D'un sens à l'autre et retour… La « flèche de Montclus » : un marqueur des interactions entre mésolithiques et néolithiques ?

Abstract : In the beginning, the “Montclus arrowhead” (a trapezoidal arrowhead with thinning retouch) was understood as a manifestation of the gradual transformation of Mesolithic tool types into Neolithic ones. Later research, and the identification of closely related types (e.g. the Jean-Cros arrowhead), gradually supported the association of this arrowhead type with Neolithic contexts, to the point that it was subsequently considered as a fossil director of the southern Early Neolithic, in the Cardial–Epicardial cycle. However, several recent excavations have renewed the debate on the origin of this arrowhead, sometimes found in contexts that are assumed a priori to be fully Mesolithic. For this reason, the question is again raised with great acuity: do these arrowheads represent a transfer from Early Neolithic groups to Mesolithic hunters or, on the contrary, did Neolithic colonists appropriate them from the last Mesolithic hunters? In this article, we first present the technical systems present in Mediterranean France during the 6th millennium BC, Second Mesolithic, Impressa, Cardial and Epicardial periods. We then refine the definition of the “Montclus arrowhead” (or the BG32 type of Binder, 1987 and Perrin, 2001) to reach a clear technological definition. The wide and regular laminar blank selected by the knapper was first sectioned by flexion. The fracture surfaces were then regularized by inverse, abrupt or semi-abrupt retouch. The plane thus created served as the retouching surface in the second transformation phase, which was aimed at thinning the piece by the detachment of thin, flat flakes using the pressure technique. We then address the archaeological contexts of the discoveries, often too coarse to respond precisely to the question addressed here. Their distribution shows that this arrowhead type is present in a relatively uniform manner throughout southern France during the sixth millennium. Eighty percent of the 110 reliable archaeological contexts recorded are attributed to the Early Neolithic. In the main expansion zone of the Cardial and Epicardial, namely Provence, Languedoc and the Rhone Valley, other weapon armature types are rare. The question is more complex in southern France due to the rarity, or even absence, of reliable stratigraphic contexts for the regional Early Neolithic, apart from Cuzoul de Gramat. The few most reliable indices show that these arrowheads were usually present in association with segment-type armatures that were shaped by bifacial retouching (“Betey segments” or PB32). These latter are clearly linked to the Doble Bisels armatures in northern Spain. Among the Second Mesolithic sites, Baume de Montclus in the south-east and Cuzoul de Gramat in the south-west are still the most reliable contexts for attributing these armatures to this period. At the latter site, whose excavation in progress, the stratigraphic unit US 5110 contained typical Montclus arrowheads, and a charcoal fragment from this unit yielded a date of 5700 to 5600 BC, thus excluding a Neolithic attribution. Despite its favorable archaeological context, in the Grande-Rivoire rock shelter (Sassenage, Isère) the presence of Montclus arrowheads in the Mesolithic layers cannot be determined with certainty. At the site of Essart (Poitiers, Vienne), excavated from 2003 to 2005, around twenty “Montclus arrowheads” were mixed with asymmetric trapezes with low-angle retouch, Sonchamp points, and other remains characteristic of the regional Second Mesolithic. The absence of Neolithic pottery at this site further supports a Mesolithic attribution, in the broad sense, even if the stratigraphic and chronometric context of this large open-air occupation does not permit definitive assertions. Though their technical parameters are somewhat different (short bifacial retouch), Châtelet arrowheads share undeniable morphological and functional similarities to Montclus arrowheads (central-western France, but occupy a geographic zone that is distinct, and are found only in Mesolithic contexts (Retzien). Three scenarios can be proposed to explain the currently available data: 1/ Montclus arrowheads were conceived in Neolithic sites 2/ Montclus arrowheads were conceived in Mesolithic sites 3/ The concept of a transverse arrowhead was brought to southern France by Neolithic colonists and reinterpreted within the contemporary Mesolithic systems through a feed-back mechanism. The abundance of these arrowheads in Early Neolithic sites in the Mediterranean region argues in favor of the first scenario. The early date obtained at Cuzoul de Gramat and the absence of these types in the earliest Neolithic (Impressa) tend to favor the second scenario. More complex, the third scenario involves numerous technical transfers and therefore requires a greater number of reliable stratigraphic contexts to enable more robust testing.
Document type :
Conference papers
Complete list of metadatas

Cited literature [72 references]  Display  Hide  Download

Contributor : Thomas Perrin <>
Submitted on : Sunday, April 7, 2019 - 8:07:57 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 3:46:06 PM


 Restricted access
To satisfy the distribution rights of the publisher, the document is embargoed until : 2021-04-07

Please log in to resquest access to the document


  • HAL Id : hal-02092029, version 1


Thomas Perrin, Grégor Marchand, Nicolas Valdeyron, Bori Sam. D'un sens à l'autre et retour… La « flèche de Montclus » : un marqueur des interactions entre mésolithiques et néolithiques ?. Le second Mésolithique des Alpes à l’Atlantique (VIIe - Ve millénaires). Table ronde internationale de Strasbourg, Nov 2015, Strasbourg, France. pp.127-151. ⟨hal-02092029⟩



Record views