Koehler, Heloise, Wegmueller, Fabio, Detrey, Jean, Diemer, Simon, Hauck, Thomas, Pumpin, Christine, Rentzel, Philippe, Seveque, Noemie, Stoetzel, Emmanuelle, Wuscher, Patrice, Auguste, Patrick, Bocherens, Herve, Lutz, Mathias and Preusser, Frank (2016). excavations of several occupations from the Middle Paleolithic to Mutzig-Rain (Alsace): first results. Bull. Soc. Prehist. Franc., 113 (3). S. 429 - 475. PARIS: SOCIETE PREHISTORIQUE FRANCAISE. ISSN 1760-7361

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The site of Mutzig, discovered by chance in 1992 (Sainty et al., 1994), has been the focus of programmed excavations since 2009. Located in Alsace (Bas-Rhin, France), it is at present one of the very few reliable sites attributable to the regional Middle Palaeolithic, thus providing rare evidence for a zone still relatively unknown for early rehistoric times. The excellent preservation of the remains and the deep stratigraphic sequence make the site a potential reference site for environmental and behavioural analyses regarding the Middle Palaeolithic in this region. However, as studies are still largely in progress, this paper presents a summary of the preliminary results obtained. The occupations are located where the Bruche Valley opens out, at the foot of the Felsbourg Cliff which is oriented directly southwards and contains many natural rockshelters. Highly attractive due to its unobstructed view of the Alsace Plain, this topographic location was quite likely selected for repeated human occupations, perhaps relatively close in time. The entire sequence is attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic. While the upper levels (Layers 1-4) may be formed of colluvial deposits containing reworked material from occupations on the dismantled upper terraces, layers 5, 7A, 7C1, 7C2 and 7D seem to be in situ below the shelter, which shows different phases of collapse. The older layers 8, 9 and 10, observed only in test excavations, contain occupations on a ledge protected by the rockshelter overhang. It is not currently possible to determine whether these took place during an earlier phase of the rockshelter with a larger porch or at the cliff base. As bedrock has not yet been reached, it is quite possible that the sequence is even longer. The different occupations reflect the same relatively cold steppe-like environmental context, with reindeer, woolly mammoth, steppe horse, steppe bison and woolly rhinoceros being identified. The small mammals also indicate a cold climate, but not of the Pleniglacial type. Isotope analyses of oxygen and carbon in horse and mammoth teeth also indicate temperatures colder than today and an open environment. These data, as well as the OSL dates obtained thus far, place the occupations of Mutzig during the Early Weichselian Glacial (MIS 5, ca. 90 000 BP), which biometric analyses and analyses of the large and small fauna tend to corroborate. The archaeological material is abundant in each of the different layers, altogether forming an inventory of more than 2500 faunal remains and over 1300 lithic artefacts. The excavation is currently being conducted across an area of around 30 m(2). The lithic industry is fairly uniform throughout the sequence. Knappers used different local raw material types, mainly sedimentary and volcanic rocks, either found in the primary outcrops (up to 15 km away) or most commonly in the alluvial deposits of the Bruche a few hundred metres from the site. Exploitation techniques are relatively simple, using natural convexities, indicating a significant selection phase for raw blocks. Most of the cores and flakes show flat core management, i.e., exploitation of a single surface to produce relatively thin invasive flakes. Flexibility in techniques can be observed, resulting in different kinds of production, permitted by mastery of core reduction management. In some cases, when the initial block morphology is not suitable, core preparation took place, sometimes Levallois in method. Few retouched tools have been found, but the many retouch flakes recovered testify to the circulation and use of such tools. From a techno-typological point of view, the industry differs from contemporaneous industries on the other side of the Vosges and the Rhine. At least four archaeological levels (layers 5, 7A, 7C1 and 7D) contain burnt elements and one level (layer 7C1) a combustion structure. The site of Mutzig seems to be linked to major hunting activities since the fauna are not only abundant, but also frequently show anthropic traces (striae and intentional fractures). However, the question is raised concerning procurement of very large herbivores, particularly mammoth (representing more than 40% of the identifiable taxa in layer 7A in NR). This is even more striking since all anatomical elements appear to have been transported to the camp, including cranial elements, ribs and vertebrae. The use of these parts and the procurement strategy for these very large herbivores remain to be explained. The absence of carnivore marks on the bones of large fauna should be noted. This, along with the large number of lithic artefacts, suggests long-term occupations by human populations and/or rapid burying of archaeological lithics and fauna. Rapid carcass processing is also demonstrated, perhaps associated with combustion zones. Finally, although the sequence is fairly uniform, slight differences can be perceived. While mammoth dominates the faunal spectrum in layer 7A, it is under-represented in layer 7C1 where reindeer is higher, and nearly absent in layer 7C2. The hypothesis of a more rigorous climate in layer 7C1 can be proposed, based in part on the preliminary small mammals database, but especially by the near absence of charcoal in the combustion structure, which contains mostly burnt bone. This contrasts sharply with other combustion structures in which charcoal is common, perhaps reflecting less dense forest cover for layer 7C1. Continuing excavation and analyses specific to each discipline and their comparison should ultimately enable clarification of the environment and Neanderthal ways of life in Alsace.

Item Type: Journal Article
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-271336
Journal or Publication Title: Bull. Soc. Prehist. Franc.
Volume: 113
Number: 3
Page Range: S. 429 - 475
Date: 2016
Place of Publication: PARIS
ISSN: 1760-7361
Language: French
Faculty: Unspecified
Divisions: Unspecified
Subjects: no entry
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ArchaeologyMultiple languages
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/27133


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