Regional Groups in the European Middle Gravettian: A Reconsideration of the Rayssian Technology

By Klaric, Laurent | Antiquity, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Regional Groups in the European Middle Gravettian: A Reconsideration of the Rayssian Technology


Klaric, Laurent, Antiquity


Introduction

The Middle Gravettian period in south-west France is divided into two phases largely based on the stratification at the site of the Abri Pataud (David 1985). The first is characterised by an abundance of Noailles burins (Noaillian phase) and the second by the dominance of Raysse burins (Rayssian phase). Sites with Rayssian lithics are distributed throughout France (Figure 1). Investigations in the 1960s to the 1980s revealed variants of Noailles and Raysse burins and of Gravettian backed-points (Gravette, microgravette and backed bladelets), as well as examples of Noaillian and Rayssian artefacts which occurred in the same layer (Delporte 1961; Laville & Rigaud 1973; Rigaud 1982; 1988; David 1985). This has led to the development of two main hypotheses. The first suggests that both Noaillian and Rayssian phases constitute typological and cultural facies distinct from other Perigordian cultures (David 1995: 130), while the second proposes that the differences between the industries are functional. In the latter case, fluctuations of NoaiUes and Raysse burins and abrupt-backed points are interpreted as the result of particular activities leading to the proliferation of different types of tools (Laville & Rigaud 1973; Rigaud 1982).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Recent discoveries in central France have prompted a rethink of these matters. Are Noaillian and Rayssian assemblages and their variants functional or cultural, contemporary or sequential? This review starts with new work at the important site of La Picardie (Indreet-Loire), and then considers a number of other well-known assemblages, paying particular attention to the integrity of contexts. The result suggests that a general evolution from Noaillian to Rayssian types is by no means certain, demanding other explanations for the distinction between them.

La Picardie (at Preuilly-sur-Claise): main results and implications

Located on the left bank of the Claise river just next to a good quality flint outcrop of Upper Turonian (Figure 2), the site of La Picardie shows close parallels with other Middle Gravettian sites. The numerous Raysse burins are very similar to those from Layer V of the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure (Leroi-Gourhan 1964; Schmider 1996) and from the upper part of Layer four at the Abri Pataud (Movius & David 1970; Bricker 1995). There is no indication of mixing with other types, and the assemblage at La Picardie is, without doubt, related to the second part of the Middle Gravettian, also called the Rayssian phase. But, unlike at Pataud, there are no Noailles burins or Gravettian backed blades or bladelets in the assemblage. On the other hand, there has been identified at La Picardie a special category of small retouched bladelets. These have been identified through the close inspection of the whole range of flaked stone material (Figure 3; Klaric et al. 2001; 2002). A technological study (Klaric et al. 2002; 2003) has demonstrated that these tools, called 'La Picardie bladelets', were made exclusively on burin spalls coming from Raysse burins (Figure 4). This means that this category of burin may now be considered rather as a bladelet-core. The interpretation is strengthened by other studies in which this kind of artefact found on other sites was also interpreted as a bladelet-core (Le Mignot 2000; Lucas 2000; 2002; Pottier 2005). In addition, the discovery of the same kind of bladelets on several Rayssian sites (Solvieux, Abri Pataud, Le Flageolet and Grotte du Renne) has shown a recurrence of this type of production. The consistency of the flaking process can be viewed as a good cultural diagnostic element for the identification of the Rayssian phase (Klaric 2003).

[FIGURES 2-4 OMITTED]

Associations between Raysse burins and other types

About 52 sites show some association between Raysse burins and Gravette backed points, but very few of them have the required contextual integrity.

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