Ferrassie-Ensembles in Europe


These are some typical artifacts from an early 20th century collection from one Mousterian site in the Perigord, which fit the definition of the Ferrassie-Mousterian. Technologically this facies is characterized by a recurrent uni- and bipolar Levallois debitage and typologically by a high percentage of scrapers, especially convergent and double scrapers, Mousterian points and a low percentage of denticulates and notches and the absence of Bifaces. The “Typical” and the “Ferrassie Mousterian” in S/W-France share common technological and typological features, the only difference between such Entities” is a higher percentage of retouched tools for the latter.(http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/pal_1145-3370_2000_sup_2_1_1274). Technologically there is a clear succession of Levallois-Quina-Levallois/Discoid systems between MIS5-3 in S/W-France and in Italy which means many of the “Ferrassie Ensembles” are older than MIS4.

The Levallois-system usually creates thin blanks of predetermined shape (e.g. points), ready for intermediate use without or with only light retouches. Depending on various factors (duration of stay, functional requirements, function of the site) even a heavier modification could be created on the blanks, as seen in the artifacts of this post and at the type site, where convergent tools with “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” were present.

Ferrassie is an eminent Paleolithic site in Savignac-de-Miremont, in the Dordogne department, France. The site, located in the Vézère valley, consists of a large and deep cave flanked by two rock shelters within a limestone cliff, under which there is a scree slope formation. Denis Peyrony and Louis Capitan explored the site in 1905, 1907 and 1912; Peyrony in 1934 (Middle and Upper Paleolithic), Henri Delporte in 1969 and 1984 and Delporte with Tuffreau in 1984 (Chatelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian). Ongoing excavations by Dibble et al. are focusing on the chronology of the oldest strata (an Middle Paleolithic ensemble with bifaces) probably dating to MIS5, and the stata, that were used to define the Ferrassie Mousterian facies and that contained the famous “Neanderthal burials”. Interestingly, the Ferrassie Mousterian layers are attributed to MIS 3 by OSL, between 54 ± 3 and 40 ± 2 ka, and thus appear very late in the final Middle Palaeolithic of the region. These data fit to ESR dates, of two Neanderthal teeth which also indicate to an MIS3 age. Regarding that “Ferrassie ensembles” in the Aquitaine are usually said to be MIS5/early MIS4 (at Combe Grenal on geochronological grounds) preceding “Quina ensembles“ which are present during MIS 4 (Roc de Marsal  (F) , Pinaud Jonzac, Quina) – this date would indicate much more synchrony of the different ” Mousterian facies” that previously suggested.

If older “Ferrasie” ensembles  dated to MIS7 (Maastricht-Belvedère [K],  Rheindahlen [„Ostecke“ ; B3], Biache-Saint-Vaast) can be technologically compared with the classic ensembles of the Perigord remains an open question….

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One Response to Ferrassie-Ensembles in Europe

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    Brilliant article/post. Encore!!

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