The Rehabilitation of the Micoquian (sensu Bordes) in Northern France

alonne

This is a Micoquian handaxe sensu Breuil and Bordes. It was found in the old brickyards at Allonne (Oise). Discoveries of symmetrical Micoquian bifaces have been particularly numerous in loess quarries of Paris Basin since the end of the 19th century , allowing Breuil (1932) and Bordes (1954) to define a “Province micoquienne de la Seine”.

In their definition a Micoquian handaxe is an elongated, mostly symmetric handaxe, characterized by concave margins and an elaborated tip. The base of such handaxes is thick, and rather neglected.  Breuil used the La Micoque site at Les Eyzies as a reference for his definition. He described the Micoquian as a late and smaller version of the Acheulean with very delicate working and many flake tools such as points and scrapers.  Certainly Bordes, recurring on the material from N-France saw symmetric Micoquian handaxes as a special form of handaxe within a late Acheulian context. A very interesting feature of the biface of this post is the thick basal region. It seems to be the passive part of the instrument, intended to facilitate the  holding of the biface in the hand while the thinner, sharper pointed region of the biface was being actively used.

Recently new excavations at Saint-Illiers-la-Ville (Yvelines) have brought to light a Micoquian ensemble sensu Bordes dated as late as to the early Würm (ca 100-90k.a. BP), as already suggested by Bordes for similar ensembles. The ensemble of Saint-Illiers-la-Ville and other similar entities, near by, confirms and clarifies the works of F. Bordes about the existence of a regional technical entity, well confined in time and built around the Micoquian biface, often associated with non-Levallois debitage.

In the vicinity of Saint-Illiers-la- Ville, such handaxes were found in the quarries of Mantes-la-Ville and Rosny sur- Seine, as well as that of Saint-Pierre-les-Elbeufs further west, and Villejuif and Le Tillet in the east and the Briqueterie d’Allonne (Oise) in the Noth/West. Such discoveries ceased in the 1950s, with the closing of numerous brickyards, which could not therefore be studied with up to date archaeological and stratigraphical methods.

Such bifaces seem particularly numerous around the beginning of the Weichselian (Bettencourt/ Elbeuf 1 palaeosol units, Gentelles, Vinneuf and Verrieres-le-Buisson ) and abruptly disappear around  90 k.a.BP.  The geographical concentration of these groups is also remarkable, reaching some 300 km along the river Seine and its tributaries. Therefore the “Micoquian” along the Seine must be seen as one distinct entity, different from the Industry of the type site at la Micoque, which may be dated to the Middle Pleistocene but also from the Middle European Micoquian / KMG with a complete other (asymmetrical) concept, including ensembles at the margins of the KMG core area like Champlost “Le Dessous de Bailly”. Out of this area, these elements are rare. Only some isolated artefacts were found, suggesting sporadic raids of this group (for example at Rheindalen in Germany).

Suggested Reading: 

Micoquian Bifaces

The Prądnik (KMG) complex in Central Germany revisited

Tools from the Middle Europe Micoquian: Grochakis

Keilmesser

Asymmetric Bifaces

F. Blaser et al: Saint-Illiers-la-Ville and the Micoquian of Weichselian sequences of the Paris Basin. Quaternary International · September 2015

Figure 1 and 2: One handaxe from the lost upper stratum at Micoque displaying unique characteristics and a Keilmesser from the margins of the KMG interaction sphere in N/W-France…

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