Cleaver from Mazières/ Creuse

aggsbach cleaver creuseThis is a 20 cm long cleaver from Mazières/ Creuse Valley in Central France.

The Europe distribution of cleavers coincides only partly with that of Acheulian Handaxes during the  Acheulian. They are most abundant in regions in which the raw material occurs in the form of large quartzite cobbles that do not need extensive decortication and shaping prior to the removal of large flakes, as in the Spanish Meseta and the Garonne and Tarn valleys of southwestern France. Elsewhere (northern France, England, Italy), cleavers also occur in different raw materials (flint or limestone) but are rather rare.

More than 100 Paleolithic sites that have been discovered in the alluvial deposits of the rivers Creuse, Cher, and Loire during the last 150 years (some examples:http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/01/creuse/) . Anyhow, absolute dates about the archaeological deposits were not available until very recently. Systematic dating of river deposits, mainly by Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) resulted in the establishment of a chronological framework for the evolution of these rivers during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene (1.7 Ma and 130 k.a.).

Evidence for Early Palaeolithic industries with an in situ context indicates that Hominins were present in the center of France around 1.1 Ma (A Pont-de-Lavaud in the Creuse Valley, Lunery in the Cher Valley and Saint-Hilaire-la-Gravelle in the Loire Valley). At Lunery, for example, ca. 500 pieces have been collected and can be related to a human action.

At these early sites, Hominids are present in deposits that relate to the beginning and end of cold Periods. This Evidence and data from other early Paleolithic European sites now clearly indicate that Hominids reached the latitude of 45 N and indeed further north towards eastern England during warm and temperate episodes.

After a gap of several 100 k.a. ensembles with handaxes appear in the Middle Loire Basin in the interval between 700 and 600 k.a., and then continuously from 400 k.a. Rich ensembles within an intact stratigraphy were detected at the the “La Noira” site in the middle Cher valley. Such large cleavers as the one displayed here are approximately 500 k.a. old.

Dates of 500-400 k.a. are in good concordance with those of other sites in France (Somme Valley), Spain (Atapuerca-Galeria, Ambrona), Italy (Visogliano, Castel di Guido) and England (Boxgrove, Hoxne).

The chronological gap between the two lithic assemblages (the early core and flake technology and the later Acheulian) in  central France could imply the existence of two phases of settlement within this region. While the 500 k.a. boundary for a broad colonisation of Europa still holds true, it is now obvious that there must have been  earlier migrations into the southern parts of Europe already  during the early middle Pleistocene.

Suggested Reading:

hachereau.pagesperso-orange.fr/texte/Mourre_tome_1.pdf

hachereau.pagesperso-orange.fr/texte/Mourre_tome_2.pdf

hachereau.pagesperso-orange.fr/texte/Mourre_tome_3.pdf

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040618209002365

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2 Responses to Cleaver from Mazières/ Creuse

  1. John Keeping says:

    I’m a retired teacher but have discovered and worked on Lower Palaeolithic sites in Southern England and for a short period with the mussee in Les Eyzies Dordogne.
    I now live in Central Morbihan Brittany. Four years ago I came upon a very large site close to my home. It’s farmland and the surface was and is littered with Acheulean hand axes, cleavers, choppers, borers, scrapers and others that are unfamiliar to me.
    Since then I’ve come upon four other similarly prolific sites in the region.
    The stones used are quartz. sandstone, schist and granite. The granite tools are skillfully made and beautiful.
    I only retain the very best examples which are photographed and recorded on the site maps. Nevertheless I have perhaps a thousand excellent Palaeolithic implements ranging from minute to absolutely huge. So huge in fact that they can only be carried by this 78 year old for short distances.
    Former colleagues including Derek Roe who was a leading figure have visited the sites and are amazed but sadly their French counterparts have shown no interest and are currently occupied with cave sites on the coast that were discovered in the 19th century.
    Any help to improve this very frutrating situation would be appreciated.

  2. Jacques Moeglin says:

    I happen to be french, retired, and it seems I also discovered a large site of MTA tools.
    So I can understand your frustrations at not having french paleo people scouring on the site.
    In France , by law, you are supposed to declare your finds to either:
    – INRAP (Institut National des Recherches Préventives). They act mainly on new sites discovered while opening worksite, construction site aso. It seems they have more work that they can handle
    – DRAC/SRA ( Affaires culturelles/ Service Régional d’Archeologie)
    Both have regional offices and will surely ask you a description and pictures of your finds by mail.
    In any of them you may find an sympathetic ear.
    If not, you can, then ,contact the mayor of the place you found the sites and maybe better the nearest MHN( Musée d’Histoire Naturelle)
    I hope my english will be readable and these infos useful to you.

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