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See detailLES PRODUCTIONS LITHIQUES DU PALÉOLITHIQUE MOYEN DE BELGIQUE : VARIABILITÉ DES SYSTÈMES D’ACQUISITION ET DES TECHNOLOGIES EN RÉPONSE À UNE MOSAÏQUE D’ENVIRONNEMENTS CONTRASTÉS
Di Modica, Kévin ULg

Doctoral thesis (2010)

LITHIC PRODUCTION FROM THE MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC OF BELGIUM VARIABILITY OF RAW MATERIAL PROCUREMENT SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGIES AS A RESPONSE TO A MOSAIC OF CONTRASTING ENVIRONMENTS Belgium is noted for its ... [more ▼]

LITHIC PRODUCTION FROM THE MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC OF BELGIUM VARIABILITY OF RAW MATERIAL PROCUREMENT SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGIES AS A RESPONSE TO A MOSAIC OF CONTRASTING ENVIRONMENTS Belgium is noted for its many ancient prehistoric sites which are spread over a limited geographic area. Despite its limited size, this area shows important regional contrasts in terms of topographic relief and availability of mineral resources. These factors in conjunction with important regional differences related to the types of sites represented (cave/open air) as well as the proximity and morphology of the available flint make this area favorable for the study of man's relationship with his environment. The connection between the Neanderthal populations and the types of environments encountered constitutes the focus of this study which is divided into four closely associated parts. The first part is devoted to environmental variation starting with the interface between the flint-rich plains of Middle Belgium and the deep valleys of Upper Belgium. Only a few kilometers separate these two contrasting environments. Chronological variations follow because quaternary sedimentation had as much impact on the accessibility of lithic resources as on site preservation. The history of the research from 1829 to the present is also addressed. The motives and constraints of the researchers are responsible for both the abundance of documentary evidence and for the extremely variable quality of these documents. The second part concerns the previously mentioned documentation. Artifacts attributable to the Middle Paleolithic have been recovered from 437 sites : 46 sites (16 major ones) are found in karstic contexts and 391 sites (31 major ones) are open air sites. The distribution of these sites is a direct result of taphonomic processes, circumstances of discovery, and choices made by the Neanderthals themselves. In particular, two environments were favored : the plains which have abundant flint resources and the caves of the Mosan Basin. Prehistoric Man's choice of sites appears to be linked to topographical position : plateaus or cliff tops overhanging small valleys were preferred. Chronological distribution is also examined. It notably shows an abundant documentation from the Beginning of the Weichselian Pleniglacial and an absence of occupation during the Lower Weichselien Pleniglacial It also shows a concentration of archaeological evidences related to the Middle Weichselian Pleniglacial which is very exceptional for Northwest Europe. Based on research to date, Scladina Cave (38.000 B.P.) gives the most recent date for Middle Palaeolithic industries and Betche-aux-Rochtes at Spy (36.000 B.P.) provides the date for the last Neanderthals. The third part consists of a detailed study of ten lithic industries and their environmental context. Several general tendencies were detected in the way Palaeolithic populations adapted their systems of acquisition and exploitation of rocks. Clear variations in the systems of acquisition and exploitation along a northwest/southeast gradient were noted. In Lower Belgium, the use of local flint pebbles was coupled with the importation of nuclei and flakes from Middle Belgium. In Middle Belgium, the available local flint was used almost exclusively. Recourse to other local rocks or to imports was very exceptional. In Upper Belgium, the importation of flint from Middle Belgium in combination with other locally available materials constituted the rule. These variations in the systems of raw material procurement generated diversity in terms of nature, morphology, conditioning, and availability of the nodules chosen by the knappers. These diverse parameters impacted the technical choices of the Neanderthals during the reduction or debitage stage. Other important regional differences were also observed. The sites of Upper Belgium exhibited economic options which manifested in the reduction of blocks (Trou du Diable at Hastière) and in extreme adaptations or manipulation of concepts of reduction such as those recognized in several refittings from Scladina Cave. The sites of Middle Belgium exhibited an extravagant use of the primary material and a strict expression of different concepts : mainly Levallois, also Discoid, and volumetric blade production (gisement paléolithique d'otrange, Obourg Canal). The fourth part is devoted to a discussion of the results and a preliminary comparison to the rest of Europe. The connection of the diversity in lithic productions and the geographic position of the sites is particularly important. Lithic industries from the two occupation layers of Scladina (layers 5 and 1A) present more analogies between themselves than other plenicomtemporaneous sites in different environments (lays 1A of Scladina and WFL of Veldwezelt-Hezerwater). Other factors of variability superimpose themselves in this diverse region : function of the sites, cultural traditions and techniques, palaeoenvironmental variations, chronology. Comparisons with the results obtained from regions bordering Belgium as well as those obtained from greater distances showed some behavioural similarities in southern Europe in environments which evoke aspects of the karst valleys of the Mosan Basin. Translation : Cheryl Roy, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vancouver Island University [less ▲]

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