Diversité des territoires d'origine des parures en coquillage mésolithiques de la grotte Rochefort (Saint-Pierre-sur-Erve, Mayenne)

Abstract : Marine shells were constantly used as ornaments by the Mesolithic populations of Europe. The resumption of excavations in Grotte Rochefort (Saint-Pierre-sur-Erve, Mayenne, France) helps complete the existing corpus. The scientific interest of these ornaments is also underlined by the distance of the site from the sea, over 150 km at the time of its occupation. A series of 39 shells was discovered in Grotte Rochefort alongside other ornaments made from animal and human teeth, animal bone remains and lithic artefacts. The stratigraphic data and the geo-archaeological context of the cave allow us to attribute these shell ornaments to the Mesolithic. A basic description of these ornaments is proposed: specific determination, taphonomic analysis and description of their perforation and use-wear stigmata. Our objectives include explaining the reasons for the presence of these shells in the occupation layers of Grotte Rochefort, discovering if these shells were perforated in the cave itself, finding if they were worn, defining acquisition methods of the raw material, and situating these shell ornaments in the context of the European Mesolithic. Their specific determination (Dentalium sp., Ampullina sp ., Euspira nitida, Littorina littorea, Littorina obtusata, Neritidae (Neritinae) ind., Nucella lapillus, Trivia sp ., Cerithium gr. vulgatum) reveals an important diversity of the potential origins of these artefacts and their acquisition method. Some were collected after being washed ashore on beaches along the Mesolithic Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts, others were found in several fossil deposits. The dichotomy with shells consumed during the Mesolithic underlines a specific mode of acquisition dedicated to this use. In fact, most of the species used as ornaments in Grotte Rochefort were not consumed during the Mesolithic (e.g. Dentalium sp., Littorina obtusata or Trivia sp.), and several indications plead in favour of their collection once dead and already deprived of the animal’s flesh (breaks in prominent parts of the shell such as the siphonal canal or the apex, followed by their regular and uniform polishing, the regular polish of the whole surface, erasing in a uniform manner the ornamentation of the shell). This dichotomy underlines the importance attributed to them by these Mesolithic populations within the symbolic sphere. The fact that these ornaments were merely perforated is probably not innocuous; thus, they convey the mystery of the oceans or at least the image of a major environment in the lifestyle of these hunter-gatherers totally dependent on wild resources. It was not possible to confirm shaping of these ornaments within Grotte Rochefort. These shells seem to have been extensively worn before being lost on the Mesolithic occupation floor of the cave, as revealed by the break of the shell bridge between the aperture of the shell and the original perforation. The ornaments found in Grotte Rochefort doubtless represent only a tiny proportion of the shell ornaments worn by the people who frequented this cave. Only the smallest components of the Mesolithic shell ornaments seem to appear there. Analysis of the shell ornaments from Grotte Rochefort shows strong similarities with those of the European Mesolithic: the shell ornaments discovered are small in size, the main species determined are Dentalium sp ., Littorina obtusa, their shaping (reducing of tusk-shells, perforation localized on the last whorl of gastropods, perforation moved from the outer lip to offer resistance to the tensions linked to the tie, two perforations of the dorsal area of Trivia), and the way they were worn (deformation of the shape of the perforation associated with the polish around the perforation, levelling of the inner lip). Grotte Rochefort thus represents an additional milestone bearing witness to important exchange networks with multiple influences during the Mesolithic.
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Submitted on : Monday, November 26, 2018 - 9:04:01 AM
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Catherine Dupont, Stéphan Hinguant, Didier Merle. Diversité des territoires d'origine des parures en coquillage mésolithiques de la grotte Rochefort (Saint-Pierre-sur-Erve, Mayenne). Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française, Société Préhistorique Française, 2017, 114 (1), pp.7-23. ⟨hal-01934510⟩

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