Le Magdalénien après la Nature : une étude des relations entre humains et animaux durant le Magdalénien moyen

Abstract : The aim of this work is to bring new elements to our comprehension of human-animal relationships in one of the emblematic cultures of the European Upper Palaeolithic, the Middle Magdalenian of south-western France, through a two-pronged approach treating animal (and human) depictions and animal (and human) skeletal remains. Rigid naturalism, which presupposes an opposition between nature and culture, as well as the assumed universality of anthropocentrism, are limiting to this endeavor. These intellectual frames of reference confine the realms of investigation of both archaeozoology and the study of figurative art, impeding in part our ability to access the ways in which communities of the past apprehended their own environment. We concentrate therefore on theoretical postures that authorize the relativization of naturalistic ontology while all the same recognizing a diversity of ontologies.Our project is therefore an attempt to identify the specific ontological system of the Middle Magdalenian via its attributed archaeological remains – with the objective of determining the nature of human-animal relationship during the Middle Magdalenian. Philippe Descola’s model of four modes of identification seems to us to be the best adapted approach for such an enterprise, as it provides precise definitions that are easily employed.Middle Magdalenian parietal art focuses particularly on very specific distinctions, but also on the individuation of animals and their respective behaviours, seeming to bring out the depicted animals’ intentionality. Certain methods participate in the linking of these intentionalities: notably the parietal plan, the use of natural reliefs, and the way humanity is represented. A study focusing on skeletal animal remains from Middle Magdalenian sites shows that the general pattern of butchery operations and its supposed ritualization is particularly oriented towards animal individuality and subjectivity. This generalized butchery pattern of animals shows parallels with the treatment of certain human remains. In the two cases, a particular emphasis is seen in the minutia and intensity of procedures and an over-representation of skulls in habitat sites, indicating a relative equivalence between the status of humans and non-humans, as well as a desire to reduce the subjectivity of individuals via the transformation of forms. The intentions conveyed by these diverse practices – in parietal art, and in the treatment of animal and human remains – seem particularly representative of Descola’s animist mode of identification, and appear to be incompatible with other modes of identification, including totemism, which we often associate with the European Upper Palaeolithic. A globalized theme of animist bent appears, in which the individuation of humans as animals seems important, as is their linkage. Diverse forms of interaction between human and non-human individuals may have found their place in what appears to constitute a cycle integrating practices underlining the apparition and disparition of animal subjectivity.
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Clément Birouste. Le Magdalénien après la Nature : une étude des relations entre humains et animaux durant le Magdalénien moyen. Archéologie et Préhistoire. Université Toulouse le Mirail - Toulouse II, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018TOU20009⟩. ⟨tel-02369001⟩

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