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When Sooted Concretions Become Micro-chronological Archaeology: Establishment of occupations’ chronicles in Grotte Mandrin and Implications for our understanding of mobility strategies

Abstract : Soot deposits trapped in concretions (speleothems, travertines, carbonated crusts, etc.) are witnesses of human occupations in cavities. We developed an analytical methodology whereby soot deposits can be counted and their position in concretion can be documented, allowing identification of seasons of occupation in the cavity. These researches show that sooted concretions analysis enables the development of high temporal resolution archaeology, just like dendrochronology does for more recent periods. There is a real possibility for extending this pioneering study to cavities of all ages and areas, from Lower Palaeolithic, with the first traces of fire, to medieval or even modern times. Results have different implications depending on the concerned contexts. One of the major areas of application is hominine’s mobility study, since sooted concretions turned out to be a perfectly suitable material for micro-chronologic studies with an unexpected high temporal resolution. At the Grotte Mandrin rock shelter (Drôme, France), thousands of clastic fragments from the walls were found in each archaeological level. Their surfaces sometimes wear calcrete crusts containing soot deposits, which appear as thin black laminae. Microscopic observation of these crusts revealed that they kept track of many hominine occupations. It is possible to link them with the archaeological units identified during the excavation. The MNO (Minimum Number of Occupations) are usually high and correspond to each archaeological layer. They attest of the cumulative nature of those units and provide data on the mobility level of the past hominine groups whom occupied the rock shelter. The positions of soot films in concretions with annual lamination can also provide information about the dynamics of occupation of the cavity by past societies. This study shows also that a very short time separates the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transitional groups’ occupations from those of the last Mousterians in Grotte Mandrin. The research perspectives on soot deposits are diversified and raise the possibility to study past human groups, and in this case to rethink the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transition with an unmatched temporal resolution. Presentation will focus on methodological questions, first results in Grotte Mandrin and their implications.
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Conference papers
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01578182
Contributor : Ségolène Vandevelde Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Monday, August 28, 2017 - 5:09:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, January 14, 2022 - 11:46:02 AM

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  • HAL Id : halshs-01578182, version 1

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Ségolène Vandevelde, Jacques Élie Brochier, Christophe Petit, Ludovic Slimak. When Sooted Concretions Become Micro-chronological Archaeology: Establishment of occupations’ chronicles in Grotte Mandrin and Implications for our understanding of mobility strategies. Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2016, Jan 2016, Southampton, United Kingdom. ⟨halshs-01578182⟩

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