Combe Grenal: Again and Again

This is a simple scraper from Combe Grenal. The Grotte de Combe-Grenal is located in a little valley situated to the east of the village of Domme, 10 km to the south-east of Sarlat, quite near the valley of the Dordogne, in the south west of France (

Excavations at Combe Grenal were carried out by François Bordes over a period of 12 years (between 1953 and 1965) and revealed a long sequence of archaeological deposits spanning the period from isotope stage 6 (125 k.a. BP) through to IOS 3 at about 50 k.a. BP (see figure below according Mellars 1996).

As an Excavator, Bordes improved his archaeological practice over the years. As an analyst, Bordes combined the stratigraphic technique with the statistical analysis of the lithic ensembles. According to him, Combe-Grenal contained the 5 variants of the Mousterian complex: Ferrassie and Quina-Type, Typical Mousterian MTA and Denticulate Mousterian. The MTA was better represented in the nearby Pech de l’Azé.

Bordes excavated generated a large collection of lithics and fauna from a deep series of 64 Lower and Middle Paleolithic levels. The Combe Grenal collections have been subjected to numerous studies over the years and have figured prominently in several debates concerning the Middle Paleolithic variability.

  • Bordes and the cultural hypothesis: the different Mousterians reflect different cultural groups and or traditions.
  • Binford and the functional hypothesis: the different Mousterians reflect functional adaptations.
  • Mellars and the temporal hypothesis: the different Mousterians reflect chronological succession (especially: Ferrassie-Quina-MTA-A-MTA-B).
  • Dibble/Rolland and the reduction hypothesis: the different Mousterians are consequences of different strategies of exploitation of lithic raw materials.

There are different pros and cons for every single of these hypotheses and even Francois Bordes cultural history approach is not a dead issue among European archaeologists (allthough most of them would not admit).

At the moment new excavations are carried out at the site in order to complete the publication of the Bordes’ collection, verify the stratigraphy, and apply new absolute dating techniques and testing different new hypothesis regarding Mousterian lithic variability. It is quite sure, that Combe Grenal  will remain one of the most important Mousterian stratigraphies in Europe.

Stratigraphy according Mellars 1996:

Suggested Reading:

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2 Responses to Combe Grenal: Again and Again

  1. hi, nice post, i would like to share it but this link does not work : am i doing it wrong ? thanks

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