The early Gravettian in Central France: La Vigne Brun

aggsbachs villerest2

This is a 3, 5 cm (Micro) Gravette point from the Vigne Brun site, found at the site in large quantities (although mostly broken), and called: “Microgravette of Vigne-Brun type” ( The old C-14 dates from La Vigne Brun fall around 23 k.a. BP and are not taken as valid. Technologically and typologically the site shows a pattern that is characteristic for the early Gravettian in France and Southern Central Europe. Calibrated C-14 dates will probably soon resolve the chronological confusion about this key locality.

La Vigne-Brun is located in the eastern Massif Central, 5 km upstream from Roanne in the Loire river valley. It is one of several open-air Palaeolithic sites at a locality called Saut-du-Perron (Villerest district). Other important sites nearby are Le Roche de la Caille, la Goutte-Roffat (a Magdalenian with 182 engraved schist plaquettes) and the Champ- Grand site (Quina Mousterian). These sites have been explored for more than a hundred years and lamentably were flooded in 1983 following the construction of the Villerest dam. From 1977 to 1983 an area of 470 m² at La Vigne-Brun was investigated by J. Combier and, despite being the object of a salvage excavation, the site was fully excavated under relatively good conditions.

aggsbachVigne Brun is known in the archaeological literature principally for the discovery of a series of habitation structures associated with a Gravettian industry. During the last years meticulous typological, technological and economic approaches were able to reconstruct the systems of lithic artefact manufacture at the site.  These artifacts comprise dihedral burins, endscrapers and a large lot of projectiles (Font Robert points, Gravettes and Microgravettes). The bladelet blanks used for the Microgravettes were obtained using three chaînes opératoires: one exclusively for bladelets, one incorporating small blades and bladelets and a third, uninterrupted sequence from large blades to small blades to bladelets. Raw materials are largely dominated by a regionally available “jasper” flint. The predominant exogenous flint is a yellowish-grey to brown variety of excellent quality which was obtained from lower Turonian outcrops in the Gien region. The procurement pattern of raw materials observed for unit KL19 at La Vigne-Brun does not particularly resemble the “classic” pattern observed at many Upper Palaeolithic sites, where there is a contrast between only slightly modified local materials and others transported as finished products from a distance. At La Vigne-Brun procurement strategies are equally variable for both local material and that brought from further away. Regional flint was imported to the site from a distance of 5 to 30 km either as blocks or as burins and Gravettes/ Microgravettes followed by splintered pieces and endscrapers.

The early Gravettian of Vigne Brun shows both technological and typological correspondence to other sites in France and the Swabian Jura: 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. 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. In the Swabian Ach valley (Geißenklösterle and Hohle Fels) we also find an early Gravettian (29-27 k.a. BP) focused on the production of Microgravettes with some Flechettes and isolated Font-Robert points.

gravette aggsbach

Suggested Readings:

Lac de villerest-near the site:villerest 2014



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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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One Response to The early Gravettian in Central France: La Vigne Brun

  1. Andrea Kaschee says:

    Hi JL,

    maybe it is of interest, that the Gravettians at Vigne Brun preferentially hunted horses like their relatives at Solutre....

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