specialized in hunting related activities, and at which other activities sometimes also took place. “Simple hunting camps”, which best correspond to the accepted definition, would thus have coexisted with “complex hunting camps”, at which flint knapping activities were performed along with hunting and butchery activities. Finally, there are other potential hunting camps whose assemblages include artistic representations. The identification of hunting camps therefore contributes to our understanding of the occupation strategies of a territory. Their diversity, high degree of specialization and the significant difference that exists between the low density of their assemblages and the high density of those of certain large occupation sites, represents a socio-economic coherence that seems to traverse the European continent. In effect, this tendency of hunting camps toward diversification and ultra-specialization accompanies the appearance the first large habitatsanctuaries with numerous female statuettes, associated with Modern Humans, such as Brassempouy, Laussel, Les Balzi Rossi and Willendorf in Western Europe. Hunting camps thus constitute an important element in reflections on the nature of cultural identity since they corroborate the idea of a phenomenon of double-polarization of human communities between 28000 and 22000 BP, which characterizes the Gravettian: relative to the Aurignacian tradition, Gravettian occupations appear to be more oriented toward the plains and large alluvial basins. In addition, within these more densely occupied zones, certain sites themselves are more densely occupied, and it is these that are generally associated the large assemblages of female statuettes: Brassempouy, Laussel, Les Balzi Rossi, Willendorf, Dolní Vĕstonice, Pavlov, Předmosti, Kostienki, Gagarino, Avdeevo and Zaraisk.

To cite this article

Simonet A., 2011 – The Diversity of Hunting Camps in the Pyrenean Gravettian, in Bon F., Costamagno S., Valdeyron N. (eds.), Hunting Camps in Prehistory. Current Archaeological Approaches, Proceedings of the International Symposium, May 13-15 2009, University Toulouse II – Le Mirail, P@lethnology, 3, 183-210.



Data and Thoughts Based on Examples
from Isturitz Cave (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France)


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Very early on, prehistoric groups in the western Pyrenees benefitted from the favorable geographic situation and vast dimensions of Isturitz Cave. The excavations conducted there in the beginning of the 20th century revealed evidence of frequent occupations during the Middle, and especially Upper Paleolithic. Starting in 1999, new research in the Saint-Martin gallery has focused on its Aurignacian stratigraphic sequence. The base of this sequence is composed of rich Archaic Aurignacian assemblages with a lithic industry largely dominated by bladelets. In this paper, we present the first results of usewear analyses of these bladelets, which reveal diverse functions. However, we also insist on the need to validate our hypotheses through experimentation.

To cite this article

Normand C., O’Farrel M., Rios Garaizar J., 2009 – The Function(s) of Archaic Aurignacian Bladelets:Data and Thoughts based on Examples from Isturitz Cave (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France), in Pétillon J.-M., Dias-Meirinho M.-H., Cattelain P., Honegger M., Normand C., Valdeyron N., Projectile Weapon Elements from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Neolithic, Proceedings of session C83, XVth UISPP World Congress, Lisbon, September 4-9, 2006, P@lethnology, 1, 6-44.