The Denticulated Mousterian in S/W-France

Three denticulated tools from the Middle Paleolithic of the Dordogne (the left one from Combe Capelle, 6-7cm long).

The Backing of tools in the MTA-B and the Chatelperronian and a similar geographical distribution of both technocomplexes is highly suggestive that the Chatelperronian may be derived from the MTA-B, but this is far from being firmly proven.

Backing per se indicates hafting of tools, but is this enough for reconstructing a connection between the two technocomplexes?  Are Chatelperronian-points really the refined variants of MTA knifes? A detailed study about this question with up-to date methodology is not available to my knowledge.  Repeatedly cited figures of Paul Mellars which show some items of backed implements of each entity are very suggestive but rather anecdotic.

In science, one should avoid thinking in analogies, because this will inevitably lead to circular reasoning.  One prominent example is the “Perigordian”. In French, the Gravettian (Upper Perigordian) was for decades referred as a later stage of the Chatelperronian (Lower Perigordian). These suggestions followed Peyrony’s culture-historical aproach  about two “phyla“ (Perigordian / Aurignacian) that should have coexisted during the early upper Paleolithic. Indeed some refined Chatelperronian-points (at Les Cottes) look like large Gravettes and in turn several implements at La Gravette look like Chatelperronian points. After the late 1960ies it became clear that the lower and upper Perigordian were completely independent technocomplexes, separated from each other by at least 4000 years. It took long for the French Prehistorians to reject Peyrony’s constructs.

Anyhow I always was allways puzzled by the theory of a direct and gradual succession of the type MTA A → MTA-B → Archaic “Castelperronian” → Chatelperronian, although at the type-station Le Moustier and at other sites, a Denticulate Mousterian, followed by a Chatelperonnian superposed the MTA. The same holds true for the Rhone valley, where the Neronian seems to be the youngest expression of the middle Paleolithic ( At Arcy-sur-Cure  a denticulate Mousterian is the last  Mousterian before the Chatelperronian.

Jaubert et al. recently argued, that the paradigm that the MTA in S/W-France should contineously develop versus the Chatelperronian can be falsified. They propose that in fact the MTA and the Chatelperronian are separated by two final Mousterian phases: a Discoid-Denticulate Mousterian followed by a Levallois Mousterian with large scrapers.

Jaubert et al. state, that:

“• When this LTC is present in the same sequence as the Chatelperronian, it never follows or is interstratified with the latter and therefore systematically underlies it as can be seen at Roc-de-Combe and Saint-Césaire. This is also the case outside of the South West such as with the Grotte du Renne and Grotte du Bison at Arcy”.

• “At least three sites present sequences where the Discoid-Denticulate Mousterian overlies the MTA; Saint-Césaire, La Quina, and Brouillaud ».

• “When this LTC is found in the same sequence as the Quina Mousterian, it systematically overlies it as at Placard, Hauteroche, Combe-Grenal, La Quina, Chadourne, Puycelsi, and Roc-en-Pail (Mellars, 1969, 1996)“.

The case of the “impossible” MTA-Chatelperonnian connection, as well as the long goodby from the “Perigordian” shows how long it takes to challange our teachers paradigms and that accepting the “the obvious” is not always an easy task.

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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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