Font-Robert Point

font robert katzmanThis is a tanged point of the early middle upper Paleolithic from a leaf‐shaped blade of plano‐convex section, usually designated as Font-Robert point in the literature. These points were especially numerous at the Font-Robert rockshelter (Brive, Correze), excavated in 1905 by the Abbes Bardon and Bouyssonie (Bardon et Bouyssonie, 1908). According to these authors they found a single stratum (20 cm thick) with Font-Robert points, Gravette points and Flechettes.

Typological considerations and limited microtraceologal evaluations revealed that “Font-Robert Points” were used as hafted tools not only as projectiles but also as scrapers and burins.

The key site for an early Gravettian date of Font-Robert points remains the Gravettian succession at the La Ferrassie rockshelter near Le Bugue in the Dordogne. Here an early Gravettian rich in Font-Robert points and Gravettes was first defined by Peyrony. According to him this “Perigordian Va” was earlier that the other Gravettian “Facies” [Perigordian Va (Font-Robert points) followed by Perigordian Vb (éléments tronqués) and Vc (Noailles burins)] at this site.

Gravettian ensembles with of Font-Robert points were later re-designated and individualized as “Fontirobertian” by Tuffreau and Delporte, mainly because the numbers of scrapers was higher than that of burins, which is unusual for other Gravettian ensembles.

After a limited excavation at Ferrassie in 1968, Tuffreau and Delporte verified, that Font- Robert Points were certainly part of the lower “Perigordian V” strata. They also noted that their  frequency was much lower than in Peyrony’s Report. They concluded that the ensemble collected by Peyrony was affected by a sampling bias, produced by an artificial enrichment of Font -Robert Points by Peyrony himself -but this assumption remains unproven. It could be also a sampling error produced by the limited excavations during the 1960ies.

The taphonomy and radiocarbon chronology of La Ferrassie is more complicated than initially thought. Therefore the new ultrafiltered date of OxA-15217 (29000 +/- 370 BP, Higham et al., 2006) has to be taken as tentative. It is uncertain if the new excavation at Ferrassie will bring more light into the stratigraphy of the Gravettian in the Aquitaine, because they are concentrated on a newly detected MTA below the classic Ferrassie Mousterian and to the Protoaurignacian of the site.

Level 5 at Abri Pataud (Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne), which is itself subdivided into several lenses is suggested to be as old as the lower Gravettian at Ferrassie according to the C-14 data. Unfortunately this early Gravettian assemblage, rich in Flechettes and Gravette points , which has excavated by up-to date methods by Movius during the 1950 and 60ies, does not give any answer to the role of Font-Robert points during the early Gravettian. Using adequately pretreated AMS dates from humanly-modified material calibrated and modeled using a Bayesian statistical method, Higham could demonstrate, that Horizon 5 (early Gravettian) is considerably older than initially thought and in the range of at least 31 k.a. cal. BP. This horizon was deposited during interstadial conditions contemporaneous with the “Maisierien” (GIS 5; see below) at Maisières-Canal and after a significant hiatus between the Horizon 6 (late Aurignacian) and Horizon 5. The palaeoenvironmental data indicate at this time a mixed mosaic landscape of forested areas and more open steppe-like zones and a more moist climate lacking the extremely harsh and cold conditions of previous periods.

What’s about other sites in S/W-France?

  • The Laussel rockshelter near Eyzies was completely excavated during large scale exploitations which were executed during 1908-1914 by the workmen of Dr. Jean-Gaston Lalanne. Lalanne did not notice any internal differentiation in the thick Gravettian level. He extracted about 10000 artifacts, among them Gravette-points, Perigordian shouldered points, Noailles burins and Font-Robert points. It can be taken for sure that several archaeological levels were present at this Mega-Site and that the published material cannot be used for an internal structuration of the Gravettien.
  • At the Abri des Battuts (Dordogne), Roc-de-Combe (Lot) and at Flageolet 1 (Dordogne), Font Robert Points were associated with Noailles burins, calling Peyronys diachronic structuration of the technocomplex in question.
  • In the Perigord, Font-Robert points in association with Gravettes and Noailles burins have been reported at Roc de Combe Capelle, Fongal and the Abri Durand-Ruel. These sites have been excavated “too early” and therefore valid stratigraphic observations are missing.
  • At the Abri Laraux (Lussac-les-Chateaux, Vienne) the Gravettian sequence was reported to be similar to that of Ferrassie, but it seems that the material was a posteriori brought in to the “correct” order.

North West Europe (Belgium and the UK)

  • Maisières-Canal is an open-air early middle upper Paleolithic site excavated in the 1960s by de Heinzelin and Haesaerts and consists of the main site (Champ de Fouilles) and an associated workshop (Atelier de Taille de la Berge Nord-Est). The site has been interpreted as a relatively short-term residential site, situated in relation to both subsistence and lithic resources, with substantial reduction activity occurring relative to duration of occupation. Haesaerts and de Heinzelin attributed the occupation to a warmer episode following the Denekamp Interstadial, which they designated as ”oscillation de Maisières”, now generally interpreted as GIS 5. Two bones from the archaeological level itself were AMS radiocarbon dated to 28,240 +/-300 BP and 28,130 +1020/-900 BP. The assemblage was described as northern Upper Perigordian or Maisierian and is characterized by the high proportion of dihedral burins, the frequent use of a flat retouch, especially on unifacial leaf points (“Points de Maisières”) and the presence of stemmed tools, mainly Font-Robert points (de Heinzelin 1973). Backed pieces are virtually absent ( 5 fragments of backed pieces among 13000 artifacts at the Champ de Fouilles). Should we designate this ensemble as a Gravettian without Gravettes or is the Maisierian a particular complex, distinct from the Gravettian. The question remains unresolved.
  • Font-Robert Points, either as isolated findings or from an uncertain stratigraphical contex are also known from some Belgian sites like Spy , Trou Magrite, Goyet, Huccorgne-Hermitage, Engis, and from several find spots in the UK: Goats hole at Paviland , Kent’s Cavern , Pin Hole , Bramford Road. In the UK the Fontirobertian appears to be the only Gravettian facies as later phases have not been documented till now.

A view to the Rhone valley and Central France

  • The open air site of Le Sire (Mirefleurs, Dpt. Puy-de-Dôme), was attributed to the early Gravettian, based on one uncalibrated date of 27,300 +/- 330 BP. Beside an important proportion of Microgravettes (36% of the tools), some Font-Robert Points and Flechettes are also present.
  • Another potential early Gravettian site, the open air locality of La Vigne Brun (Villerest, Dpt. Loire), shows similarities with Le Sire, based on the importance of the Microgravettes, the presence of Font-Robert points and the dominance of horse in the faunal assemblage . The C-14 dates from La Vigne Brun fall y around 23 k.a. BP and are not taken as valid, because they do not fit into the model of Font-Robert points as a marker of the early Gravettian.
  • The lower Gravettian lithic ensemble of the open-air site Azé-Camping de Rizerolles (Saône-et-Loire, France)  is composed of over 48.000 pieces, among them Gravette points, Microgravettes, Nanogravettes and the fragment of two Font- Robert points.
  • Near the Rhine valley ensembles with Font-Robert points were attested at Achenheim (Alsace) , Steinacker, Ingendorf, Welschbillig, Muffendorf , Feldhofer Kirche (in the Neander valley) and Wildscheuer IV ( Hessen) and  Salching (Bavaria).  The most north eastern site with several Font-Robert points in Germany was detected by the important Prehistorian D. Mania at Bilzingsleben (Thuringia).
  • In the Swabian Ach valley (Geißenlklösterle and Hohle Fels) we find an early Gravettien (29-27 k.a. BP) focused on the production of Microgravettes with some Flechettes and  isolated Font-Robert points.

font_robert_point_aggsbachSome scholars have suggested that the Font- Robert points found at sites such as Maisières-Canal are earlier than those found with Gravette points in early Gravettian levels in central and southwestern France. They suggested that this might have resulted from the movement of people south in the face of much colder temperatures after GIS5. Regarding the actual C-14 chronology this view cannot be substantiated any more.  A reliable chronology of the early Gravettian with Font-Robert points is not available. And certainly such a chronology is illusionary regarding the temporal resolution of current dating methods.


 Suggested Reading:

Late Gravettian at Corbiac

The early Gravettian in Central France: La Vigne Brun

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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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