The (re-) population of northern france between 13,000 and 8000 bp


J.-G. Rozoy
Translated by L. G. Straus

During the Upper Pleniglacial only southern France was occupied. During the Bölling temperate phase (ca. 13,000-12,200 BP) people of the Magdalenian culture occupied some six (tribal or macro-band?) territories ranging from ca. 15,000 to 35,000 km2 in area, in zones with substantial relief. The bow and arrow with microlithic tips were invented before the end of Dryas II. Since Alleröd times, the whole area of modern-day France was used by Azilioid bow hunting peoples, the boundaries of whose social territories are net yet known. The oblique section bladelet was invented during the Dryas III cold phase. By the end of Preboreal, more than 30 Mesolithic cultures had established themselves and remained stable. During Boreal, tribal territories covered some 15,000 km2 each and had populations of 1000-3000 people each – as during the Magdalenian,

but without the empty zones among the territories. The microlithic trapeze arrowhead was invented before the Atlantic phase. Changes in industries were thus not caused by climatic changes ; rather they were the results of technical inventions.


To the north of the Loire (47°N), from Brittany to Alsace, the substratum soils and relief are quite varied. The western end of the loess-covered North European Plain, without much relief or rockshelters, includes Picardy with chalk limestone bedrock, Flanders and Holland with cover sands and silts, and, further east, northern Germany with glacial tilt. To the south of this plain, the Ardennes and Rhineland schist massif are mainly silicious, but contain broad bands of Primary limestones with caves (as in the Belgian valleys of the Lesse, Ourthe, etc.). Sharp relief in this region is due to both continued uplift of the Primary shield rock and river entrenchment, resulting in vertical cliffs of up to 200 m and elevational changes of up to 350 m in only a few kilometers. The plateaux slopes and valley floors have a wide variety of exposures, providing for many different biotopes within a relatively small area. To the south of these massifs, from west to east there area serres of regions which are rather rolling, but with less relief and lacking in rockshelters and caves: Brittany and the copses of Normandy and Vendée with granite and schist bedrock; then the Paris Basin with its concentric rings of Secondary and Tertiary substratum (alternately silicious and calcareous – the latter providing caves at the southern edge of the Basin in Morvan); finally the mainly silicious plains of Lorraine and Vosges Mountains, Alsace, and the silt-covered floodplain of the Rhine. Water is lacking in none of these regions, but flint resources are highly variable: virtually nil in Brittany, on the Ardennes Plateaux, in the Rhineland Massif and in the Vosges (where, in all these cases, however, it can be imported from no more than 100 km away), but abundant elsewhere in limestone bedrock areas (excellent chalk flint, mediocre Dogger and Muschelkalk shales), in alluvia (cobbles in the bedlands of the Meuse, Moselle and Rhine) or in moraine deposits. Quartzites and sandstones can serve as substitutes for flint where it is absent or rare.

The (re-) population of northern france between 13,000 and 8000 bp