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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 369–388 | Cite as

Microwear study of quartzite artefacts: preliminary results from the Middle Pleistocene site of Payre (South-eastern France)

  • Antonella Pedergnana
  • Andreu Ollé
  • Antony Borel
  • Marie-Hélène Moncel
Original Paper

Abstract

Preliminary functional results obtained from the quartzite assemblage of the Early Middle Palaeolithic site of Payre (South-eastern France) are presented. In an area rich in flint, hominins at Payre also collected quartzite in their local environment, specifically along the Rhône River banks. Although the Payre lithic assemblage is largely composed of flint, quartzite was introduced in the site mainly as large cutting tools knapped outside. This fact pointed out an apparently highly differential treatment of the raw material types available in the region. A major concern is to understand the reason why. Is there any functional reason for the introduction of those artefacts, perhaps to perform specific activities related to the toughness of quartzite? Or is there any functional differentiation among the various raw materials? Use-wear analysis is a useful tool for better understanding human technological choices and strategies of lithic raw material management. Before attempting to extensively apply use-wear analysis on the quartzite assemblage, we analysed a limited sample to evaluate the general surface preservation. A specific experimental programme with the same local quartzite was carried out in order to provide a reliable comparative reference for interpreting use-wear evidence on archaeological implements. Methodological difficulties related to use-wear analysis applied to quartzite artefacts are also discussed. Both Optical light microscopy (OLM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) were employed in this study; however, interpretations were elaborated considering principally SEM micro-graphs.

The analysis of the archaeological material showed a good state of preservation of the surfaces with a low incidence of post-depositional alterations. The documented use-wear allowed us to identify the active edges, the kinematics and, more rarely, the worked material. Chopping activities were documented on two large artefacts suggesting a specific utility of those tools.

Keywords

Lithic use-wear analysis Quartzite France Payre Early Middle Palaeolithic 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are thankful to the Servei de Recursos Científics i Tècnics team of the Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona, Spain) for their help during SEM sessions.

This work was developed within the frame of the project CGL2015-65387-C3-1-P (Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad), the projects SGR 2014-899 (AGAUR, Generalitat de Catalunya), 2014PFR-URV-B2-17 and 2015PFR-URV-B2-17 (Universitat Rovira i Virgili), and the French-Spanish project (Mérimée, 2014-1016). A. Pedergnana is the beneficiary of a FI-DGR pre-doctoral grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya (2014FI_B 00539). Fieldworks and analyses at Payre were financially supported by the French Ministry of Culture (Rhône-Alpes region) and the regional area (Ardèche department). We thank JL. Fernández-Marchena for images A and B of the Fig. 13. We are also indebted to Deborah Barsky for the language revision of the last version of the manuscript. Finally, we are grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the earlier version of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonella Pedergnana
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andreu Ollé
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antony Borel
    • 3
  • Marie-Hélène Moncel
    • 3
  1. 1.IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució SocialTarragonaSpain
  2. 2.Àrea de PrehistòriaUniversitat Rovira i Virgili, Fac. de LletresTarragonaSpain
  3. 3.Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique (HNHP, UMR 7194), Sorbonne Universités, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Université Perpignan Via DominicaParisFrance

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