Bec from the Aisne Valley

vailly1This is a wonderful “bec” (11 cm long) from the Aisne Gravels. The raw material is identical to the material that was used during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic of this region. While artifacts from early Paleolithic periods are abundant in the Aisne valley, upper Paleolithic artifacts are rare.  Some carinated tools from an advanced Aurignacian are known from Bois d’HoInon at Attilly and a site at Rouvroy. “Federmesser” camps are known from Attilly near Saint-Quentin. Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian has not identified in the Aisne valley till now, but Gravettian, and Magdalenian and Epipaleolithic industries were present  in other nearby valleys (Somme valley, Aa Valley). Here I argue for a late Magdalenian age of the bec.

The next analogy for our bec can be found at the multilayered site of Hallines (Pas-de-Calais). Here a blade based, burin dominated ensemble (IB = 45) with end scrapers (IG = 21) was found in association with without Mammoth (Elephas primigenius) bones. There are several “becs”, some of them strongly resembling the item displayed here and some of them resembling Hamburgian “Zinken”. Backed bladelets were absent and about 50% of the burins were transverse.

A remarkable early C-14 date from Mammoth bone (16,000+/-300 BP, Gif-1712) was obtained in 1988 from the uppermost layer. The association between faunal elements and lithics has been questioned by many researchers, although I do not exactly know why.  Maybe because according to the current paradigm, Hallines is situated outside the S/W to N/E main route of Magdalenian expansion to Middle Europe after the LGM. In this model the origins of the Northwest Magdalenian can be traced back to southwest and central France, regions with continuity in human occupation through the LGM. During Dryas I  there is some expansion northward. The northernmost sites in France are Oisy and Grotte du Renne à Arcy-sur-Cure . At the same time and during the pre-Bølling-Allerød interstadial at 16.5-14.7 k.a. cal BP an expansion northeast is evidenced from Switzerland, South Germany and southern Poland (Munzingen, Champréveyres and Monruz, Petersfels, Hohle Fels at Schelklingen, Spitzbubenhöhle and Maszycka Cave). During early Bølling the Paris basin and N-Germany (Hamburgian-sites) are occupied by ice-age hunters. According this model the Pas de Calais area should be recolonized considerably later than the 16 k.a. date.

A stylistical argument for a late Magdalenian Age of Hallines is the fact, that the ensemble, although unique, resembles the “Facies Cepoy-Marsagny”, dated to the end of Bölling and Dryas II ( There are also affinities to the “Langbohrer” of the East German Magdalenian ( Beside the transverse burins, there is no similarity to the Badegoulian.

Other possibilities? The site of Chamvres (Yonne) has yielded a lithic assemblage showing general characteristics of a “Gravettien recent”. Specific becs called “becs de Chamvres” partially resemble our item, but have some unique features (steep retouches, asymmetry, “rostrocarinated” tip) that are clearly distinctive from the artifact displayed here. Becs on long blades have been described from several Solutrean sites (For example: Roc de Sers), but as already said, a Solutrean from the Aisne valley is unknown. In N-Africa similar but always smaller Epipaleolithic becs are known. Could the bec belong to the middle Neolithic? I have found no parallels artifacts in publications and textbooks although some pointed blades from the Michelsberg “culture” have affinities with my artifact.

vailly aggsbach

Suggested Reading via Persee, this great French open source site:

Le gisement Levert à Hallines (Pas-de-Calais) 

Le paléolithique supérieur dans le Nord de la France : un état de la question 

Des pièces particulières sur le gisement Paléolithique supérieur de Chamvres (Yonne) 

and an important study about the Magdalenian recolonisation of Europe:

 Rebecca Miller (2012): Mapping the expansion of the Northwest Magdalenian

Notes on the Early and Middle Paleolithic of the region: 


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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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