The oldest traces of Human Culture in the Rift Valley: The Oldowan

melka oldowan

This is an early “Chopper” or Flake-Core from Melka Kunture, an Ethiopian site, well known for its very Early Paleolithic. The earliest at findings at Melka Kunture come from the Oldowan (at the sites Karre and at level B of Gombore I); with a K/Ar age near to 1,6/1,7 m.y. A probably contemporaneous Oldowan site has been investigated at Garba IV with a radiometrical age between 1-5 and 1,5 m.y. The reevaluation of the Garba IV site by Gallotti showed, that unit D of Garba IV is characterized  by the emergence of a new chaîne opératoire focused on large flake/large cutting tool (LCT) production, and a large variability of small débitage modalities with systematic preparation of the striking platform and the appearance of a certain degree of predetermination , characteristic rather for an early Acheulian than for a Mode I industry-in good agreement with other early Acheulian dates in East Africa.

“Choppers” are stone cores with flakes removed from part of the surface, creating a sharpened edge that was used for cutting, chopping, and scraping. Microscopic surface analysis of the flakes struck from cores has shown that some of these flakes were also used as tools for cutting plants and butchering animals.

The term “Oldowan” is taken from the site of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where the first Oldowan lithics were discovered by the archaeologist Louis Leakey in the 1930s.

The earliest traces of hominid cultural behavior begin with several sites in primary context at Gona, in the Hadar region of the Afar triangle in Ethiopia, dating to 2,6 – 2,5 m.y. The Oldowan Industrial Complex is characterized by simple core forms, usually made on cobbles or chunks, the resultant debitage (flakes, broken flakes, and other fragments) struck from these cores, and the battered percussors (spheroids) used to produce the flaking blows.

The materials of the tools were for the most part quartz, quartzite, basalt, or obsidian, and later flint and chert. Experiments have shown that the entire range of Oldowan forms can be produced by hard-hammer percussion, flaking against a stationary anvil, bipolar technique, and, occasionally, throwing one rock against another. Sharp flakes were obtained by various methods, some of which indicate that as early as 2.5 million years hominins had developed knapping skills and manual dexterities that allowed them to organize and predetermine the knapping and produce longer sequences of flaking.

The typological categories commonly applied to Oldowan cores ( “heavy-duty tools,” ) can be viewed as a continuum of lithic reduction with the intent of producing sharp-edge cutting and chopping tools . In this view, many of the cores and so-called “core tools” found in Oldowan assemblages may not have been deliberately shaped into a certain form in order to be used for some purpose; rather their shapes may have emerged as a byproduct of producing sharp cutting flake.

Current evidence shows an abrupt appearance at c. 2.6 m.y of fully competent Mode I tool making at multiple high density sites at Gona accompanied by cut-marked bone at OGS-6,  indicating that Oldowan were used in meat-processing or -acquiring activities, and the nearby Middle Awash site of Bouri. By ca 2.4–2.3 m.y, Oldowan tools appear elsewhere in the Afar as well as further south at Omo and the Turkana. They are present throughout much of East and South Africa by c. 2.0–1.7 m.y (Olduvai Gorge: 1,9-1,7 m.y.).  The best contextualized location for a Olduvan in the Maghreb remains the site of Aïn Hanech, near Sétif in northern Algeria, and the nearby  site of El-Kherba. Both sites exhibit an Oldowan ensemble, dated to at least m.y. If change or stasis characterized the Oldowan is hotly debated. Different species of the genus Homo were the most probable makers of the Oldowan, while there are no convincing positive indications, that Australopithecus was also able for a continuous tool making behavior. An early Homo was recently found in Ledi-Geraru in the Afar triangle and dated to 2.8 m.y (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/03/03/science.aaa1343.full.pdf). 

The distribution of the Oldowan is most consistent with diffusion of Mode I flaking from a single origin in the Afar Rift c. 2.6 m.y, accompanied by the adaptation of specific technological practices (e.g., raw material selection and associated reduction strategies) to local environments and possibly a limited amount of cultural drift. Within this evolution the Mode I industry at Melka Kunture is rather late.

 

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The forgotten Paleolithic heritage of Tunisia

 

aggsbachs gafsa

This post displays several chert MSA tools from different surface scatters from the Gafsa area (Literary Arabic: قفصة Qafṣah ; Tunisian Arabic: ‎ [ˈqɑfsˤɑ] Qafṣa , southern accent: [ˈɡɑfsˤɑ] Gafṣa ), originally called Capsa in Latin, which is the capital of Gafsa Governorate of Tunisia. It lends its Latin name to the Epipaleolithic Capsian culture.  MSA / Aterian scatters are also common in this area.

Many Paleolithic sites in Africa are located at artesian springs or groundwater upwellings. The wetter climates may have provided preferred landscapes that were periodically inhabitable by Pleistocene hominids.

A unique Acheulian spring site was found at Amanzi, near Uitenhage in the south-eastern Cape; South Africa. Several occupations, in part relatively undisturbed, were located around marshy and well-vegetated spring eyes, at a time of accelerated artesian discharge.

Much work has been conducted in the dating of spring sediments in the Oases of the Western Desert in Egypt. The episodes of higher humidity and consecutive  lake expansion and regression suggest the presence of habitable landscapes from around 400,000 years ago until after 100,000 years ago, corresponding to fluctuating global climates between OIS 11-OIS 3.

Iron-rich sediments in Dakhleh Oasis, Western Desert of Egypt, have been recognized as spring mounds and as archaeological sites where Paleolithic materials (Acheulian and Middle Paleolithic /MSA assemblages) have been recovered.  The spring mounds of Dakhleh Oasis represent a shallow-water, bog-like environment that existed prior to lacustrine development in the oasis. This landscape was utilized in some manner by all Paleolithic groups, as indicated by the recovery of artifacts from spring mound vents and sediments.  In the eastern basin Acheulian and MSA materials have been found within spring sediments at several different vents, whereas in the western basin artifacts belonging to several different Middle Paleolithic phases have been excavated from a single vent.

tunisia aggsbach 3At Bir Tarfawi, southern Egypt, Acheulian and MSA artifact assemblages were typically found in sands that underlie deposits composed of high amounts of carbonate or fine muds indicative of expanding lakes and wetter climates. At Kharga oasis, first discovered and analyzed by Gertrude Caton-Thompson in the 1920s, the same holds true for the Acheulian and MSA deposits.

Sidi Zin, in Northern Tunisia, is a site where rich “Upper Acheulian” assemblages (undated) and fossil faunal remains were recovered by Gobert from deposits laid down in and around the pool of a spring at the confluence of two ravines. There are three Acheulian horizons plus a MSA horizon in the capping tufa. The Acheulian assemblages differ from each other in a manner that seems to involve both style and perhaps activity and function. The faunal remains, which seem to be food-refuse, include elephant, rhinoceros, an equine (Equus mauritanicus), aurochs, gnu, Bubalis, gazelle and barbary sheep.The small number of rather crudely made artifacts ascribed to the Middle Stone Age include side-scrapers, thick points, three small bifaces and several abruptly retouched pieces of flint.

Several important Tunisian MSA-sites are associated with artesian springs and certainly provide an exceptional archeological potential. Data from renewed excavations at these sites  are urgently awaited.

tunesia aggsbach2A enigmatic structure of approximately 60 spheroidal stone balls which formed a regular cone 75 cm high and 1,50 m in diameter was recovered from a fossil spring at the site of El-Guettar. Mixed in with it were a large number of retouched flint tools and manufacturing waste together with many teeth, splinters and pounded fragments of bone. The circumference at the base appeared to have been ringed by a number of larger stones. While a few flint balls had been placed on at the top of the pile; all others were limestone spheres. They had diameters ranging between 4·5 and 18·0 cm. The smaller and more regular were at the top while the stone heap base, larger, were only roughly spherical. Most of these spheroids were natural, and only a few had been regularized by picketing. . Notably, the excavator did not find such pebbles in the immediate vicinity of the deposit. It is suggested that the pile could indicate some ritual / symbolic behavior.  Less appealingly, but not impossibly, it could be an accumulation of occupation waste that had either fallen into the eye from an adjacent living-floor, or been intentionally piled in the spring since, if this lay within a fissure well below the surface, it might have been necessary to have a place to stand to collect the water.

Several MSA strata were reported from the site. Levallois cores, Levallois flakes, blades  and retouched tools were present in varying amounts: Scrapers (simple, double, convergent, dejete), Mousterian points, denticulated tools and a single tanged Aterian point in the lowermost level. Leaving the one tanged point aside the technocomplex would be described as a Levallois Mousterian (in European terms: type Ferrassie). Some small Handaxes, similar to the one shown in this post,  were also present.

The pollen diagram from the El-Guettar clearly shows that the Mediterranean vegetation was able to spread into southern Tunisia during MSA times whereas the site today is on the border between plateau and desert steppe. This holds also true for the  Pollen counts from the Oued el-Akarit site, east of El-Guettar and on the coast, which similarly show the presence of Mediterranean-type forest.

tunisia aggsbachIn Tunisia, there are several very similar MSA assemblages without any or with a negligible quantity of “Aterian (tanged) ” tools, found stratified within chott (salt lake) deposits, partly cut through by spring activity and intercalated with the sandy deposits. The most prominent is that from Ain Metherchem.

Here different methods of the Levallois technique were used (preferential, recurrent, un- and bipolar and centripetal) for the production of simple, convergent and double scrapers, Mousterian points and only two pedunculated  tools.

Recent field prospecting and tests in the Meknassy Basin (Central Tunisia) have revealed many prehistoric sites; among these, some belong to the MSA. The potential of these new sites seems to be promising.  Maybe these new and renewed excavations of the “old” sites will help to resolve open chronological questions and help to clarify the old question if the “Aterian” is only a facies of  a general North African MSA or has to be seen as an independent  technocomplex.

Fig. 1: Biface (also on Fig. 2) and triangular scraper (also on Fig.4) on a thick Levallois flake (patinated Flint)

Fig.2: Asymmetrical bifacial scraper ona thick non-Levallois flake (patinated Flint)

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Let Us Now Praise Unknown Men and Women…….

melka-msa-aggsbach-920x1024

Figure 1 shows a Middle Paleolithic / MSA point from Melka Kunture / Etiopia, which is at least 120 k.a. old. In the archaeological record of both Eastern and Southern Africa as well as in the Middle East there is immense lithic variability associated with Homo sapiens sites. It is important that adaptions and innovations of our Species are embedded in a Middle Paleolithic technology for most of the time. Typical Upper Paleolithic ensembles appeared only at ca 45-40 k.a. BP.

According to the modified replacement model, that I personally prefer, Homo sapiens is supposed to have appeared in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. The oldest individuals found so far are the Omo Kibish remains (195 k.a), found with an elaborated MSA industry (Levallois and Discoidal technology, scrapers and denticulated tools / bifacial points and small handaxes: rare but present)  and the Homo sapiens Idaltu (160 k.a.), that was found at the Herto/Middle Awash site in Ethiopia together with a typical Sangoan industry with some handaxes.

Figure 2 shows some Middle Paleolithic / MSA points from a certain site at Shambyu / Rundu in the Kavango River region of Namibia.

middle paleolitic msa namib

AHMs in South Africa, were present at Border Cave between 115-90 k.a. and at  Klasies River Mouth at ca 90 k.a. Modern humans reached the Near East 100-120 k.a., producing several variants of the “Levallois- Mousterien “. If they stayed here until OIS3 or retreated back to East- Africa remains controversial. In the Nil valley the Taramsa child is coming from a late Middle Paleolithic, Levallois based context ca 55 k.a. Figure 3 shows  two Nubian foliates from the Nil valley-part of the early “Nubian complex”, probably dating to OIS5.

aggsbachs-msa-foliates-836x1024

It is now believed by strong genetic evidence that the first modern humans to spread east across Asia left Africa about 75 k.a. years ago across the Bab el Mandib connecting what is today Ethiopia and Yemen. Anyhow we lack of any paleonthological proof for this hypothesis. Figure 4 shows some MSA-Foliates from Yemen, very similar to the East African MSA, but pure Levallois ensembles without a bifacial component have also found in the South of the Arabian peninsula.

middle paleolithic yemen aggsbach

From the Levant (Menot cave 55k.a; Figure 5 shows some Mousterian Points from Northern Israel) and probably from the Arabian peninsula Homo sapiens went east to South Asia (Tam Pa Ling: 46-51 k.a.), East Asia (Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, near Beijing City: 42- 38 k.a.) and on to Australia. The oldest Australian human fossil remains date to around 40 k.a-this is 15 k.a. after the earliest archaeological evidence of the continents human occupation.  First traces of our species in Europe are dating late, around 35-40 k.a. old (Peştera cu Oase).

carmel

 

Morocco has yielded one of the richest and most complete hominin fossil records of AHMs, dating to OIS5/6 including important cranial remains from Jebel Irhoud, Dar-es-Soltan II, and Contrebandiers Cave.  Early Moroccan H. sapiens is always associated with Middle Paleolithic (Aterian and “Mousterian”). The oldest trace of an archaic Homo sapiens is a 160 k.a. old skull from Jebel Irhoud . If these populations contributed to the genetic pool of modern Humans  that  moved “out of Africa” at 50 k.a BP is unknown, but possible. Figure 6 shows typical Middle Paleolithic tools from the area.

mousterian Marocco

Suggested Reading:

http://www.unisa.edu.au/global/eass/hri/let%20us%20now%20praise%20fammen.pdf

 

 

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Manot Man: Modern Humans and Neanderthals in Israel

 

tabun

This is a 7 cm long Levallois Point from a site in Northern Israel, made by Neanderthals or AHMs.

Around 90-100 k.a. (OIS5) there is first evidence in the Levant for modern humans leaving Africa, where the caves of Mugharet es-Skhul and Jebel Qafzeh (Israel) have yielded the remains of over 20 individuals, many of whom appeared to have been intentionally buried.  AMHs at these sites used Levallois technologies with little evidence of laminar production. They feature a lithic chaîne opératoire emphasizing the production of broad oval Levallois flakes by centripetal Levallois core preparation. In this respect, the lithic assemblages from Qafzeh XVII-XXIV are broadly comparable with those from Tabun C.

Middle Paleolithic assemblages from inside Qafzeh cave and from Levels I-XV differ somewhat from earlier levels, with Level XV showing a greater emphasis on triangular flake production by unidirectional convergent Levallois core preparation. The lithic production from broadly contemporaneous strata at the newly discovered open air site at Nesher Ramla in N-Israel, where no human remains were found up to now, is quite different, showing a larger variability of knapping activities during OIS5, than suggested before.

OIS4 /and early OIS3 are characterized by a rich Neanderthal fossil record in the Levant known from Amud, Kebara, Geula and Dederiyeh (75–48 k.a.).  This record was used to postulate, that Homo sapiens retreated to Africa after OIS5 and was not be present in the Middle East until ca 40-45 k.a.

Until recently, the oldest known Homo sapiens (“Egbert” [Ksar Akil 1]) known from the area had been found at Ksar Akil in 1938. The remains of a juvenile individual were found in level XVII (or XVIII) at the Ksar Akil site. These levels are associated with the Early Ahmarian, an early Upper Palaeolithic industry in the Levant.

The overall picture seemed therefore to be clear: Whenever the climate was warm, the region would be occupied by modern humans; when it was cool it would be occupied by Neanderthals. There seemed to be no Sympatry between AHMs and Neanderthals in the Middle East. Neanderthals, the makers of the Levallois-Mousterian, died out in the Levant at ca 40 k.a, while Homo sapiens, coming back from East Africa, the Nile valley or the Arabic peninsula again, invented the Upper Paleolithic (maybe in the Negev) and conquered the world.

This was a twofold mistake because the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence and because there is only a poor correlation between hominins and their lithic technocomplexes.

A Cranium discovery from Manot cave in North Israel shows that Homo sapiens was living in the Middle East already 55 k.a. ago.  This is one mayor result from a paper published last week. The enormous Manot cave was discovered by chance when a bulldozer broke through the roof while cutting a sewer trench for a nearby village and is excavated since 2009. The original cave entrance was blocked following the collapse of the roof, probably between 30 -15 k.a. ago. (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14134.html).

The first question is if  this AHM represent the “successful second wave“ from Africa  after the unsuccessful colonization of the Levant by the Skhul/Qafzeh humans or if AHMs stayed in the levant after their first colonisazion. Regarding that Manot man was found more than 70 years after “Egbert”  it is not unrasonable to assume that other  AHM fossils will be detected in the future, dating to OIS4 and close the gap between  Skhul/Qafzeh and Manot.We should not easily dismiss the idea of a continuous presence of AHMs in the Levant  during OIS5-3.

Another question deals about the technocomplexes in the cave that would be left by Manot man. Archeologists found typical tools from the Levantine Levallois-Mousterian and stratified Upper Palaeolithic tools, which display characteristics both of the Ahmarian and Aurignacian. The Upper Paleolithic at the site was dated between 41 and 30 k.a. cal BP. There is any reason to assume, that Manot man produced Middle Paleolithic tools at 55 k.a. BP, which were not very different from those made by Neanderthals at the same time.

Anyhow, Manot man also tells us how the hominids looked like, shortly before they entered Eurasia and is an archeological proof  that AMHs had the chance to interbreed with Neanderthals during  OIS3 as already predicted by genetic data.

(all dates are in expressed in  calendar years)

Another artifacts from the same site:

tabuni

taba

Suggested Readings: 

http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/marder337/

http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.aspx?id=2183

http://www.israel-nachrichten.org/archive/14383

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Mutzig and the Middle Paleolithic of the Alsace

 

mutzig

This is one of the very few bifacial artifacts found near a Mousterian site at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France).

The Middle Palaeolithic along the Upper Rhine is very poorly known, although it is relatively well documented in the adjacent French and German regions. The discovery of several open air Neanderthal camps (dated to MIS 3) at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France) offers a fresh look at the first prehistoric populations in this region.

Upper Pleistocene Paleontological material near Mutzig was first observed during railway operations in 1927. First discoveries of a Middle Paleolithic were communicated during the 1990ies, followed by rescue excavations at several localities. Up to now, nine sites attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic were discovered at the base of a cliff overlooking the Bruche Valley at Mutzig.

Since 2009, systematic excavations have been carried out by the Pôle d’Archéologie Interdépartemental Rhénan (PAIR), the Universities of Strasbourg, Basel, Cologne, and Lille and the Museum of Natural History of Paris. These field seasons confirm an excellent preservation of the archaeological record, placing the value of the site at a European level since abundant lithic and faunal assemblages, and perhaps spatial organization, have been detected.

Several multilayered sites with very similar lithic inventories and faunal remains have been excavated till now.  About 30 different raw materials that were used for artifact production have been identified. Neanderthals that inhabited the valley during the Middle Paleolithic period used volcanic and volcanogenic siliceous Paleozoic rocks, or slickenside and metamorphic rocks of the Vosgean sandstone.

At Mutzig the Discoidal technique was best adapted for the knapping of the raw material. Most important formal artifacts were scrapers, double convergent scrapers, choppers,  and naturally backed knifes.  The Levallois technique is attested, but was not widely used, maybe because not adequate for raw materials that were used.  Neanderthals in the Bruche valley hunted game mainly reindeer and horse, also Mammoth, buffalo, aurochs, saïga antelope, megaloceros (giant deer), stag, roe-deer, fox, and wolf.

Suggested Reading:

http://scd-theses.u-strasbg.fr/1098/02/REBMANN2005.pdf

 

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Bout-coupé Handaxes and Neanderthals in N/W-France and Britain

bout coupet aggsbach 1

Britain during MIS3 was well-stocked but treeless grassland, with short, cool summers and long, cold winters marked by blasting winds, frozen ground and persistent snow. This is what Neanderthals apparently faced as they headed northwest from their more southerly glacial refugia during MIS4/3. Often referred to as a failed interglacial, MIS3 was actually a period of extreme climatic instability, with dramatic alternations between milder and colder conditions at millennial or sub-millennial timescales (Dansgaard – Oeschger oscillations).

Throughout MIS3 period, direct terrestrial access from continental N/W-Europe into Britain was practicable. Although global ice volume was reduced from its MIS4 maximum, land ice probably limited to local ice-caps, sea level was still some 80m lower than present. This was sufficient for Britain to remain a peninsula of NW Europe. Mainland Britain was at this time an „upland‟ zone on the western fringe of the North European Plain, part of the region sometimes referred to as Western Doggerland. This was bounded on the south and east by extensive, resource rich lowland basins (i.e. the present North Sea and Channel) into which several major British and European river systems would have drained, some joining the westward-flowing Channel River en route to the Atlantic, others flowing north into a greatly reduced North Sea.

The Late Middle Paleolithic during early MIS 3 in Britain was characterized by a particular form of handaxe. Bout coupé handaxes are defined as being roughly symmetrical, cordiform handaxes with a straight or slightly convex butt and two clear angles formed at the intersection of the butt and lateral margins (White and Jacobi 2002). The Bout coupé clearly falls outside of the Acheulean range of handaxes and exhibits a strong element of prepared non-Levallois core technique, with well-made flake tools. Most, if not all of these handaxes appear within distinct temporal and spatial limits (ca. 60- 40k.a.BP, early MIS3). The bout coupé handaxe is geographically restricted to Britain and some sites in Northern France, and forms a large part of Mousterian-age assemblages in Britain.

The majority of bout coupé handaxes of S/W-Britain are isolated and/ or surface finds, and give a good idea of the spread of the Mousterian over Britain after a period of clear depopulation, indicating a rather wide, but low- density, distribution, including both cave sites. Bout coupé handaxes have been recovered from over 145 find spots spread over Britain, from Devon to Derbyshire. The open- air site of Lynford was discovered in 2002 and provides the largest and best contextualized Late Middle Palaeolithic site in Britain. It has been assigned to the MTA because of the presence of a numerous cordiform handaxes, including bout coupé types.

Ruebens, using a techno-typological approach demonstrated that Bifaces from the late Middle Paleolithic of Britannia “are highly mobile, dynamic objects, even in situations of local raw material abundance. They show clear evidence of their conservation by Neanderthals, with extended use-lives, and very dislocated reduction sequences, especially for translucent flint bifaces transported to other regions. However, even in flint-rich regions, bifaces were maintained and repaired, transformed after breaks by re-modelling or recycled as cores, and treated as adaptable supports for other tool forms”.

The Handaxe shown here is a small and heavily reworked example of a Bout coupé (5 x 4 x 1,2 cm) from Le Bois-l’Abbé at Saint-Julien de la Liègue a commune in the Eure department in Haute-Normandie in northern France. This site is dated by geochronological arguments between MIS5 to MIS3. Clinquet (2001) originally called the industry at Saint-Julien de la Liègue and some other sites in the Normandy and Northern France (Bois-du-Rocher, Fontmaure, Saint-Julien de la Liègue, Muret, and Clos-Rouge): the “Moustérien à petits bifaces dominants”.  Most handaxes from these sites are cordiform, but the Bout coupé variety has been repeatedly observed in larger ensembles. This handaxe type may be a signature of a certain technological unity of late Neanderthals on both sides of the channel during MIS3.

Suggested Reading:

http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/19299/1/19299.pdf

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/neanderthals-among-mammoths/neanderthals-among-mammoths.pdf

http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/367133/

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Before Boucher de Perthes: Casimir Picard at the Somme

 

amiens katzman somme neolithique

The Somme is a river in Picardy, northern France. The name Somme comes from a Celtic word meaning “tranquility”.  The river is 245 km long, from its source in the high ground of the former Forest of Arrouaise at Fonsommes near Saint-Quentin, to the Bay of the Somme, in the English Channel. It lies in the geological syncline which also forms the Solent. This gives it a fairly constant and gentle gradient.

The Quaternary formations of the Somme, Seine and Yonne river valleys have long been studied because of their rich Palaeolithic localities. These valleys played an important role in the emergence of prehistoric archaeology in France and in the development of the research on the Quaternary sequences, especially in the case of the Somme (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/01/handaxe-from-the-somme-valley/).

The Somme is incised into Upper Cretaceous chalk, and the richness in flint of these strata has likely influenced the number of Palaeolithic sites that characterizes the region around Amens and Abbeville.

This is a flat 28 cm long Neolithic axe from the Somme, formerly part of the collection of Casimir Picard (1806-1840), a physician from Abbeville, who- like many physician at this time-had a strong antiquarian interests and a passion for  natural history.

In 1837, Picard conducted highly detailed and rigorous studies of the stratigraphy of the lower Somme river valley; some of these sites of the region of Abbeville would become, after his premature death in 1844 (he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 34), the sites of renewed research by Boucher de Perthes.

It was Picard, and not Boucher de Parthes, who claimed for the first time, that stone tools and an extinct fauna in the Somme valley were contemporaneou but as an early 19th century antiquarian, he also thought the flint artifacts found in the gravels belonged to the ancient Gauls. He had no idea about the real time depth of such findings.

Picard was a  empiricist who believed that a scientific antiquarian must first gain a detailed knowledge of the intrinsic makeup of artefacts themselves before becoming overly concerned about their possible culture-historical significance. In the few short years left to him, Picard worked out the basics of lithic technology, among other things how blade and flake tool blanks are detached from prepared cores; and, equally important, how chipped stone tools such as handaxes differed fundamentally from the polished axes that are nowadays dated to the Neolithic and later prehistoric times. He may have been the first to recognize clearly that Paleolithic handaxes do not simply represent roughed-out tool blanks destined to be converted into the polished forms. Anyhow it is not clear how far he came to suspect that the two different classes are not only simply functionally different but could represent different stages in the archaeological record.

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