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Neandertal’s Presence during the Eemian Interglacial in North-western Europe: a New Site at Waziers (Northern France)

Abstract : At the end of the 1980’s, C. Gamble launched a debate on the ability of Early hominids to colonize northern latitudes of Europe during Middle and Late Pleistocene Interglacial periods. At that time, the Eemian (MIS 5e) was characterised by a total absence of human occupation in Northern France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain. Since the 1990’s, a few sites with human occupation attributed to the Eemian have been discovered and excavated in north-west Europe, particularly in Germany. After these discoveries some authors like Roebroeks et al. [2, 3] rejected Gamble’s model. In northern France, several Middle Palaeolithic levels were discovered at the base of the Eemian tufa of Caours (Somme basin) in 2006. They represent the first record of Human occupation during the Last Interglacial in the area. Recently, in 2012 an archaeological diagnostic conducted at Waziers (North, France) before the building of a Do-it-Yourself shop, led to the discovery of a peat layer at 3,2 metres deep in some test pits, overlying fluvial silts and sands. Complementary observations made in 2013 allowed to propose an Eemian age for the fluvial sequence. This interpretation relies on geomorphological and palaeontological observations: (1) the presence of loess covering the fluvial deposits and the peat, and (2) the occurrence of both Interglacial Pleistocene mammals (aurochs and red deer) and Pleistocene aquatic mollusc species (Belgrandia marginata, Anisus septemgyratus) that no longer exist in this area, in the fluvial deposits and in the peat. Moreover, a minimum age of 103 +3.5/-3.4 ka was obtained by U/Th dating of small CacO3 nodules (oogons of characeae) extracted from a fine grained tufa layer directly underlying the peat (GEOTOP Montreal). This result reinforces the allocation of the the Waziers interglacial sequence to the Eemian (a radiocarbon measurement undertaken earlier on the peat logically gave an age prior to 43 500 BP). The presence of lithic artefacts and aurochs bones with anthropic fractures lead to design an extended archaeological excavation in order to confirm the existence of a second site with Eemian human occupation in Northern France. In 2013, a complete overview of the geomorphology of the valley has been carried out by geophysical research using two different methods. An EM31 connected to a GPS was used to record the mean electrical conductivity of soils (continuous, 4-6 m deep) and to obtain a map with the location of the Eemian channel. Two electric panels were made perpendicularly to the palaeochannel in order to observe the morphology of the valley and the fluvial deposits. Based on this information, a series of core drillings allowed to build five transects. In 2014, during a first campaign, 41 m2 were excavated. The geomorphology of the site was investigated and continuous sampling columns of the stratigraphical sequence were undertaken for paleontological studies on mollusc, pollen and mammal assemblages (presently in progress). The palaeoenvironmental reconstruction will be completed by the study of the rich corpus of wood and other organic remains such as hazelnuts or insects preserved in the peat. Thanks to the discovery of some lithic artefacts and human activity traces on faunal remains (cut maks on beaver tibia, burnt bones, aurochs bones typical breakage patterns) found in situ in fluvial deposit, the presence of human occupation during the Eemian at Waziers has been definitively demonstrated. Datings (OSL) are in progress and a second field campaign will take place this summer. References: [1] Gamble, C., 1986. The Palaeolithic Settlement of Europe. Cambridge University Press.[2] Roebroeks, W., Conard, N. J., Van Kolfschoten, T., 1992. Dense forests, cold steppes, and the palaeolithic settlement of northern europe [and comments and replies]. Current Anthropology, 33, 551-586.[3] Roebroeks, J.W.M., Tuffreau, A., 1999. Palaeoenvironment and settlement patterns of the Northwest European Middle Palaeolithic. In: Roebroeks, W., Gamble, C. (red.), The Middle Palaeolithic Occupation of Europe, pp. 121-138.[4] Antoine, P., Limondin-Lozouet, N., Auguste, P., Locht, J.-L., Galheb, Reyss, J.-L., Escude, É., Carbonel, P., Mercier, N., Bahain, J.-J., Falguères, C., Voinchet, P., 2006. Le tuf de Caours (Somme, France mise en évidence d’une séquence eemienne et d’un site paléolithique associé. Quaternaire, 17,4, 281-320.
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Submitted on : Friday, October 25, 2019 - 12:55:35 PM
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David Hérisson, Jean-Luc Locht, Luc Vallin, Laurent Deschodt, Pierre Antoine, et al.. Neandertal’s Presence during the Eemian Interglacial in North-western Europe: a New Site at Waziers (Northern France). 5th Annual Meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution, Sep 2015, London, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-02333459⟩

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