A Leaf Point from Solutré

solutre aggsbachThe site of Solutré (46°18’N, 4°42’E), located in the department of Saône-et-Loire, approximately 10km west of Mâcon, is most widely known as the eponym for the Solutrean lithic industry and phase of the Upper Paleolithic, allthough the Solutrean Industry at this site is rather poor and atypic compared to others (Laugerie, Badegoule). The majority of cultural materials recovered from excavations over nearly 150 years were excavated from a gentle slope located to the south-east of a nearly 500m tall limestone escarpment, the Roche de Solutré, in areas known respectively as the Crot-du-Charnier, Terre Communale, Terre Seve, and Terre Souchal- the find spot of the leaf point displayed here.

The time period of the late glacial maximum, around 20 k.a. years ago, offered the most rigorous and challenging environments for human adaptation, and may have offered the most severe natural selection pressure for evolutionary changes in the organization of subsistence behavior in Europe during the late Pleistocene. It has been argued that the glacial maximum reduced human subsistence territory in large parts of Europe and led to economic specialization and / or a diversification in the more southward areas (reindeer hunting in France, reindeer, horse, bovid and ibex hunting in Spain). Indeed the Solutrean seems to be a time span of innovative power. Sophisticated flint-projectiles were used for big game hunting.  Bone needles with eyes occur and indicate the use of fitted clothing, useful during the harsh LGM. Spear throwers have been at several sites like Combe Saunière also attested  advanced hunting techniques of the Solutreans.

The Solutrean, is characterized for its beautifully made, symmetrical, bifacially flaked, laurel-leaf, and shouldered points, which are considered to be the finest examples of flint workmanship of the Paleolithic in Western Europe. These points were produced by working both with hard and soft hammer methodology, heat treating and with pressure retouch.

Some sites have an exceptional amount of these points. At Placard (Charente) about 5000 specimens have been found. Excavations at the site of Combe Saunière yielded a large quantity of well-preserved Solutrean artefacts, including more than 400 shouldered point fragments.The raw material is usually of high quality. The point displayed here is of red banded flint (examples of this raw material: see the preceeding post)  that was used for the most sophisticated laurel leaf points at Solutre. The amount of work invested in these points is considerably higher than the efforts that were made for other Solutrean artifacts (mainly endscrapers, some burins…). It is suggested that at least some of these points were made for non utilitarian use and that their style may indicate exchange networks and hunting territories.

Typological chronologies and “fossil directeurs” do not have the time resolution once thought, although it is clear that during the early Solutrean, which is present in S/W-France and Iberia, unifacial points (Points a face plane) are common. In the middle and advanced Solutrean, these points are gradually replaced by laurel-leaf points, willow-leaf points and shouldered points. Local styles appear, like “the large Laurel leaf phenomenon “, tanged points at Parpallo and other nearby sites, points with a concave base in Iberia, and bizarre implements, with notches or asymmetrical shapes. The presence, absence and relative frequency of supposedly diagnostic Solutrean points are variable among individual levels and sites for reasons of functional, stylistic and sampling differences. In addition, there is no way to subdivide the Solutrean into general chronological phases based on C-14 dating till now.

There seem to be regional differences in the age of the Solutrean phenomenon, although in general terms it spans the period between ca. 21-17 k.a. BP. The Aquitaine Solutrean is almost all old (21-19 k.a.). The Solutrean in the Creuse region is younger (20-17 k.a.), like the dates from Cantabrian Spain. In Andalusia and Portugal, the Solutrean seems to span the whole range of time from ca. 21-17 k.a. BP.

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