The Michelsberg lithic industries of the Aisne

The Aisne valley is a very auspicious micro-region for research on the Middle Neolithic since destruction linked to gravel mining has been monitored for more than forty years, over an area of 80 km between Reims and Soissons. My laboratory has excavated numerous sites in this zone, some of which are among the most important Middle Neolithic sites. As a result of extensive excavation of the four enclosures of Bazoches-sur-Vesle, it is one of the key Michelsberg sites. The site of Cuiry-lès-Chaudardes is better known for its LBK remains, and is one of the only open-air Michelsberg sites in the Paris Basin, while that of Beaurieux contains the first Michelsberg funerary monument.

Coordinator: Laurence Manolakakis

The Aisne valley is a very auspicious micro-region for research on the Middle Neolithic since destruction linked to gravel mining has been monitored for more than forty years, over an area of 80 km between Reims and Soissons. My laboratory has excavated numerous sites in this zone, some of which are among the most important Middle Neolithic sites. As a result of extensive excavation of the four enclosures of Bazoches-sur-Vesle, it is one of the key Michelsberg sites. The site of Cuiry-lès-Chaudardes is better known for its LBK remains, and is one of the only open-air Michelsberg sites in the Paris Basin, while that of Beaurieux contains the first Michelsberg funerary monument (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1: Hierarchy model of the Michelsberg sites of the Aisne-Vesle (Dubouloz 2007)

The large enclosure of Bazoches, extending over more than 9 ha, is dated to 4200/4000 BCE and has yielded more than 15,000 lithic pieces. Technological analysis and a detailed study of the raw materials used are currently being completed. Lithic production is essentially on flakes, with a small laminar tradition inherited from the Early Neolithic. I have highlighted at least three different production modes:

– flake debitage on local Bartonian silcrete,

– direct percussion debitage of small and medium modules in Cretaceous flint and local micro-regional Bartonian silcrete,

– and debitage of larger sized massive blades by indirect percussion on Bartonian silcrete which seems to be closely linked to the exploitation of good quality Bartonian silcrete for the production of polished axes, such as Romigny-Lhéry (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Michelsberg productions in the north of France.

One of the major points of interest of this site is its central location and its possible role as a redistributor of raw material (silcrete from the eastern Tardenois plateau), or even of massive blades. As part of the monographic publication of the site, in association with researchers studying other types of remains, the spatial distribution of the archaeological finds will be analysed in order to tackle questions related to the function of these enclosures, which is still very controversial.

Similarly, for the open site of Cuiry ‘Les Fontinettes’, the technological and typological analysis of the lithic material will form a chapter of the monographic publication in progress (Le Bolloch, Hachem, Manolakakis). I will combine my own study with the functional analysis, which will be carried out by R. Gosselin. One of the study themes concerns the status of debitage, whether flakes or blades: opportunistic production, village households, specialist production? The other focuses on the functioning of such an open site, compared to that of enclosures.

Finally, the detailed identification of flint supply deposits (Cretaceous and Bartonian) requires continued prospecting by foot, the enrichment of the Soissons lithic reference collection and an in-depth analysis of the main lithic assemblages of the valley. These themes are implemented in targeted programmes, such as the GDR SILEX and the PCR Silcretes d’Île-de-France.

See also in «Current projects»

Chalcolithic lithic industries of Sultana My research focuses on the lithic industries of the Chalcolithic sites of Sultana, thanks to new excavations led by C. Lăzăr, and includes training a Romanian student in lithic technology. Autour du grand tell daté du Gumelnița et fouillé en 1924 (Andrieșescu 1924), se trouvent des sites plats et des cimetières couvrant l’ensemble du Chalcolithique : Boian pour l’étape ancienne et Gumelnița pour l’étape récente. Les sites sont installés dans la grande plaine loessique roumaine, sur la rive droite du Moștistea, affluent du Danube, et aujourd’hui au bord du lac artificiel de Moștistea. Contribution to the monograph on the Varna Necropolis Three bilingual (German, English) volumes dedicated to the necropolis of Varna, Das Varna Gräberfeld, will be published by Philipp von Zabern, in the DAI Eurasian Series, edited by V. Slavčev. I am in charge of the lithics, which I comprehensively reviewed after the recent revision of the funerary inventories. The multidisciplinary approach will combine technological and typological data, in connection with raw material supplies and types of production, as well as the functional analysis carried out by M. Gurova. L. Manolakakis in V. Slavčev, Dir. (2020, à paraître) IRP NORth (2020-2023) The Eastern European model of Neolithization contrasts with that of the West, in terms of modes and chronology. In the central Russian plain, the beginning of the Neolithic is dated between the second half of the 7th and 6th millennia BC, depending on the region considered, and is defined by the emergence of sedentarism and the appearance of ceramic technology. Despite occasional contacts with mixed farming groups, local populations maintained a lifestyle based on hunting, fishing and gathering. It was not until several millennia later that a real production economy was adopted and became widespread in the area (3rd and 2nd millennia BC). Based on the duration and the breakdown of events recorded in the Russian plain, we can follow the history of communities in the process of Neolithization in a very original way.