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Y'a pas de suie sans feu ! : étude micro-chronologique des concrétions fuligineuses : étude de cas : le site paléolithique de la Grotte Mandrin (France)

Abstract : The study of past societies requires an understanding of their social organization. One way to do study it is to focus on mobility patterns and land use dynamics, which are only accessible with a high temporal resolution. While micro-chronological resolution (sub-annual to decennial) is accessible to ethnologists, it is generally not accessible to prehistoric archaeologists, whose archaeological assemblages are unfortunately almost exclusively cumulative and are mostly formed over a long period of time. The aim of this PhD thesis was to develop fuliginochronology (of fuliginous: sooty) as a technique to reach a high temporal resolution in archaeological settings. Fuliginochronology is the micro-chronological study of soot deposits trapped in limestone concretions, which are evidence of human occupations in caves. The analysis of this geoarchaeological phenomenon thus consists of an anthropological study of past societies. The thesis corpus consists is composed of fragments of walls covered with sooty concretions and collected in the twelve Pleistocene archaeological levels of the Grotte Mandrin site (Malataverne, Drôme, France). These are attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic and the transition between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. A thirteenth Holocene level contains mainly remains of Neolithic cremations. The site is located in the middle Rhône valley, left bank (east), and overlooks a dead arm of the river, at the level of a narrowing: the Donzère defile, giving the shelter a privileged position in the landscape at the crossroads of different biotopes. Additional analyses (…) demonstrated the dating potential of sooty concretions. These studies also helped to better understand the genesis and the post-depositional alterations of the concretions. Moreover, they provided evidence demonstrating the annual nature of the calcite doublets that constitute them and that are observable for most samples. Microscopic observation of thin, and/or polished, sections made in the concretion’s growth axis reveals that what appears as a single black lamina to the naked eye generally resolves as a multitude of thin soot films a few micrometres thick which can resemble a barcode. These ‘barcodes’ can be inventoried and aligned to reconstruct longer sequences and the chronicle of human occupations in the shelter for each archaeological level. The joint study of soot films and calcite doublets allows us to set the chronicles on a micro-chronological time scale. Few studies have been carried out on this type of material. This work represents the first attempt to build the chronicles of occupations across all archaeological levels in a rock shelter. Among the results, The Minimum Number of Occupations per archaeological level was determined, and occupation rhythms integrated into the annual cycle of nomadism or within multi-year cycles were identified. This highlights the dynamics of occupation of the site (and, to a certain degree, of the territory) that are different between the archaeological levels. This finesse of perception, hitherto inaccessible for the study of ancient populations, also makes it possible to demonstrate that the succession between the last Neanderthals and the first regional Homo sapiens took place on this site in a very short time, a single year, indicating the contemporaneity of these two humanities on the same territory. The research applications of fuliginochronology are diverse. This micro-chronological method has a wide field of application both chronologically and geographically, since it can be applied anywhere in the world and for any period of time, as long as fires have been made in the vicinity of active concretions.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 12:34:59 PM
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Ségolène Vandevelde. Y'a pas de suie sans feu ! : étude micro-chronologique des concrétions fuligineuses : étude de cas : le site paléolithique de la Grotte Mandrin (France). Archéologie et Préhistoire. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019PA01H103⟩. ⟨tel-02612479v2⟩

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