Stone walls

Whether or not traces of deliberate stone walling can be identified in Middle Palaeolithic sites depends not only on the character of the archaeological evidence but also on the definition of 'wall'. De Lumley (1969b) has claimed that as far back as the Mindel glacia-tion several occupation areas at Terra Amata were partially surrounded by stone blocks or boulders, which he believes were used either to delimit the occupation zones or hold down r ■ v igf' mm

Figure 9.27 Claimed remnants of stone walling recorded in one of the later Mousterian levels (layer 17) of the Cueva Morin cave in Cantabria. After Freeman 1988.

Figure 9.27 Claimed remnants of stone walling recorded in one of the later Mousterian levels (layer 17) of the Cueva Morin cave in Cantabria. After Freeman 1988.

the skin coverings of tents or similar structures. Similar claims have been made for the hypothetical hut structure at the Lazaret cave and for supposedly similar living structures in the early last-glacial levels of the Baume des Peyrards rock-shelter (Vaucluse) (de Lumley 1969a; de Lumley & Boone 1976b). Further north, a possible structural align ment of granite blocks has been reported from the site of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, located on top of last-interglacial beach deposits on the Normandy coast (Fosse 1989).

As already discussed in the context of the Lazaret site, these finds are open to problems of interpretation. How far do the stone arrangements represent deliberate features and how far do they reflect purely natural configurations of stones on the sites? Even if the stone arrangements cannot be dismissed as entirely natural, could they just indicate ad hoc attempts to improve living areas by clearing away some of the more cumbersome stone blocks from the central occupation areas towards the peripheries? In either case, the stones could hardly be described as 'walls' in any meaningful sense of the word.

Potentially more significant are the occasional claims for segments of 'dry-stone walling' - implying the deliberate piling up of stones in two or more courses. A widely reported case was described by Bordes (1954-55; 1972: 16) in the lower MTA levels (layer 4) at Pech de 1'Aze shelter I. Here, he believed he could identify a length of approximately 2 metres of deliberate, wall-like construction, which apparently delimited the main area of human occupation and associated hearths on the site and appeared to extend the natural line of the rock wall of the adjacent cave. No plans, drawings or photographs of this wall have been published and since it is said to have stood only about 25 cm high, there must inevitably be some doubt as to whether it could represent, at least in part, a natural, geological accumulation. Other traces of possible walling are equally poorly documented in the literature. At the cave of Le Rigabe (Var) de Lumley and Boone (1976b) reported a short length of dry-stone walling, said to be almost 40 cm high and approximately one metre in length, which appeared to have been used to protect the entrance to a small area of human occupation in one of the side chambers of the cave. At the Cueva Morin (near Santander, in Cantabria) the evidence reported by Freeman (1988) consisted of a series of localized piles of limestone fragments (said to contain in some cases up to 27 stones, standing at heights of up to 25 cm) distributed mainly around the edges of the most intensively occupied part of the cave (Fig. 9.27). Freeman suggests that these piles may represent 'either the remnants of a fallen dry stone wall or vestiges of stone heaps used to support the base of a curtain wall of some sort ... demarcating the zone of intense human occupation from the rest of the cave' (Freeman 1988: 22-3). Since similar, smaller, piles of stones were found at several other points in the occupation area (Fig. 9.27), this interpretation is perhaps not without its problems.


Evidence for deliberate pits in Middle Palaeolithic sites is unquestionably better than that for most of the other 'structural' features discussed above. The best evidence comes from three of the classic Mousterian sites in the Perigord or immediately adjacent areas -Combe Grenal, Le Moustier (lower shelter) and La Quina (Figs. 9.28, 9.29). The most fully documented was recorded by Bordes in one of the earlier Würm I levels at Combe Grenal (layer 50). Here Bordes (1972: 134-6) recorded a roughly circular pit measuring approximately 90 cm in diameter and excavated for a depth of approximately 40 cm into the underlying deposits, with an essentially U-shaped cross-section (Fig. 9.28). The pit was filled with red earth (apparently derived from the deposits of layer 50A) and contained a concentration of small limestone slabs approximately mid-way in the filling. A series of similar but shallower pits were said to be present in the same occupation level but have yet to be described in detail.

Bordes compared this find with a similar pit-like feature documented by Denis Peyr-ony (1930) in the much later Mousterian levels in the lower shelter at Le Moustier (Fig. 9.29). The pit documented by Peyrony was roughly circular, approximately 70-80 cm in diameter and extended for a depth of approximately 60 cm into the underlying deposits, extending from the surface of layer I into the underlying deposits of layer H. As at Combe

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