The Mousterian site of La Folie, which is located just north of Poitiers (France), is the subject of an extremely well-done website (in French, unfortunately with no English translation). The site is dated by TL to about 57.7 +/- 2.4 kya and had thus far been the subject of a few preliminary reports that emphasized its contextual integrity and the identification of activity areas within it (Bourguignon et al. 2002, 2006). One of the key aspects of the site is that a number of approaches were combined to confidently establish the existence of regularly spaced postholes around its periphery (indicating the existence of a relatively large man-made structure) and discrete activity areas within the area circumscribed by this structure (slightly under 250 squared meters, over a thickness of about 10 cm). The absence of evidence for a central or transversal posts that would have been needed to support a roof suggests that the structure was a large (i.e., ca. 10m in diameter) windbreak rather than a tent or hut. The postholes were surrounded by limestone blocks used to anchor the wooden posts used in the structure, traces of which have clearly been identified through micromorphological analysis in at least one of the holes. Likewise, micromorphology identified a large area along one side of the structure that was devoid of archaeological remains, save for decomposed plant materials, which suggest that it represents a bedding area.
Use-wear and technological analyses show that the lithic industry used at the site is characteristic of the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition, and that it included a Levallois production strategy aimed at producing sharp flakes used to work a variety of materials (e.g., wood, skin, soft plant material). A few of these blanks were retouched to produce, among other things, retouched backed knives, but most of the lithics appear to have been produced and used relatively expediently. The investigators argue that the site served as a task site likely used in food procurement, although there are only scant details about this interpretation provided on the website.
All in all, this is a very eloquent presentation of the results of this excavation and it demonstrates how relatively dry archaeological data can be presented in an engaging way to the public at large. On a more technical level, as had already been documented at the Middle Paleolithic site of Tor Faraj in Jordan (Henry et al. 2004), this confirms that Neanderthals were able to partition and clearly organize their living space, in contrast to claims that "well organized sites" only appear in the Upper Paleolithic.
Bourguignon, L., Sellami, F., Deloze, V., Sellier-Segard, N., Beyries, S., Emery-Barbier, E. 2002. L’habitat moustérien de « La Folie » (Poitiers, Vienne) : synthèse des premiers résultats. Paléo 14:29-48.
Bourguignon, L., Vieillevigne, E., Guibert, P., Bechtel, F., Beyries, S., Émery-Bariber, A., Deloze, V., Delahaye, C., Sellami, F., Sellier-Segard, N. 2006. Compléments d’informations chronologiques sur le campement moustérien de tradition acheuléenne du gisement de la Folie (Poitiers, Vienne). Paléo 18:37-44.
Henry, D. O., H. J. Hietala, A. M. Rosen, Y. E. Demidenko, V. I. Usik and T. L. Armagan. 2004. Human Behavioral Organization in the Middle Paleolithic: Were Neanderthals Different? American Anthropologist 106:17-31.
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