Scraper from La Ferrassie Rockshelter



This is a double convex scraper from La Ferrassie.   La Ferrassie is a rock-shelter, near 20 km southwest from Les Eyzies, Dordogne Department, France. After early excavations by E. Rivière, the large Abri was excavated between 1905 and 1934 by Peyrony, who described 11 cultural layers (see below). The lower ones belonged to a Mousterian with cordiform Bifaces followed by the Ferrassie-Mousterian facies and a sequence from the Early and Mid-Upper Paleolithic until the Noaillian during the Tursac oscillation.

Henri Delporte re-excavated the site in 1968-1973 and Delporte with Tuffreau in 1984 (Chatelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian). It was in the more eastern part of the site that Delporte continued excavations , focusing especially on cleaning a large sagittal section at the extreme east and a frontal, or longitudinal section  along the back wall of the cave/shelter. Overall Delporte and Tuffreau confirmed the earlier observations. Most of the deposits in this part of the site were Upper Paleolithic, with some Ferrassie Mousterian deposits at the base, which appeared to have been subject to a fair degree of disturbance, , which may have mixed some of the deposits.

Ongoing excavations by Dibble et al. are focusing on the chronology of the oldest strata (a Middle Paleolithic ensemble with bifaces) probably dating to MIS5, and the stata, that were used to define the Ferrassie Mousterian facies and that contained the famous “Neanderthal burials”.

Interestingly, the Ferrassie Mousterian layers are attributed to MIS 3 by OSL, between 54 ± 3 and 40 ± 2 ka, and thus appear very late in the final Middle Palaeolithic of the region. These data fit to ESR dates, of two Neanderthal teeth which also indicate to an MIS3 age. Regarding that “Ferrassie ensembles” in the Aquitaine are usually said to be MIS5/early MIS4 (at Combe Grenal on geochronological grounds) preceding “Quina ensembles“ which are present during MIS 4 (Roc de Marsal  (F) , Pinaud Jonzac, Quina) – this date would indicate much more synchrony of the different ” Mousterian facies” that previously suggested.

Among the finds were eight Neanderthal skeletons. It is generally suggested that La Ferrassie represents a cemetery with intentional burials. This site has yielded the largest well preserved collection of contemporaneous Neanderthals from Europe.  The space of the Ferrassie Rock shelter was well structured during the Mousterian. Peyrony detected an ensemble with nine small mounds, six ovate depressions and 7 burials. A slab of limestone with several hollowed-out depressions was found over the burial of one of the children. Although some overcritical Archaeologists deny that any of these observations are valid, Peyronys excavations were meticulous and his stratigraphy was confirmed during the excavations of H. Delporte in the 1970, were another burial was found (La Ferrassie 8). Possibly symbolic artifacts, such as the pierre à cupules that covered LF 6, and a long bone fragment with four series of parallel incisions.

About the La Ferrassie cemetery:

ESR dates of two Neanderthal teeth indicate an age between 55 ± 2 k.a to 61 ± 5 k.a BP. These ages correlate with the late (cold) OIS 4 or the earliest OIS 3, when climate became more unstable.

About the Mousterian in the greater Aquitaine in French:


Complementary Stratigraphies in the Dordogne (Laugerie Haute and Ferrassie)
Events during OIS3 Laugerie Haute Ferrassie (after Peyrony) Ferrassie (Current Interpretation)
Mousterien Mousterien (several strata)
Les Cottes Perigordien I Castelperonnien
Perigordien II Protoaurignacien
Aurignacien I Aurignacien ancien
Arcy Aurignacien II Aurignacien recent
Aurignacien III Aurignacien recent
Maissieres Aurignacien IV Aurignacien recent
Perigordien Va Gravettien (Font Robert)
Perigordien Vb Gravettien
Tursac Perigordien Vc Gravettien (Noailles)
Perigordien VI and VII(Protomagdalenian)
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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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