Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pech Merle Museum Lithics

Upper Palaeolithic Blade Tools
The museum at Pech Merle had several display cases dedicated to the prehistory of France, from the Lower Palaeolithic through to the Bronze Age.  There were a lot of bone, antler, ivory, metal and ceramic artifacts on display, but of course, I was drawn to the stone tools.  Here are a few photos of some of my favourite pieces from the Musée Amédée Lemozi at Pech Merle. 

Chopping Tool, Burin, and Retouched Blade
Most of the artifacts in the exhibits were found at other sites.  There weren't many stone tools found in the actual cave at Pech Merle.  In fact, the three pieces in the photo on the left are the only lithics to have been found there.  The card with the chopper, burin and retouched blade explains that, with the exception of the paintings, the only evidence of prehistoric people in the cave are some footprints, some charcoal and these three stone tools.  Which is interesting in itself - although people were visiting and painting the walls and ceilings of caves like Pech Merle, they weren't living in them.

The Lower Palaeolithic had stone industries based on working cores into heavy, chopping bifaces.
Later, techniques focused on the flakes removed from the core.  I like this illustration of the Levallois technique.  Using the cut away drawing of the flake is a really effective way of explaining the process visually. 

In the Upper Palaeolithic the emphasis was on specialized flakes called blades, which were in turn pressure flaked into a variety of different tools.  The blade tools on this board belong to the Périgordien Tradition.

More blade tools in all shapes and sizes.  In these examples, most of the retouch is along the edge or end of the blades and you can still see the original dorsal surface of the blades.

These Solutrean tools have similar outlines to the blade tools in the previous photo, but look how they've been shaped and sharpened with precise, patterned pressure flaking covering the surface of the blades and bifaces.  A little more work and a little more control over the final form.
I don't really know anything about this board, but I'll take a guess.  I think its showing the chronological sequence between  the Sauveterrian and Tardenoisian and the older of the two is at the bottom, because they look a little coarser and there are pottery fragments in the top row.  Alternatively, these are prosthetic nose pieces and this shows the evolution of Klingon foreheads from the old Star Trek to the Next Generation.
Meticulous pressure flaking on blade based tools continued into the Neolithic and chalcolithic.  This big dagger was made on a blade, ground and polished and pressure flaked.  It still has the long curving arc of a blade.
This photo shows how these big blades would have been hafted.  I'm not sure what the wrapping material is, it looks like a root to me, but it could be leather.

In the middle on the right, you can see how the flint blade (silex in french) is glued against a wood handle with tar and then wrapped with a binding material to create a grip.
Meanwhile, spear points became arrowheads and took on a lot of different forms.
The caption for the above panel.  The points aren't in exactly the same place in the display and on the caption, so go by the outline, not their position on the board.  And they're in French and when I try to Google translate them they make no sense so... good luck!
Ground stone tools are one of the hallmarks of the Neolithic.  You can see that the blank was still chipped out of flint, but the final shape and working edge of this axe were done through grinding and polishing.

Another ground stone axe.
The appropriately named Chacolithic, or Copper Age, saw the introduction of copper into the tool kit.  I like this little panel - it makes me think of Elfshot.  Not my business Elfshot, but the actual little arrowheads that people used to find.  When I picture Elfshot in my mind's eye, these are the kinds of arrowheads that I imagine.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
All photos were taken at the Musée Amédée Lemozi, Centre de Préhistoire du Pech Merle, Cabrerets France.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails