Versigny and the MTA of Northern France

When I visited “le nord” in the 1980ies, people of this part of France appeared to me alarmingly impoverished. At this time I could not imagine, that decreasing wealth would be a common phenomenon during the coming years for many inhabitants of the western countries after the neoliberal reforms, that started during the 1980ies.

About 1905-1915, Victor Commont , professor at the normal school at Amiens, worked extensively with Paleolithic materials from the region around the Somme Valley and established a local chronology before the WW I. He was also engaged in the survey of sites in the Aisne and Oise region, where he detected most of the “MTA” sites under discussion in this post. The tireless professor even visited military trenches in in the Picardie / Nord searching for Paleolithic material after the Germans had left the devastated landscapes and after the battlefront had moved towards the German border during the end of the war. During such a trip he fell ill with pneumonia and died in Abbeville on April 4th 1918.

In Northern France the MTA is characterized by rather large, thin triangular and cordiform bifaces made on flakes. Such ensembles include a strong Levallois-component, scrapers, points and denticulates and sometimes a lot of “Upper Paleolithic” artifacts. MTA ensembles have been identified at:

  • St Juste en Chaussee (Oise)
  • Catigny (Oise)
  • Versigny (Oise)
  • Marcoing (Nord)
  • Hamel (Nord)
  • Tillet (Seine et Marne)

Furthermore, the MTA in N-France encompasses different facies, for example without thin triangular bifaces but with small handaxes (e.g. Hamel) and other bifacial industries like the Micoquian, represented by the presence of pradniks, (Mont de Beuvry and Champlost).

The MTA of N-France show some similarities with the MTA  of S/W-France (OIS3) but is dated earlier (OIS 5d–5a). If there are any relations between the two technocomplexes is uncertain. Actually we lack of comparative studies regarding this question.

This small handaxe (8cm long) displays the typical morphological characteristics of the Versigny artifacts, which were collected by Colliez in the 1930ies. Such artifacts are usually made of flint, covered by a thick orange patination. Beside the artifacts, no deeper scientific information about Versigny is available. While other sites (St Juste en Chaussee , Catigny) were scientifically evaluated, Versigny remained a pure “collectors site”

About the MTA in the North:


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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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5 Responses to Versigny and the MTA of Northern France

  1. Ber says:

    May I add the spectacular assemblage of some 60-odd beautiful, small, finely worked MTA bifaces recovered in 2009 from a flintknapping site in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux in Northern France? Interesting also because of their age: about 50.000 BP, which makes them MIS 3. That’s much younger than the abovementioned sites and contemporaneous with the MTA in southwestern France. — Ber

    see (with slide show)

  2. Katzman says:

    Dear Ber,

    These artifacts are among the most beautiful MTA-items I have ever seen! I did not have any knowledge about them. The question is: did Neanderthals move to the S/W during OIS4, and if so-where are the sites?-or was the MTA invented and reinvented again and again? The “bipartation “of the Micoqian in Central Europe into sites, dated to OIS5 and 3 poses the same problem, but probably the Prodniks from the Abri de Musse at Eyzies are from the first pleniglacial…

  3. Ber says:

    The idea of southern refugia where northern Neanderthal survived in cold periods would seem to make sense. There would seem to be a number of archaeological indications for this, however difficult to interpret with the weak resolution we have on these remote, huge periods.
    As to the Saint-Amand-les-Eaux bifaces, and quite a few other MTA bifaces and sites, something I find baffling is why this variability in neat, very regular and symmetrical shapes, far beyond the requirments of efficient cutting, scraping and the like? It may have had to do with cultural (individual? clan?) style, with some social communicative function.
    Perhaps even – something which archaeologist, French ones in particular are notoriously blind for, because of lack in training in behavioural biology – with signalling one’s qualities as potential partner. Perhaps we will never know. To what extent did these shapes result from incidents of flintknapping – which sometimes tended towards triangular, then again to ovate or heartshaped forms?

  4. Katzman says:

    I suggest Neanderthals who were producing triangular handaxes really had “style”. These handaxes are the combination of very distinctive features of technical expression, execution, and performance that characterized a separate group and transported a social information.

  5. Pingback: The meaning and biographies of collected objects | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

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