Figure 9.29 Two adjacent pit features recorded by Peyrony in the uppermost Mousterian level (layer J) in the lower shelter at Le Moustier. The smaller pit contained the burial of a young child. After Bordes 1972; see also Peyrony 1930.

must have involved a good deal of effort and could presumably only have been achieved with the use of wooden or conceivably bone or antler digging sticks. The intended functions of the pits remains much more enigmatic. Bordes (1972: 134-7) suggested that those recorded at Combe Grenal and Le Moustier may have been intended as human burial pits - pointing out that a second, smaller pit recorded by Peyrony (1930) in the same stratigraphie level at Le Moustier was found to contain the skeleton of a young child (Fig. 9.29); the absence of similar burials in the larger pit at Le Moustier and at Combe Grenal could, he suggested, reflect either poorer conditions for bone survival in these features or the burial of even younger infants whose bones could hardly be expected to survive. A very different interpretation has been advanced by Jelinek and Debénath for the pit at La Quina. They argue that this and, by implication, other similar pits might have been intended for the long-term storage of meat or other food supplies - particularly over the winter months when permanently frozen soil conditions could well have allowed storage of meat supplies for several weeks or even months. Inevitably, both interpretations remain highly speculative from current evidence. Nevertheless, the very clearly defined nature of these pits in well documented Middle Palaeolithic contexts is highly significant and provides some of the best evidence at present available for the deliberate construction of occupation features in Middle Palaeolithic sites.


Finally, there is some sparse but interesting evidence for the occasional occurrence of post-holes on Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites. Several apparent post-holes were reported by de Lumley (1969b) in association with the various occupation structures on the beach and dune areas at Terra Amata. Whilst the interpretation of these features has generated much controversy in the literature (cf. Villa 1977, 1983; Gamble 1986), there is far less ambiguity surrounding the single, very clearly defined post-hole recorded by Bordes in the upper part of the Mousterian succession (layers 14/15) at Combe Grenal (Fig. 9.30). Bordes describes this post-hole (which was carefully excavated and subsequently cast in plaster) as extending for a depth of at least 20 cm into the underlying deposits and showing a roughly circular cross-section approximately 4 cm in diameter. The tip of the post appears to have been pointed and apparently mushroomed slightly as it was driven against a hard stone in layer 21. Even if the precise form and function of the wooden stake remains hypothetical, the reality of this feature is difficult to deny. Bordes reported no further post-holes in this part of the site, but points out that other related features could have existed in adjacent parts of the deposits which were removed during earlier excavations by Peyrony and others. Any speculation as to whether the post-hole may have formed part of a larger structure on the site is therefore impossible to resolve. The main interest of this find is that it indicates not only the occasional use of wooden posts on Middle Palaeolithic sites but also, by implication, the associated wood-working technology required to produce them.

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