Les Cottes and the Stratigraphy of the Early Upper Paleolithic in France

aurignacian lamelle scraper

This is a multiple carinated scraper (core) from the early Aurignacian levels at Les Cottés (Vienne, France), a cave located at the southwestern margins of the Parisian basin, close to the Aquitaine. It is next to the Grand Pressigny area, especially well-known for excellent raw material resources, which were nevertheless outnumbered at Les Cottés by locally available flint (Turonien inferieur and superieur). This local flint was also used for the artifact displayed here. Les Cottés is one of the rare sites, which contains a sequence of Chatelperronian, Proto-Aurignacian and Early Aurignacian. A similar sequence seems to be present at Ferrassie, actually under excavation.

The cave was discovered during the late 19th century by Rochebrune, who found remains of AMH in Aurignacian layers. L. Pradel one of the most important excavators in the Vienne area during the 1940 and 50ies defined a sequence of a typical Mousterian, Chatelperronian (“evolved early Perigordian”), “Correzian” (Protoaurignacian with numerous Lamelles subtype Dufour), Aurignacian I ( with carinated scrapers / cores) and Gravettian (“late Perigordian”). This sequence was reaffirmed during the renewed excavations.

Dr. Pradel, a physician,  was one of the last “Amateur Archeologists”, which played an eminent role in French prehistoric research  and a white raven compared to several of his colleagues. Although he shared some errors of contemporaneous research, especially the theory of two “phyla” (the contemporary of the Aurignacian and the Perigordian), initially proposed by Peyrony,he also made exact field observations, and left larger areas of the sites he excavated untouched for later generations (Les Cottés, Fontmaure). Pradel defined the Les Cottés point, “type fossil” of an “evolved” Chatelperronian (“Perigordian II”), a typological interpretation that is questioned today. Last but not least the site of les Cottés is widely known for the les Cottés interstadial, which roughly dates to 35-38 k.a.  (uncalibrated) BP.

Sahra Talamo et al. recently published calibrated C-14 Dates for the site: Mousterian between 46-44, Chatelperronian around 42-40, Protoaurignacian: a short episode around 39 and early Aurignacian around 39-36 k.a. BP roughly coincident with the onset of the strong cold phase Heinrich 4. Using these calibrated data the authors argued in favor of an acculturation scenario that while “at Les Cottés the two phases are well separated but a comparison shows that the Chatelperronian of Les Cottés is contemporaneous to the Aurignacian (Proto and Early) of other sites in Europe”. For me it remains unclear why this contemporary should be a proof of an acculturation of the late Neanderthals, especially  because we do not really know the “authors” (Neanderthals, AMH or both?) of the Chatelperronian.

From Pradels  1961 report. Displayed are Aurignacian pieces similar to the item displayed in this post.

pradel 1 les cottes aggsbach



Suggested Reading:

Pradel, L. La Pointe des Cottés (via Persee)

Pradel, L. Le Périgordien II de la grotte des Cottés (commune de Saint-Pierre-de-Maillé, Vienne) (via Persee)



Talamo, S., Soressi, M., Roussel, M., Richards, M. & Hublin, J.-J. A radiocarbon chronology for the complete Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transitional sequence of Les Cottés (France). Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 175-183 (2011).

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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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