Monday, 18 February 2013

Catch-up: France and Flint

Last summer I decided to pull up my socks and be a REAL archaeologist.  No more of this ‘watching time team and casually reading about Anglo Saxons’ stuff (which probably wont stop, but anyways)!  I volunteered for the Les Cottes dig in France directed by Marie Soressi, and for a month from half July to half August, I spent an amazing time crouched over on a meter square of dirt developing my right bicep.

It was a fantastic dig – giant cave, giant pit, giant piles of finds – and I felt like I learned so much, this being only my second excavation.  I will definitely try to go again.  The flint in France is gorgeous (pretty translucent ochre colour flint banded with red, and some a lovely raspberry, or deep violets that were almost black) – the area of Poitou we were in is renowned (by flint enthusiasts anyway) for the quality and abundance of material, and the area is rich with prehistoric cultures going back deep into the Palaeolithic. 

Les Cottes itself was first excavated in the 1800s, and again in the 50s.  This excavation led by Marie Soressi took place out in front of the mouth of the cave, in in-situ deposits that held amazingly rich layers of not only classic Aurignacian materials, but Proto-Aurignacian, Chatelperronean and Mousterian as well!  There were vertical walls where you could see the layers, full of flints and antler sticking out, and some layers were red with ochre or black with manganese.  A European Palaeolithic archaeologists’ dream!

Nodular flint we dug up from fields nearby
There were also opportunities while we were there to collect some nearby flint and try our hand at knapping.  I’ve tried knapping obsidian before, and this was my first time trying with flint.  I’ve realised I am a terrible knapper, and although I love lithic technology and the look and feel of flint and the amazing things it can do, I am going to need 5x as much tuition as the next person to be a competent flint knapper.  Lesson one: not putting a hole in the thigh of my trousers.

I met some amazing people on the dig and hope to keep in touch with many of them.  Most of all it’s made me fall in love with flint – although British flint is interesting, I find it a bit more cold and masculine – icy black Norfolk flint, or the steely grey of the south, or the dull orange patina some old flints get here – it’s definitely not as sexy as the French flint!!!

Here's a link to the description of Les Cottes on the Max Planck Institute website:

And here's a paper on Les Cottes if you are interested:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...