Discussion

The impression which emerges is that Middle Palaeolithic sites are by no means lacking in certain kinds of internal organization, or even clear 'structure7, when viewed in spatial terms. The patterns documented at the Grotte du Lazaret, Grotte Vaufrey, Les Canalettes, Arcy-sur-Cure etc. leave no doubt that the various economic, technological and social activities carried out on Middle Palaeolithic sites were patterned and regulated in various ways by certain spatial constraints which, despite the inevitable blurring effects of occupational palimpsests and post-deposi-tional disturbance, have left some discernible traces in the archaeological record. There seems little doubt that certain activities were carried out predominantly in relatively close proximity to hearth areas, while other activities were located primarily in more marginal areas of the sites. Overall, the evidence points to at least some broad regularities in the ways in which certain activities were organized and separated within the available occupation space on the sites.

The existence of such patterns is of course hardly surprising. Similar patterns of use of different areas of occupation surfaces for different economic or technological activities can now be documented from some of the earliest horninid sites, such as those at Old-uvia Gorge or Koobi Fora in East Africa, as well as in many of the later Acheulian sites such as Isimila and Terra Amata (Isaac 1984; Howell et al 1962; de Lumley & Boone 1976a). Indeed, even in some primate groups, the existence of such behavioural patterns can be documented in the use of different activity locations - for example in recent studies of chimpanzee communities in West Africa (Sept 1992). The question of how far we can attach any deeper conceptual or cognitive significance to these patterns is of course far more debatable. To take a minimalist perspective, one could argue that effectively all of the documented spatial patterning recorded in Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites could be seen essentially as a purely pragmatic response to the simple functional requirements and constraints involved in the organization of various economic, technological and social activities within specific, restricted areas. Thus the concentration of certain activities in close proximity to fire places need reflect nothing more than either the understandable desire for greater comfort during long periods of food processing or industrial activities (particularly under conditions of glacial climate) or alternatively the need for fires in the essential processing of the materials being worked - for example in the cooking of foods, the heat-treatment of flint to improve its flaking properties (Meignen 1982) or the fire-hardening of tips of spears or digging sticks. Similarly, the

Corbiac Archaeology
Figure 9.31 Plan of two circular hut structures recorded in the Chatelperronian levels of the Grotte du Renne Cave at Arcy-sur-Cure (central France), dated by radiocarbon to ca 33-34,000 BP. The huts are defined by settings of stones, post-holes, and centrally located hearths. After Farizy 1990b.

tendency to process and discard some of the larger components of animal carcases well away from the more central zones of domestic or industrial activities need reflect nothing more than the understandable inclination to keep bulky, cumbersome or smelly parts of domestic refuse away from the most heavily used areas. Granted these factors, it is difficult to see the need to invoke a deeper cognitive or conceptual structure in the organization of activities on Middle Palaeolithic sites which goes beyond such simple functional or pragmatic considerations. Even the practice of deliberately laying down localized areas of pebble paving to provide drier or more stable surfaces need hardly go beyond basic pragmatic considerations - well within the capacity of groups who were habitually accustomed to importing large quantities of lithic raw materials for use in occupation sites.

Clearly, this is a minimal view of the nature of spatial patterning in Middle Palaeolithic sites, for which more imaginative interpretations would no doubt be possible. Nevertheless, very few if any of the spatial patterns so far documented in Middle Palaeolithic sites exhibit the same degree of complexity, organization or obvious structure which can now be documented in many Upper Palaeolithic settlements. A detailed analysis of all the relevant evidence from Upper Palaeolithic sites goes well beyond the scope of this discussion. Briefly, however, one can point to at least three major features now documented from a wide range of Upper Palaeolithic settlements which seem to go significantly beyond any of the patterns so far documented in Middle Palaeolithic sites:

1. First, there can be no doubt that many Upper Palaeolithic sites show far clearer and more sharply defined evidence for deliberate living structures than anything so far documented from Middle Palaeolithic sites. Some of the most impressive and best documented of these structures are those recorded from the so-called 'East Gravettian' open-air sites in central and eastern Europe, such as Dolni Vestonice, Pavlov, Kostienki, Mezhirich, Mezin etc. (Klein 1969, 1973; Gamble 1986; Soffer 1985a). In western Europe, however, we now have evidence for equally clear living structures extending back to the earliest stages of the Upper Palaeolithic sequence -most notably in the well defined hut foundations, marked by circular settings of stones and associated post-hole arrangements, documented in the Ghatelperronian levels at Arcy-sur-Cure (Fig. 9.31) (Leroi-Gourham & Leroi-Gourhan 1964; Farizy 1990a) and, rather more speculatively, in the apparently rectangular structure documented in the roughly contemporaneous Aurignacian levels at the Cueva Morin in northern Spain (Freeman & Echegaray 1970). Later examples of similar structures are recorded from the Upper Perigordian levels at Villerest (Loire) (Fig. 9.32) and at Corbiac (Dordogne) (Comb-ier 1982, 1984; Bordes 1968b). However much weight one may attach to the slight evidence for possible occupation structures recorded in a few Middle Palaeolithic sites (Paunescu

1989), none of this can compare with the substantial and explicit evidence for living structures documented from many Upper Palaeolithic sites.

2. Second, there would seem to be evidence for some kind of clearly structured, preconceived form in the design and construction of many Upper Palaeolithic living structures. Arguably the most significant feature in this context is the conspicuously circular plans apparent in many of these structures - as for example in the two juxtaposed hut plans recorded in the Ghatelperronian levels at Arcy-sur-Cure (Fig. 9.31) or in the similar plans visible at many of the later Gravettian or Upper Perigordian sites such as Villerest, Dolni Vestonice, Mezhirich etc. (see Fig. 9.32: Leroi-Gourhan & Leroi-Gourhan 1964; Leroi-Gourhan 1976; Combier 1982, 1984; Gamble 1986). The element of clear form and structure visible in these settlement plans goes beyond anything at present demonstrable from Middle Palaeolithic sites - with the possible (though disputed) exception of the apparently circular ring of mammoth bones documented at Molodova (cf. Soffer 1989a).

3. Finally, one of the most striking features of many documented Upper Palaeolithic settlements is the way in which the principal areas of occupation can usually be seen to be centred around one major and centrally located hearth. Numerous examples could be quoted going back to the very early structures at Arcy-sur-Cure (Fig. 9.31) and continuing through all later stages of the Upper Palaeolithic sequence (cf. Gamble 1986: 251-272). Binford (1988: 559-60) has recently commented on this point in relation to the Grotte Vaufrey excavations, and points out that this tendency to concentrate activities around a central hearth seems to be characteristic not only of most Upper Palaeolithic settlements but also of most of the ethnographically documented settlements of modern hunter-gatherers. As Gamble (1986: 264) has pointed

Figure 9.32 Foundations of circular hut structure, with a centrally located hearth, recorded at the Gravettian site of Vigne-Brune (Villerest) in eastern France, dated to ca 27,000 BP. After Comhier 1984.

out, this clear centralization of economic and social activities could possibly reflect several factors, ranging from patterns of mutual cooperation and sharing in nuclear family units to more general patterns of communication between groups of individuals engaged in particular communal tasks. Whatever the explanation, it seems that there is at present much less evidence for this kind of patterning in Middle Palaeolithic sites. With a few significant exceptions, most of the hearths documented in Middle Palaeolithic sites seem to show an irregular, widely dispersed pattern which bears little resemblance to those recor ded in most of the documented Upper Palaeolithic sites. These points will be pursued further in later chapters, in the context of more general comparisons of the social and cognitive organization of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic groups. The general implications nevertheless seem evident. Whatever significance one may attach to some of the apparent elements of spatial organization in Middle Palaeolithic sites, the character of this patterning remains in at least certain fundamental respects clearly different from that documented in many of the settlements of the Upper Palaeolithic period.

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