New paradigms in the exploitation of Mesolithic shell middens in Atlantic France: a review of the last 15 years

Abstract : The erosion by the sea of the Beg-er-Vil site in north-western France led to the resumption of excavation in 2012. It is one of four known Mesolithic shell middens along the French Atlantic coast. Those of Téviec and Hoedic were explored in the first half of the 20th century, while Beg-an-Dorchenn and Beg-er-Vil were excavated in the 1980s. The major scientific advances that had taken place in archaeology since these field operations had led us to ask several questions. What new advances can we make with our current scientific means? And how can we anticipate the technical advances of tomorrow to protect archaeological information? The current dynamism of research on maritime hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic is changing the image of the shell layer from an archaeological reserve to a more global research object. The interest in physical anthropology at the beginning of the 20th century led to a strong light on the necropolises preserved in these layers, leaving in the shadows the dumps where the deceased were buried. Indeed, if some components of their diets were identified, the matrix of the shell midden was not accurately described. The excavations of the 1980s remain fixed once again on the elements describing the material culture of these populations, while the specific fauna are exploited only in the form of a list of species. The professionalization of archaeology in the late 20th century and the development of analysis and observation techniques led to a re-reading of these sites. The activities of the occupants of these habitats are then described in addition to what we know about the deceased. Research is carried out beyond the shell layers, finally delivering clear remains of peripheral dwellings. Thus, the image of human beings in the Mesolithic becomes clearer as research progresses. However, it remains very difficult to anticipate what should be saved from our trowels, in systems where shell mass dissolves over time as the accuracy of analysis changes.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 2:59:24 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02089154, version 1

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Catherine Dupont, Grégor Marchand. New paradigms in the exploitation of Mesolithic shell middens in Atlantic France: a review of the last 15 years. Exploring the World’s Prehistory, XVIIIe congrès mondial de l’Union internationale des sciences préhistoriques et protohistoriques (UISPP), Union internationale des sciences préhistoriques et protohistoriques (UISPP), Jun 2018, Paris, France. ⟨hal-02089154⟩

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