The Cave of Fontéchevade: Recent Excavations and Their Paleoanthropological Implications

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Overview

This book provides a summary of the discoveries made during the course of excavations at the Paleolithic cave site of Fontéchevade, France, between 1994 and 1998. The excavation team used modern field and analytic methods to address major problems raised by earlier excavations at the site from 1937 to 1954. These earlier excavations produced two sets of data that have been problematic in light of data from other European Paleolithic sites: first, the Lower Paleolithic stone tool industry, the Tayacian, that differs in fundamental ways from other contemporary industries and, second, the human skull fragment that has been interpreted as modern in nature but that apparently dates from the last interglacial, long before there is any evidence for humans from any other site in Europe. By applying modern stratigraphic, lithic, faunal, geological, geophysical, and radiometric analyses, the interdisciplinary team demonstrates that the Tayacian “industry” is a product of site formation processes and that the actual age of the Fontéchevade I fossil is compatible with other evidence for the arrival of modern humans in Europe.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
a valuable source of basic information about one of the most famous Paleolithic sites of Europe, and an important and original study of several important and long debated problems of human prehistory." -Leonid Vishnyatsky, PaleoAnthropology

"The publication of Fontechevade is a chronicle of both the value and the difficulty of reanalyzing material from early excavations. This study makes clear the importance of pairing studies of museum collections with renewed fieldwork,even if this fieldwork is on a modest scale. The results have removed the Fontechevade fossils from their position as early evidence of modern human morphology in Europe and delivered a a serous blow to the concept of the Tayacian. At the same time, the study presents Fontechevade as a significant site for understanding site formation processes and hominin behavior in the Middle Paleolithic and makes it clear that the research potential of the site is far from exhausted." --Michael Chazan, Geoarchaeology: An International Journal

"This is a high-quality, carefully analytic, very instructive, cautionary tale." -Lawrence Guy Straus, Journal of Anthropological Research

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521898447
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip G. Chase is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. He is the author of The Emergence of Culture and The Hunters of Combe Grenal, as well as numerous articles and chapters on Paleolithic archaeology, zooarchaeology, and the origins and evolution of symbolism and culture.

André Debénath is Professor and Director of Research at the University of Rabat and Professor Emeritus at the University of Perpignan. He specializes in the Paleolithic of the Charente River Basin, France, and of Morocco. He has excavated numerous sites in both countries, and has published more than 200 articles and several books.

Harold L. Dibble is professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and curator in charge at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Editor of the journal PaleoAnthropology, he is the author of twelve books and has directed excavations in France, Morocco, and Egypt for over twenty-five years.

Shannon McPherson is an archaeologist in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute. He has published on aspects of Paleolithic archaeology, lithic analysis, and the use of computers in archaeology. He is co-author, with Harold Dibble, of Using Computers in Archaeology: A Practical Guide.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction, Background, and Methodology Philip G. Chase, André Debénath, Harold L. Dibble and Shannon P. McPherron: 1. Introduction and background; 2. Introduction to the 1994–8 excavations; Part II. Specialized Analyses: 3. Sedimentology and stratigraphy at Fontéchevade William R. Farrand; 4. Paleoclimate delineation using magnetic susceptibility data Brooks B. Ellwood; 5. Electrical resistivity survey of Fontéchevade Shannon P. McPherron and Brooks B. Ellwood; 6. The fossil human remains Philip G. Chase and Virginie Teilhol; 7. Radiometric dates Philip G. Chase, Henry P. Schwarcz and Thomas W. Stafford, Jr; 8. Faunal taphonomy Philip G. Chase and Jean-François Tournepiche; 9. The fauna from Henri-Martin's excavation of bed Jean-François Tournepiche; 10. The Upper Paleolithic of Fontéchevade Laurent Chiotti; 11. Description of the lithic industries Harold L. Dibble and Shannon P. McPherron; Part III. Analysis and Conclusions Philip G. Chase, André Debénath, Harold L. Dibble and Shannon P. McPherron: 12. Processes of site formation and their implications; 13. Summary and conclusions.
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