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Early Neolithic in West Brittany: New discoveries at Pen Hoat Salaiin (Pleuven, Finistere, France)

Abstract : Excavated in 2008 and covering an area of 3700 m(2) in preparation for the development of a large supermarket, the site of Pen Hoat Salaun yields evidence for two occupations, one attributable to the Bertheaume group (Early Mesolithic, 8300-8200 years BP), and the other to the end of the Early Neolithic (4800-4700 years BP). Located at the top of a slope at the edge of a plateau and overlooking a graben, the site commands an extensive panoramic view towards the north-east. The granitic substrate is capped by a cover of Quaternary surface formations, no more than 1 m in thickness and consisting of three distinct sandy-loam levels (US 1-3). The two lowermost levels are made up of reworked and colluvial materials, derived from the granitic sands and residual loessal formations of the plateau, whereas the uppermost level corresponds to the present-day soil horizon developed on recent agricultural colluvium. Moreover, excavation of this cover has led to the discovery of lithic objects attributed primarily to the Mesolithic in a lower archaeological level (US 3), while a mixture of fragments attributed to the Mesolithic and Neolithic is found in a higher archaeological level (US 2). This latter lithic material is associated with ceramic shards, but to a lesser degree (than in US 3). A total of 763 shards are recorded, showing bowl or bottle-like forms; the decorations are dominated by panels of embossed buttons, cordons - including one small part with finger-printed ornament - and ribs in relief, as well as impressions made with a blunt point or spatula. Although some characters can be distinguished with different proportions in the two lithic assemblages, there is also a clear lack of tools characteristic of the early or middle Neolithic period (arrowheads, borers and burins). Moreover, we note the disappearance in this area of the laminar debitage sequences so characteristic of the Villeneuve Saint-Germain culture, in favour of the production of flakes. This sparse lithic assemblage is accompanied by a muscovite-sillimanite gneiss axehead and a fragment of a schist/wackestone ring. The former item belongs to a context - also known as carnacean - in which axeheads have high social value, with a possible alpine origin in view of its type (probably repolished Begude), even though such rocks are also present in the Armorican Massif. A serpentinite ring-disc discovered in 2007 in a trial trench 100 m south-west of the excavation area appears to represent another exceptional item, possibly originating in the Alps, though a local provenance is discussed. Although not strictly associated with the shards, four radiocarbon dates obtained on burned brushwood indicate an age range of 4800 4700 years BP. While it is out of the question to speak in terms of an association, the Pen Hoat Salaun assemblage offers a good outline of stylistic and technonolgical features at the end of the early Neolithic, as a prelude to the Castellic. (C) 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
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Eric Nicolas, Grégor Marchand, Xavier Hénaff, Laurent Juhel, Yvan Pailler, et al.. Early Neolithic in West Brittany: New discoveries at Pen Hoat Salaiin (Pleuven, Finistere, France). L'anthropologie, Elsevier Masson, 2013, 117 (2), pp.195-237. ⟨10.1016/j.anthro.2013.02.002⟩. ⟨hal-01147546⟩

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