Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives
Recent publications
Dogs are among the most variable species today, but little is known about the morphological variability in the early phases of their history. The Neolithic transition to farming may have resulted in an early morphological diversification as a result of changes in the anthropic environment or intentional selection on specific morphologies. Here, we describe the variability and modularity in mandible form by comparing 525 dog mandibles from European archaeological sites ranging from 8100 to 3000 cal. BC to a reference sample of modern dogs, wolves, and dingoes. We use three-dimensional geometric morphometrics to quantify the form of complete and fragmented mandibles. We demonstrate that an important morphological variability already existed before the Bronze Age in Europe, yet the largest, smallest, most brachycephalic or dolichocephalic extant dogs have no equivalent in the archaeological sample, resulting in a lower variation compared to modern relatives. The covariation between the anterior and posterior parts of the mandible is lower in archaeological dogs, suggesting a low degree of intentional human selection in early periods. The mandible of modern and ancient dogs differs in functionally important areas, possibly reflecting differences in diet, competition, or the implication of ancient dogs in hunting or defence.
Multiple factors have been proposed to explain the disappearance of Neandertals between ca. 50 and 40 kyr BP. Central to these discussions has been the identification of new techno-cultural complexes that overlap with the period of Neandertal demise in Europe. One such complex is the Châtelperronian, which extends from the Paris Basin to the Northern Iberian Peninsula between 43,760–39,220 BP. In this study we present the first open-air Châtelperronian site in the Northern Iberian Peninsula, Aranbaltza II. The technological features of its stone tool assemblage show no links with previous Middle Paleolithic technology in the region, and chronological modeling reveals a gap between the latest Middle Paleolithic and the Châtelperronian in this area. We interpret this as evidence of local Neandertal extinction and replacement by other Neandertal groups coming from southern France, illustrating how local extinction episodes could have played a role in the process of disappearance of Neandertals.
This article tries to demonstrate that the former governor of Essequibo, Jan van der Goes, was also the Indian prince called Vandergoes met by the English, French, and Dutch in the early second half of the seventeenth century at Cayenne. This hypothesis is supported by detailed information on the career of Jan van der Goes derived from the general meetings of the Zeeland Chamber of the WIC and by appearances of the aforementioned Vandergoes in various European documents. In addition, the incorporation of this Dutchman among the Arecarets reveals a particular Amerindian adaptation to colonization along the Wild Coast.
The Iron Age period occupies an important place in French history, as the Gauls are regularly presented as the direct ancestors of the extant French population. We documented here the genomic diversity of Iron Age communities originating from six French regions. The 49 acquired genomes permitted us to highlight an absence of discontinuity between Bronze Age and Iron Age groups in France, lending support to a cultural transition linked to progressive local economic changes rather than to a massive influx of allochthone groups. Genomic analyses revealed strong genetic homogeneity among the regional groups associated with distinct archaeological cultures. This genomic homogenisation appears to be linked to individuals’ mobility between regions as well as gene flow with neighbouring groups from England and Spain. Thus, the results globally support a common genomic legacy for the Iron Age population of modern-day France that could be linked to recurrent gene flow between culturally differentiated communities.
Present-day people from England and Wales harbour more ancestry derived from Early European Farmers (EEF) than people of the Early Bronze Age¹. To understand this, we generated genome-wide data from 793 individuals, increasing data from the Middle to Late Bronze and Iron Age in Britain by 12-fold, and Western and Central Europe by 3.5-fold. Between 1000 and 875 bc, EEF ancestry increased in southern Britain (England and Wales) but not northern Britain (Scotland) due to incorporation of migrants who arrived at this time and over previous centuries, and who were genetically most similar to ancient individuals from France. These migrants contributed about half the ancestry of Iron Age people of England and Wales, thereby creating a plausible vector for the spread of early Celtic languages into Britain. These patterns are part of a broader trend of EEF ancestry becoming more similar across central and western Europe in the Middle to Late Bronze Age, coincident with archaeological evidence of intensified cultural exchange2–6. There was comparatively less gene flow from continental Europe during the Iron Age, and Britain’s independent genetic trajectory is also reflected in the rise of the allele conferring lactase persistence to ~50% by this time compared to ~7% in central Europe where it rose rapidly in frequency only a millennium later. This suggests that dairy products were used in qualitatively different ways in Britain and in central Europe over this period.
The detection of Middle Palaeolithic human activity areas represents a methodological challenge at the boundary between two disciplines: archaeology and spatial analysis. During the course of the past decades, with the democratisation of tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), prehistorians have developed a wide diversity of methods for the study of the spatial organization of occupation levels. We must now choose the best adapted method to our spatial problems, our archaeological contexts, but also our set of geographic data, from the existing methods. In this context, we devised a new spatial analysis protocol, highlighting archaeological and spatial criteria that constrained our choice of methods and estimating their reproducibility. The construction and application of our protocol is based on the Middle Palaeolithic open-air sites of Caours and Beauvais, situated in the North of France. On account of the ideal preservation conditions at these sites, they are propitious candidates for spatial analysis. In addition, these sites rank among those with the most abundant faunal remains of the region and our study focuses on this category of remains. The combined use of two methods of spatial analysis – K-means clustering and Kernel Density Estimation – enables us, on one hand, to effectively detect human activity areas, their number and their distribution. On the other hand, this protocol contributed to their characterisation and the description of their role for the functioning of the occupation level. For both of the studied sites, we brought to light several areas of butchery activities organized around a combustion zone. In the case of Caours, areas of specific butchery activities, devoted to one or two species, were identified.
Alongside horses, donkeys and their first-generation hybrids represent members of the Equidae family known for their social, economic and symbolic importance in protohistoric and historical France. However, their relative importance and their respective roles in different regions and time periods are difficult to assess based on textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence. This is both due to incomplete, partial and scattered historical sources and difficulties to accurately assign fragmentary archaeological remains at the proper taxonomic level. DNA-based methods, however, allow for a robust identification of the taxonomic status of ancient equine osseous material from minimal sequence data. Here, we leveraged shallow ancient DNA sequencing and the dedicated Zonkey computational pipeline to obtain the first baseline distribution for horses, mules and donkeys in France from the Iron Age to the Modern period. Our collection includes a total of 873 ancient specimens spanning 128 sites and comprising 717 horses, 100 donkeys, 55 mules and a single hinny individual. While horses were ubiquitous and the most dominant species identified, our dataset reveals the importance of mule breeding during Roman times, especially between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE (Common Era), where they represented between 20.0% and 34.2% of equine assemblages. In contrast, donkeys were almost absent from northern France assemblages during the whole Roman period, but replaced mules in rural and urban commercial and economic centers from the early Middle Ages. Our work also identified donkeys of exceptional size during Late Antiquity, which calls for a deep reassessment of the true morphological space of past equine species. This study confirmed the general preference toward horses throughout all time periods investigated but revealed dynamic management strategies leveraging the whole breadth of equine resources in various social, geographic and temporal contexts.
The purpose of this article is to present an inventory of certain faunal remains from Linearbandkeramic (LBK) settlements in the Paris Basin (Ile-de-France, Hauts-de-France and Champagne) that seem to belong to a particular category, that of “sign-objects,” in other words, tangible evidence intended to be shown and directly interpretable by an observer belonging to the society which produced them. Based on three categories of archaeological contexts, a ceremonial enclosure, settlements and graves, we will attempt to highlight the species that were important to Neolithic society. Two of them, the domestic cattle and the aurochs, are particularly involved in the deposits through the exhibition of their bones or their horn cores. Sheep and roe deer are also involved through, for example, transformed bones such as perforated tibias or sharpened roe deer antlers. The results of the analysis were integrated into an archaeological model previously developed to approach the social structure of the Neolithic society.
Maritime adaptation is a key component of the Neolithization process in Eastern Arabia. It is expressed by the development of diversified fishing techniques, the exploitation of hard marine animal materials (e.g., sea-shells, shark teeth, stingray's barbs, etc.) for both tools and personal adornments production, advanced seafaring, and colonization of offshore islands. Although a diet based mainly on the consumption of marine fish and mollusks, the importance of other seafood has been greatly underestimated in previous zooarchaeological studies. Large quantities of marine crabs (NISP = 10,619) and sea urchins (NISP = 2454) have been retrieved from newly excavated Neolithic sites in the United Arab Emirates. These data highlight local developments of interest for specific seafood and their intensive exploitation over several centuries of human occupation. This study focuses on methods for identifying the main edible marine crab and sea urchin species retrieved from archaeological sites in Eastern Arabia. Results from the Neolithic sites of Delma Island and the Umm al-Quwain lagoon are discussed.
With the first studies dating from the 1990s, France could be seen as being somewhat behind in its research on ancient field systems compared to other countries. Post-war agriculture of north-west France has totally obliterated ancient fossilised landscapes; levelling micro-reliefs and so erasing the smaller irregularities in the landscape such as field systems that in certain cases were laid down more than 4000 years ago. Only since the wide scale development of preventive archaeology during the last 20 years and with its more extensive excavations, has research into prehistoric field systems been possible. This has resulted in the present overview of agricultural boundaries and their chronology from the laying down of the first field systems in the third millennium BCE to their abandonment during the Late Bronze Age. Our aim is not to reconstruct ancient landscapes over large areas – as excavations rarely cover more than 5 ha at a time –but to understand how and why communities took possession of the landscape at the end of the Neolithic and how these planimetric features developed over the following thousand years. This focus is of obvious historic significance, as it targets the monopolisation and the management of the landscape and opens the way to a new reading of Bronze Age societies.
This study investigates the relationship between monumental funerary structures, social organizations, and diets in Middle Neolithic France. Focusing on the Cerny culture based in the Paris Basin region, we analysed and compared bone collagen stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope values of 113 individuals from three different types of Cerny cemeteries: the Passy type (Cerny STP), slab burials (Cerny Slab), and burials without major superstructure (Cerny Flat). Published stable isotopic data from one other Cerny Flat and two contemporaneous non-Cerny cemeteries (n = 140), together with new and published faunal isotopic data (n = 267) from across six different river valleys in the region are also included in the analysis. The results of this study have shown that (1) the Cerny diet was likely rich in animal protein; (2) comparing to all other cemetery types, Cerny STP sites were considerably homogenous isotopically and culturally, and (3) individuals buried in aberrant funerary arrangements tend to have outlying isotopic compositions, suggesting strong correlations between diets and burial practices. Interestingly, as oppose to the distinctly sex-related funerary arrangements, no obvious pattern can be observed in the isotopic compositions between males and females in Cerny cemeteries.
The Linearbandkeramik (LBK) is behind the spread of the Neolithic way of life in a large part of Western Europe. This period is often regarded as the beginning of social inequalities whose ideological frameworks deserve to be highlighted. According to social anthropologists, funerary practices are relevant for this debate as they reflect the symbolic thought in relation to death. In addition, as they are perpetuated by the living, funerary practices are pertinent in addressing the ideological values, symbolic systems, and thoughts that support social organisation. Whilst examining how grave goods are allocated amongst the LBK population, we have identified a small group of dominant men characterised by a specific burial kit (adzes, arrows, lighter set, and red deer antlers), a richer protein intake in diet, and their local origin. Comparing them to other social categories characterised by minor marking of identity in grave goods, poorer protein intake in diet, and of diverse origin, we aim to explore the ideological frameworks and values sustaining the social LBK system. LBK dominant ideology appears to revolve around hunting and exploits in warfare, manhood, and virility, in short around violent behaviours perhaps linked to a territorial competition.
Seven new archeointensity data are obtained through the analysis of groups of pottery and kiln fragments from ceramic workshops unearthed in France, precisely dated from the High Middle Ages. The measurements are carried out using the Triaxe magnetometer, following a dedicated experimental protocol that takes into account the effects of anisotropy and cooling rate (CR) on thermoremanent magnetization acquisition. The new data are consistent with the evolution of intensity variations described by our previous data obtained in France and Northern Italy, which display between the 5th and 10th c. a pronounced camel-back shape. In particular, they provide supporting evidence of an intensity minimum that occurred around the transition between the 7th and 8th century. These data, combined with a selection of previously published results within a 700 km radius of Beaune and re-examined based on CR correction, formed the basis of new regional mean intensity variation curves based on two independent modeling approaches. The first algorithm developed by Thébault and Gallet (2010) based on bootstrapping and now irregularly spaced knots according to the data distribution gives rather smooth intensity variations, while the second approach proposed by Livermore et al. (2018) based on a transdimensional Bayesian technique shows more abrupt variations with sometimes stronger amplitudes. We explore the dating potential of these two variations curves, which have an unprecedented resolution, by studying two medieval pottery workshops. Six fragment groups (three per workshop) are analyzed using the Triaxe protocol, providing mean archeointensity values for each of the two sites. Two different procedures are used for their dating, either by comparing the intensity value to be dated with the reference intensity variation curves obtained from the two modeling techniques or by analyzing the marginal posterior probability distribution of the age values derived from the method of Livermore et al. (2018). For France, the two techniques yield very similar results. The archeointensity dating results combined with archeological arguments and radiocarbon data, make it possible to better constrain the age of the end of activity of the two workshops. Archeointensity investigation of displaced materials thus appears as an effective means to obtain original chronological constraints on the age of their production, paving the way for a wide range of complementary research on Medieval pottery.
Aspects of 1st to 3rd centuries CE Roman production technology and knowledge transfer in northern France and central Belgium (known as Civitas Nerviorum) were studied. To this aim, 43 pottery waste fragments from six workshops at Bavay, Pont-sur-Sambre, Blicquy, Cambrai, Les Rues-des-Vignes and Sains-du-Nord were studied macroscopically and analysed in thin section petrography and chemistry with X-ray fluorescence spectrometry. This permitted to reconstruct the production technologies employed at the six workshops, and to infer inter-and intra-site knowledge transfer. More specifically, potters at Bavay transferred their knowledge to craftsmen at Pont-sur-Sambre. The epigraphic evidence on the discarded pottery further suggests that they passed on their technological knowledge through kinship. Craftsmen at Cambrai and Les Rues-des-Vignes also appear to have shared aspects of their technological knowledge. The reconstructed technologies were then used to tentatively indicate the production location of three conspicuous types of pottery, which circulated widely within and beyond the study region but were hitherto not known from production waste contexts. To this aim, seven samples from settlement, burial and sanctuary sites at Famars, Blicquy and Sains-du-Nord were selected and analysed in thin section petrography and chemistry with X-ray fluorescence spectrometry.
Mass graves are usually key historical markers with strong incentive for archeological investigations. The identification of individuals buried in mass graves has long benefitted from traditional historical, archaeological, anthropological and paleopathological techniques. The addition of novel methods including genetic, genomic and isotopic geochemistry have renewed interest in solving unidentified mass graves. In this study, we demonstrate that the combined use of these techniques allows the identification of the individuals found in two Breton historical mass graves, where one method alone would not have revealed the importance of this discovery. The skeletons likely belong to soldiers from the two enemy armies who fought during a major event of Breton history: the siege of Rennes in 1491, which ended by the wedding of the Duchess of Brittany with the King of France and signaled the end of the independence of the region. Our study highlights the value of interdisciplinary approaches with a particular emphasis on increasingly accurate isotopic markers. The development of the sulfur isoscape and testing of the triple isotope geographic assignment are detailed in a companion paper [13].
Excavation work carried out at Istres and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (Provence, Southern France), in the framework of preventive archaeology, uncovered evidence of ancient gardens (13/14th–17th centuries), equipped with lined wells. Significant numbers of waterlogged remains of fruit species as well as legumes and condiments provided information on the availability of “healthy” foods to complement and diversify the daily diet of urban dwellers, largely dependent on bread. Other herbaceous plants reflecting the background environment of this agriculture-arboriculture production are also identified (weeds, ruderals, plants from meadows and other humid habitats etc.). The archaeobotanical assemblage identified in both sites also includes Ricinus communis, a highly toxic plant. As far as we know this is the first time Ricinus seeds are recorded by archaeobotany in Europe. The likely significance of this discovery is discussed taking into account the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental contexts of the findings and the known history of this plant.
Le sous-sol des villes est structuré par plusieurs millénaires d’interactions société-environnement, qui ont créé les strates et sols urbains dont la puissance sédimentaire peut aujourd’hui dépasser une dizaine de mètres. Depuis une trentaine d’années, le développement de la géoarchéologie des environnements artificialisés, et l’application des géosciences à ces formations anthropogènes, a permis de caractériser les processus pédo-sédimentaires et les systèmes d’activités qui en sont à l’origine. Ainsi, il est possible de constater que les strates des V e –XI e siècles sont majoritairement caractérisées par des couches de terre sombre, d’apparence homogène, épaisses de plusieurs dizaines de centimètres, voire de plusieurs mètres, qui se rencontrent dans tous les espaces urbains anciens d’Europe, depuis Moscou jusqu’à Séville. Cet article présente une synthèse des résultats obtenus par l’étude systématique de ces terres noires, à l’échelle de l’Europe. Les résultats ont été acquis en associant une approche géo-archéologique à des fouilles archéologiques détaillées, et l’application des méthodes de l’archéo-pédologie, de la sédimentologie, de la micromorphologie, de la géochimie (métaux lourds, matières organiques) sur les stratifications archéologiques. Sur plus d’une centaine de sites étudiés en Grande-Bretagne, en Belgique, en France, en Italie, il a été possible de constater que les processus conduisant à la formation de terres noires sont très nombreux, tous liés à une occupation humaine des lieux. La bioturbation joue un rôle important dans la structuration de ces dépôts, conduisant à l’effacement partiel des anciennes interfaces sédimentaires. Les terres noires sont très riches en matières organiques, en déchets issus d’activités humaines domestiques, artisanales, en excréments, ainsi qu’en matériaux architecturaux dégradés. Les terres noires présentent des teneurs en carbone organique très élevées par rapport aux autres formations urbaines anciennes, comprises entre 9 et 35,9 mg/kg. Elles sont polluées au phosphore (jusqu’à 20,34 g/kg) et aux métaux lourds. Les concentrations en plomb atteignent 1830 mg/kg. Ces données permettent de mieux comprendre le comportement urbain des sociétés du début du Moyen Âge, dans leur gestion des déchets, leur rapport à la matérialité des surfaces sur lesquelles elles circulent et comment s’organisent les activités dans les villes.
Recent archaeological investigations in eastern Tigray, Ethiopia, have revealed extensive evidence for medieval Muslim communities. Although the settlement of Muslims near modern Kwiha was previously attested by epigraphic evidence, its exact location remained unknown. Fieldwork, with the support of the ERC project ‘HornEast’, has identified and excavated the cemetery at Bilet—the first excavation of a Muslim cemetery in the Ethiopian Highlands. The results reveal the existence of flourishing cosmopolitanism among Muslim communities in the very heart of the Zagwe Christian kingdom. These Muslim communities developed from both foreign and local populations and were well connected with the wider Islamicate world.
The Amiens‐Renancourt 1 site recently yielded one of the most important Upper Palaeolithic human occupations of northern France by the number of flint artefacts and especially by the presence of Venus figurines. All the material comes from a single archaeological layer located in a tundra gley bracketed by loess units. A multi‐proxy study combining a detailed stratigraphy, luminescence and radiocarbon datings and high‐resolution (5 cm per sample) grain size and molluscan analyses was therefore carried out to reconstruct and date the associated environmental changes and to determine the exact context of the human occupation. The chronological frame thus established supports the correlations of the archaeology‐bearing tundra gley and of an underlying arctic brown soil with Greenland interstadials GI‐4 and GI‐3. Composition changes in the molluscan population enabled the identification of transitional and optimum phases and sub‐phases within these two pedogenetic horizons. A conceptual correlation model linking molluscan phases with millennial‐scale variations of Greenland ice‐core and Sieben Hengste speleothem climate records is proposed. The Human occupation appears contemporaneous to the end of the stadial–interstadial transition of GI‐3. Synchronous in Amiens‐Renancourt 1 and Nussloch, subsequent micro‐gleys may also result from a regional/global forcing. Such a level of detail is unprecedented in a loess sequence. Neanderthals have often been seen as populations that sought refuge in southern regions of Europe during ice ages and whose ultimate disappearance could be attributed to their inability to adapt to climate change. An international team of archaeologists, ecologists, and climate modelers refute this idea by showing that Neanderthals in regions of Western Europe produced technological innovations to continue exploiting their habitual territories between 70,000–60,000 years before the present, when the climate cooled considerably.
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516 members
Frederique Durand
  • Department Grand Sud-Ouest
Nicolas Thomas
  • Department Centre/Ile-de-France
Jean-Luc Locht
  • Hauts-de-France
Christine Chaussé
  • Department Centre/Ile-de-France
Frédéric Broes
  • Hauts-de-France
121, rue d'Alésia, 75014, Paris, Ile-de-France, France
Head of institution
Président : Dominique Garcia, Directeur général délégué : Daniel Guérin
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