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Le sommet de l’iceberg ? Colonisation pionnière et néolithisation de la France méditerranéenne

Abstract : Recent research into the European Neolithisation process and the development of farming communities reveals a diverse and complex cultural landscape. In the Western Mediterranean, it is now well known that the first agro-pastoral economy appears around 6000 BCE in south-eastern Italy and that part of these sites, often grouped under the generic term “Impressed Ware”, represent the departure point for the diffusion of the Neolithic economy. In this context, its rapid dispersal towards northern Italy and southern France is now interpreted as part of a pioneering colonization based on the use of maritime routes and preceding of several centuries the expansion of the Cardial culture. In southern France, archaeological settlements that make it possible to characterize this early stage of the Neolithisation process are still rare and do not have an equal value. The new discovery of an Impressa implantation at the site of ZAC de la Farigoule 2 (Aubord), in the Mediterranean Languedoc, gives us the opportunity to consolidate our knowledge about this major historical phenomenon. Despite its limited size, this site provides a rich set of data: domestic structures, pottery production, flint and obsidian industries, ground stone tools… The technological and typological characteristics of the pottery and the flint industry can be clearly assigned to the Impressa facies (Arene Candide-Caucade-Peiro Signado style). La Farigoule 2 is therefore an undeniable testimony to the establishment of a group linked to the agro-pastoral communities of the Italian peninsula. It is not possible to discuss in length the nature of the occupation on the basis of the deposits provided by the excavation. Nevertheless, the indirect evidence of cereal farming (sickle blades), the diversity of craft activities, the domestic structures, the identification of potters' tools, all these data are consistent with the image of a permanent occupation. Local resources are exploited: siliceous raw materials, clay soils and hard rocks. However, the use of products acquired several hundred kilometres away reinforces the hypothesis of the pioneering displacement of human groups taking with them their technical, economic and cultural background. Discussed in the broader scale of southern France and western Mediterranean, these new data allow us to consider fundamental issues raised by this pioneering colonization process. Important spatial discontinuities are observed in the distribution of these settlements, although this phenomenon seems to concern the entire Western Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the discovery presented in this paper should encourage us to consider a perhaps higher density of sites. It should also lead us to question our ability to detect these settlements. Concerning the natural and cultural factors that determine the settlement patterns of these Impressa groups, they are still in discussion but the scarcity of the paleoenvironmental data (position of the shoreline, vegetal landscape) restricts argumentation. Another issue is the future of these pioneering groups and their impact on the overall Neolithisation process in the South of France and possibly in Mediterranean Spain. In a large part of Southern France, one can observe a real chronological hiatus between sites with Impressa facies and those from the Cardial. Without ruling out the possibility of a taphonomic bias, this situation could be related to the model of micro-breaks observed elsewhere in the Neolithic diffusion in the Mediterranean at different periods. Finally, the analysis of the material productions of these pioneering groups illustrates complex socio-cultural dynamics that we still need to unravel. While the temporal dynamics of the diffusion of the "Neolithic package" (farming economy, pottery,…) across the western Mediterranean seems to be well understood, the chronometric, social and cultural framework needs to be considerably refined. In this perspective, further works on this important stage of Neolithic history, particularly through the discovery of new sites, is a major challenge for future research.
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Contributor : François-Xavier Le Bourdonnec <>
Submitted on : Friday, July 19, 2019 - 5:51:38 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 4:14:03 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02189620, version 1


Claire Manen, Thomas Perrin, André Raux, Didier Binder, François-Xavier Le Bourdonnec, et al.. Le sommet de l’iceberg ? Colonisation pionnière et néolithisation de la France méditerranéenne. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française, Société Préhistorique Française, 2019, 116 (2), pp.317-361. ⟨hal-02189620⟩



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