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The Laà 2 cave in Arudy (64). The Mesolithic and Final Neolithic occupations within their chrono-cultural contexts

Patrice Dumontier, Patrice Courtaud, Catherine Ferrier, Dominique Armand, Fabien Convertini, Bui Thi Mai, Michel Girard, Adriana Soto Sebastián et Nicolas Valdeyron
Édité par Stéphanie Bréard et Pablo Marticoréna
Traduction de Emma Maines
p. 7-72
Cet article est une traduction de :
La grotte de Laà 2 à Arudy (64) [fr]

Résumés

Résumé. Le bassin d’Arudy, du fait du nombre important de sites archéologiques étudiés, est un lieu privilégié pour actualiser nos connaissances sur les dynamiques de peuplement et les caractéristiques culturelles des populations qui ont occupé ces lieux depuis le Paléolithique. Ici, ce sont les niveaux du Mésolithique et du Néolithique final de la salle 5 de la grotte de Laà 2 qui seront analysés puis replacés dans le cadre des vallées béarnaises et, plus largement, au niveau des Pyrénées nord-occidentales. Quatre niveaux mésolithiques permettent d’aborder certains aspects de la mobilité de petits groupes avec des campements peu développés ce qui offre de nouvelles données pour l’analyse des modes d’occupation et des stratégies de mobilité des dernières sociétés de chasseurs-cueilleurs des Pyrénées françaises et de leurs marges. Pour le Néolithique final ce sont également quatre ou cinq phases d’occupations qui illustrent également des campements de courtes durées. Le mobilier céramique, rapproché de ce que l’on connaît actuellement dans les Pyrénées nord-occidentales permet de souligner des influences avec le Véraza tel qu’il existe dans la région toulousaine.

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1The Laà 2 cave, also known as Garli cave, is located southwest of the village of Arudy (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), in one of the limestone hillsides, at the mouth of the Gave d'Ossau, extending the first northern range of the Pyrenees (fig. 1). Located within a cave rich environment, many of which were occupied since the Upper Paleolithic (Saint-Michel, Espalungue, Poeymaü, Malarode and the shelter of Bignalat; fig. 2), the Laà 2 cave is one of the few to have remained intact.

Fig. 1 – Location of the cavern in the northwestern Pyrenees. Inset: location of the Arudy Basin in the Pyrenean isthmus on a map of France, IGN 2012 - Open license.

Fig. 1 – Location of the cavern in the northwestern Pyrenees. Inset: location of the Arudy Basin in the Pyrenean isthmus on a map of France, IGN 2012 - Open license.

Map background P. Dumontier, CAD M. Le Couédic and B. Pace.

Fig. 2 – Archaeological sites from the Magdalenian to the Final Neolithic in the Arudy Basin (64).

Fig. 2 – Archaeological sites from the Magdalenian to the Final Neolithic in the Arudy Basin (64).

Paleolithic sites: Espalungue, Laà 2, Malarode 1, Poeymaü, Sainte-Colome, Saint-Michel; Mesolithic sites: Bignalats, Malarode 1, Laà 2, Poeymaü; Neolithic sites: Bignalats, Bordedela 1 to 3, Espalungue, Garli, Houn de Laà, Laà 2, Laplace, Larrun 1, Malarode 1 and 2, Poeymaü.

2Lidar map background produced for the collective research project PAVO “Préhistoire Ancienne de la Vallée d’Ossau”, with the agreement of J.-M. Pétillon and B. Marquebielle (coord.). Map background finalized by X. Muth and F. Lacrampe-Cuyaubère, MNT Get In Situ, DRAC Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Site description

3The cave extends over 43 m in length. It spans the northeast corner of the small Garli massif (fig. 3 and 4). The main entrance faces north, with a porch like area extending 7.50 m in width, with an average height of 1.80 m. A narrow passageway, located after two Rooms (1 and 2), respectively measuring 8 m by 7 and 5 m by 5, provides access to a descending gallery (Room 3). This gallery leads to a horizontal floor level, covered by a significant flowstone formation (Room 4). It then narrows and leads up to a small cone-shaped scree, ultimately leading through a narrow passage to the small Room 5, which measures approximately 12 m² and which opens to the south-east on the other side of the massif.

Fig. 3 – Plan of the cavern.

Fig. 3 – Plan of the cavern.

Measured drawing by M.-C. and M. Douat, M. Lauga and P. Dumontier, CAD M. Douat.

Fig. 4 – Contour of the cavern

Fig. 4 – Contour of the cavern

Measure drawing by M.-C. and M. Douat, M. Lauga and P. Dumontier, CAD M. Douat.

4A Mesolithic level, covered by a Middle Bronze Age hearth, was revealed in Room 1. The whole was covered by successive layers, associated with terraced installations and corresponding to occupations dating to the Iron Age and Late Antiquity (Rooms 1 to 3). Beneath the flowstone formation of Room 4, several Magdalenian levels were preserved for study (Pétillon et al. 2017).

  • 1 US refers to “unité stratigraphique” which translates to: stratigraphic unit.

5Finally, the small Room 5 at the southeast entrance was nearly filled in by a scree that sealed several Final Neolithic and Mesolithic occupation levels. In the upper levels of this scree (US1 4), traces of a Late Iron Age occupation were also preserved.

6The results from this small southeastern entrance, referred to as Room 5, will be presented here.

Stratigraphy

7Based on the macroscopic aspect of the deposits, four lithostratigraphic sets have been identified, listed here from top to bottom of the backfill (figs. 7, 8):

  • Set 1: US 1 to 4. This set refers to a 1-meter-thick scree, wherein the rockfall was filled in with sediment, dating to a period posterior to the Late Iron Age level (US 4), and created by the displacement of a limestone ledge, as well as by an external contribution of fine fraction soil.
  • Group 2: US 5 to 10. The low heterometry of the coarse fraction soil and the abundance of fine fraction soil suggest that these units belong to the distal portion of the cone-shaped scree.
  • Set 3: US 11 to 38 and 40. The calcareous nature of the stones and the slope of the upper limit of US 20 indicate that these elements are external and were brought in by gravity, from the slope. Human and animal traffic may also have resulted in sedimentary contributions to and trampling of said sediment in the porch area. Within this dynamic, US 24 and 40 correspond to an episode of dislodging of the surrounding limestone. The fine fraction soil that filled in the spaces between the stones comes from runoff. The grayish color of US 20, 32 and 38 seems to correspond to a higher density of wood micro-charcoal and thus to a more marked anthropization. This distinction also allowed US 21, 32 and 35 to be individualized.
  • Group 4: US 39. The silty texture of the deposit indicates that the accumulation is mainly the result of runoff. Gravity inputs are reduced, in contrast to the overlying US. At the top, the abundance of gravel may reflect a residualization process.

Fig. 6 – Location of the stratigraphic sections and palynological core samples presented in the text.

Fig. 6 – Location of the stratigraphic sections and palynological core samples presented in the text.

Section 1: line C/D 9 to 13, central axis; Section 2: line B/C 11 and part 12; Section 3: square E11, north/south axis, stratigraphic unit (US, “unité stratigraphique”) 24 to 40; Section 4: square C13, closing structure of the passageway to room 4 of Laà 2; Palynological core samples: series D (SD), E (SE) and F (SF).

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 7 – Stratigraphic section 1.

Fig. 7 – Stratigraphic section 1.

Line C/D, oriented roughly north-south. It was completed in 2010 on the D/E axis (red box), without it being possible to connect precisely the stratigraphic unit with the C/D section. The archaeological levels correspond to US 4, 9, 10/16, 18, 20base/30, 21/22, 32/33 and 35/36.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 8 – Stratigraphic diagram made from section 1 on the C/D line.

Fig. 8 – Stratigraphic diagram made from section 1 on the C/D line.

The presentation makes it possible to distinguish the variations of stratigraphic units between bands 9 to 13.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Pollen analysis

8Samples were taken from the entrance of this room at three distinct locations (fig. 6). The results demonstrate that the pollen samples are relatively well preserved. An evolution is visible that underscores fluctuation of the anthropization of the environment over the millennia. It is regrettable that the impromptu end to excavation did not allow for the collection of samples from the Mesolithic sections.

9Diagram 1 (fig. 11) is characterized by variable representation of tree pollen (AP varies between 19 and 55%) within which hazelnut (Corylus: max 27.5%) and lime (Tilia: max 10%) are the best represented. We note the presence of walnut (Juglans) and the probable presence of chestnut tree (cf. Castanea) which, appears rather late during the Holocene (Iron Age/Antiquity).

Fig. 11 – Summary pollen diagram of the E series, section C-D/11-12.

Fig. 11 – Summary pollen diagram of the E series, section C-D/11-12.

Design and CAD Bui Thi Mai and M. Girard.

10The Gramineae-Cichorieae dyad, characteristic of open areas and their changing nature according to their use, evolves over time. At the base of the sequence, Gramineae or grasses which are dominant, subsequently diminish in the Final Neolithic and then regain importance towards the top of the sequence (Iron Age/Antiquity). The presence of Cichorieae, regularly increase from the base to the top, and may indicate an overall increase in grazing practices between these two periods. The decreasing curve of fern presence demonstrates that the clearings or borders, which are preferred locations for this species, were gradually disappearing in favor of fields and meadows.

11This catalogue of cereal pollens indicates that cultivated fields existed in the vicinity of the cave, at least since the Final Neolithic. The relatively high frequency observed in US 10 and 16 (4.5%) could also correspond to a contribution of materials of cereal origin to the cave (seeds, straw, chaff, for example) by its Neolithic occupants.

Human occupations

12They correspond to three distinct phases: the Mesolithic, the Final Neolithic and the end of the Iron Age.

Mesolithic occupations (fig. 13 to 28)

13Four assemblages, including three occupation levels associated with combustion structures, were studied (US 35/36, 32/33 and 21/22). The fourth level (US 20b/US30) is represented only by a partially leached soil and by a circular area, likely corresponding to a deposit for hearth clearing.

14Among the retrieved faunal remains, deer is the dominant animal across all of the US, followed, depending on the US, by roe deer, the Pyrenean chamois, a type of goat-antelope, the aurochs and the ibex (table 3). No carnivore remains were identified, and all the fauna of these Mesolithic US seem to be of anthropic origin. These remains also provide information on the different biotopes frequented during hunts: high altitude areas, home to ibex and Pyrenean chamois, wooded areas, housing wild boar and roe deer, and perhaps more open areas for other species of deer and aurochs. Eleven of these bones bear striations identified as cut marks (fig. 25). In three cases, these marks were associated with other traces identified as being of anthropic origin: scraping, and notching, gouging or indentation through striking. Burnt remains were also found throughout the levels.

Table 2 – Radiocarbon dates obtained for the archaeological levels of Laà Cave 3. The dates were calibrated using the OxCal 4.4.4 program.

After Reimer et al. 2020.

Table 3 – Fauna. Distribution of different taxa within Mesolithic archaeological assemblages.

Table 3 – Fauna. Distribution of different taxa within Mesolithic archaeological assemblages.

Fig. 17 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

Fig. 17 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

1. Debitage byproduct (US 32/36); 2-4. Lithic reduction products; 5. Fragment of a lithic blade (US 32); 6, 7. Lithic reduction products; 8, 9. Blades (US 35 and US 36); 10. Blade; 11. Flake; 12. Blade (US 35/37); 13. Retouched flake (fragment; US 35/38); 14. Scalene triangle (US 35/36).

Drawings and CAD A. Soto Sebastián.

Fig. 22 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

Fig. 22 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

1. Debitage byproduct; 2. Fragment of a denticulated blade (US 20b); 3-8. Debitage byproducts; 9. Blade; 10, 11. Reworked objects (US 21).

Drawings and CAD A. Soto Sebastián.

Fig. 23 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

Fig. 23 – Mesolithic lithic industry.

1. Lithic core for flakes (US 21 with reservations); 2. Lithic core for blades (US 20b).

Photo and drawings by A. Soto Sebastián.

Fig. 25 – Cut marks on the proximal portion of a deer radius.

Fig. 25 – Cut marks on the proximal portion of a deer radius.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 26 – Relative distribution of bone cutting products and waste according to the primary stratigraphic unit.

Fig. 26 – Relative distribution of bone cutting products and waste according to the primary stratigraphic unit.

A. Soto Sebastián.

Fig. 27 – Relative distribution of object types according to the primary stratigraphic unit.

Fig. 27 – Relative distribution of object types according to the primary stratigraphic unit.

A. Soto Sebastián.

15Although there is little evidence of gathering within the oldest levels, we note the presence of an important number of snail shells, collected and brought back to the cave by humans (Cepaea nemoralis) and then subsequently placed around hearth US 22. We also note the presence of hazelnut shells burned in this same hearth.

16The worked lithic materials recovered from the different Mesolithic occupations in Room 5 of Laà 2 cave represent a total of 269 recorded objects, for which nearly half (49.4%) correspond to non-identifiable products of the tool creation process (debris and thermal flakes; figs. 17, 22, 23, 26, and 27). Categorization by main technological sets highlights an equal distribution of laminar objects, flakes, and small flakes (<10 mm) as well as of worked objects, isolated fragments, and two lithic cores (table 5).

Table 5 – Lithic industry within Mesolithic levels. Total distribution by types of produced object and vestige size, all stratigraphic units combined.

Table 5 – Lithic industry within Mesolithic levels. Total distribution by types of produced object and vestige size, all stratigraphic units combined.

17Radiocarbon dates for the four Mesolithic occupation levels span nearly two millennia. These are phases of occupations that are widely spaced in time.

18The earliest Ly-8998 date (8660 ± 50 BP or -7815/-7585 cal BC; table 2) comes from US 36 and places the lower occupation in the middle of the Boreal period, which coincides with the proposed chronology of the First Mesolithic.

19The occupation composed of US 32 and US 33 Ly-8997 (7785 ± 45 BP or -6691/-6481 cal BC; table 2), in turn refers to the end of the Early Mesolithic and coincides with level 2c of the Apons cave (Ly-9753: 7945 ± 50 BP or -7039/-6688 cal BC; table 2; Dumontier et al. 2016a), and especially with the dating of the Bourrouilla pit O16 (Beta-307295: 7650 ± 40 BP i.e. -6589/-6438 cal BC; Beta-307296: 7410 ± 40 BP i.e. -6392/-6221 cal BC; Dachary et al. 2013).

20The upper stratigraphic units were identified as being chronologically very close to one another, and these dates potentially place them within the Second Mesolithic. Indeed, the occupation composed of US 21 and US 22 is dated Erl-12988 (6979 ± 50 BP or -5982/-5740 cal BC), and slightly later, the occupation of US 20b occurs between Erl-12987 (6757 ± 59BP or -5766/-5561 cal BC; table 2).

21The four phases represented by US 36/35, 32/33, 21/22 and 20base/30, demonstrate the presence of low intensity occupations, composed of small human groups (attested to by the small surface areas covered, as well as by the weak concentration of remains therein). The three oldest of these four phases (US 36, 33 and 22) correspond to the installation of a hearth, in the same location, near the back of the room and the passage leading to the other part of the cavity.

22The surfaces occupied are modest, between 5 and 6 m² for the first three occupations for which human activity is concentrated around the combustion structures. One may wonder about the choice of this small room, measuring less than 12 m², whereas, from the outside, 35 m away, the large porch of the northern entrance led to a much larger room of 56 m². The existing evidence does not provide an answer to this line of questioning. The US 20b/US 30 level was identified as a discard area. The main occupation site was likely located outside the excavated area, closer to the porch, or perhaps even out in front of it.

23The study of the lithic material shows that there was no significant change in behavior during the different phases of occupation, marked by activities of limited size carried out with material brought in from outside.

24Thus, this site provides insight into the lived experience of Mesolithic communities. The evidence from this site closely resembles that provided by the Apons cave, in the Aspe valley (Dumontier et al. 2016a), as well as the Bignalat shelter at Arudy (Altuna and Marsan 1986, Marsan 1988). This provides new data for reconstructing occupation and mobility modalities of the last hunter-gatherer societies on this side of the Pyrenees.

Final Neolithic occupations

25Following a nearly 25 century hiatus, at least four or five phases of Late Neolithic occupation are attested to in this small room at the southeast entrance of the cave. The radiocarbon dates, six in number, cover one millennium, between 3328 and 2290 BC.

US 18 and hearth F2 (ST1)

26US 18 and hearth F2 (originally designated ST1) are stratigraphically close but may correspond to two different occupations (fig. 34).

Fig. 34 – Layout view of US 18 and of the combustion structure F2 (ST1). To the east, US 18 presents indurated areas recorded in US 11. Note that the combustion structure F2 is located near the opening that leads to room 4.

Fig. 34 – Layout view of US 18 and of the combustion structure F2 (ST1). To the east, US 18 presents indurated areas recorded in US 11. Note that the combustion structure F2 is located near the opening that leads to room 4.

CAD P. Dumontier.

27The first (US 18) yielded a few faunal fragments against the wall and charcoal within a leached soil level, dated between 3328 and 2902 cal BC (Erl-12186: 4396 ± 50 BP; table 2).

28Hearth F2 (figs. 34-37) is an “oven” type structure consisting of stones that protected the inner structure from runoff that likely erased the associated soil level, unless it belongs to US 18 (also leached). An oval pit, 86 cm by 105 cm, had been dug to a depth of 33 cm. A thick layer of charcoal covered the bottom and walls. The installation of a nearly jointed arrangement of limestone stones surrounding the hearth, occurred while there was still an active fire present or at the least concurrently with the presence of embers. The contents of this hearth consisted of a majority of the cephalic skeleton of a small ox, as well as several ribs and vertebrae. A large charcoal sample taken from the bottom of Structure F2 places it between 2872 and 2495 cal BC (Erl-1143-25: 4099 ± 44 BP; table 2). The fauna present in the hearth is very different from those previously analyzed, which possessed more “rubbish dump” characteristics. Bos is nearly the only species (and is represented only by anatomical elements that suggest the presence of at least 2 sets belonging to the same individual: skull + maxilla + mandible and thoracic vertebrae + ribs + lumbar vertebrae. Anthropic traces have been observed on some of these ribs and vertebrae. These skeletal elements may belong to a single, young individual.

29If there is little to say about the leached level of US 18, the same cannot be said of the hearth F2 (ST1). The importance of the installation and all its remains (digging of the pit, choice of stones, transport of meat) point to the presence of an established occupation. However, given the leaching of the soil level associated with this hearth, it is difficult to better characterize this occupation. Its location at this site may have been opportunistic, the presence of a strong air current being appreciated, for example, for the operation of this hearth, whereas the main occupation could have been located outside the limits of the excavated area, for example, in front of the cavity, or in Room 1.

US 16 and US 9/10

30During the Late Neolithic, standing would only have been possible in the southwestern half of the room (axis B/C). This profile explains the differential preservation of the floors (fig. 29). The trampling and the placement of the hearth in square C11 (hearth F1, the most recent), altered all the location of archaeological remains within bands B/C, initially separated by merely a few centimeters of sediment.

Fig. 29 – Illustrations of the different radiometric dates for the Mesolithic sites discussed. In pink: the Mesolithic dates obtained for Room 5 of Laà Cave 2. Calibration performed with OxCal 4.4.4.

Fig. 29 – Illustrations of the different radiometric dates for the Mesolithic sites discussed. In pink: the Mesolithic dates obtained for Room 5 of Laà Cave 2. Calibration performed with OxCal 4.4.4.

After Bronk Ramsey, 2020, IntCal20 curve, CAD P. Courtaud.

31These two phases of occupation are marked respectively by:

  • a flat hearth (F3 - US 16), dated Erl-12985 (4040 ± 51 BP), i.e., between -2857 and -2462 cal BC (table 2) and probably the low wall that closes the passageway leading to Room 4 (figs. 38 to 42)
  • a heated stone hearth (US 9/10 and hearth F1), dated Erl-11426 (3935 ± 44 BP), i.e., between -2571 and -2290 cal BC (figs. 46-50, table 2).

Fig. 38 – Layout view of level US 16, hearth F3 and closing structure US 13. All the material culture is located at the back of the hearth. The hearth is absent from the strips B and C where this stratigraphic unit was altered.

Fig. 38 – Layout view of level US 16, hearth F3 and closing structure US 13. All the material culture is located at the back of the hearth. The hearth is absent from the strips B and C where this stratigraphic unit was altered.

Measured drawing and CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 39 – Diagram of the superposition of the stratigraphic units in bands B to E, at the intersection of bands 12 and 13.

Note that the superposition of US 9 and US 16 on the right no longer exists on the left where US 10 altered these two units. US 23 on the right, against the wall, corresponds to post-depositional calcification of the sediments.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 40 – Flat hearth F3, associated with US 16, straddling squares D11 and D12.

Fig. 40 – Flat hearth F3, associated with US 16, straddling squares D11 and D12.

White and gray ash is visible around the rubefacient levels. The light band on the right corresponds to the indurated sediments of US 11. The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the previous designation for this room—oblique view taken from the south-west.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 41 – Structure US 13, which closes the passageway leading to room 4.

Fig. 41 – Structure US 13, which closes the passageway leading to room 4.

The photo plaque reads: “Laa 3”, the former name of room 5—view taken from the back of the structure, on the room 4 side to the north-west.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 42 – Cross-section of the final structure US 13 between rooms 4 and 5.

Fig. 42 – Cross-section of the final structure US 13 between rooms 4 and 5.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 43 – Ceramics associated with level US 16 and hearth F3.

Fig. 43 – Ceramics associated with level US 16 and hearth F3.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 46 – Layout view of US 9/10 and hearth F1.

Fig. 46 – Layout view of US 9/10 and hearth F1.

The ceramic material is primarily found at the back of the hearth, towards the rear of the cavern, and more specifically in bands B and C, which would have been more comfortable due to the superior ceiling height (however, some of this material comes from the disturbed levels of the underlying US 16). A wide distribution of human bone remains is visible.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 47 – Level US 9 in square D12.

Fig. 47 – Level US 9 in square D12.

The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the former name of this room—view taken from the south-west.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 48 – Appearance of hearth F1 in US 10.

Fig. 48 – Appearance of hearth F1 in US 10.

White ashes (in the center) and the presence of a human femur in the lower right portion are visible. The plaque reads “Laa 3”, the former name of this room—overhead view. The north is located at the bottom left of the photo.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 49 – The F1 hearth with heated stones, following the removal of ash and other archaeological material culture.

Fig. 49 – The F1 hearth with heated stones, following the removal of ash and other archaeological material culture.

Decimeter sized stones fill the small pit. The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the previous designation for this room—overhead view.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 50 – Ceramics uncovered in US 9 and 10, other than those belonging to vases from US 16 in bands D and E.

Fig. 50 – Ceramics uncovered in US 9 and 10, other than those belonging to vases from US 16 in bands D and E.

CAD P. Dumontier.

Fig. 51 – Ulna diaphysis (capra/ovis) presenting cutmarks (from percussive impact) and a blunted edge along the break. The tip shows no trace of use.

Fig. 51 – Ulna diaphysis (capra/ovis) presenting cutmarks (from percussive impact) and a blunted edge along the break. The tip shows no trace of use.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 52 – Pierced bear canine.

Fig. 52 – Pierced bear canine.

The root, which is not closed, has two conical and slightly oval perforations on each side.

Photo by P. Dumontier.

32Human bone remains were collected mainly in US 10, and it can be assumed that the bones found in the other US were disturbed by the occupants of this later occupation period. The human remains represent a young adult subject, deceased between the ages of 25 and 30 years, likely of female sex, dated to Erl-11110 (4197 ± 50 BP), i.e., between -2901 and -2629 cal BC (table 2). We cannot exclude the hypothesis of an individual who may have come to die alone in this cave. The dating draws it closer to the occupation associated with hearth F3, unless it corresponds to another occupation that left no other traces in the cave (figs. 53, 54).

Fig. 53 – Spatial distribution of human bone remains from US 9, 10, 16 and 23.

Fig. 53 – Spatial distribution of human bone remains from US 9, 10, 16 and 23.

Measured drawing by P. Courtaud; CAD by P. Dumontier.

Fig. 54 – Anthropological record file, Skeletal fragment from Laà 2.

Fig. 54 – Anthropological record file, Skeletal fragment from Laà 2.

33These phases represent short-lived occupations by a small group of individuals.

34We hypothesize that the placement of the low wall closing the conduit leading to Room 4 is contemporary with occupation US 16 (hearth F3).

35Does the installation of such a structure fit with short-lived occupations? Based on current thinking, we can doubt the likelihood of this hypothesis. A low wall, which closes off a small room intended to receive a burial, points to other known examples and supports the hypothesis of an intentional funeral deposit. However, in this case, the room is also open to the outside and there is no evidence supporting the presence of a closure on this side. It is therefore difficult to formulate a hypothesis that provides satisfactory answers to all these questions. One of such hypotheses is that the low wall may have been intended to stabilize the ground, combining support with the suppression of air currents.

36The presence of incomplete and fragmented remains belonging to a deceased individual, dated between 2900 and 2630 cal BC (table 2) and found within the different Final Neolithic layers, may be explained by the existence of an individual burial or by the death of a single individual within the cave. Whether the presence of this deceased individual is related to hearth F3 (US 16) or corresponds to an independent phase, the distribution of the bones suggests the disturbance of the remains by the occupation corresponding to hearth F1.

37The lithic documentation for this assemblage is poor and does not include any diagnostic elements. Sifting with water did not reveal any fragments or debris that could attest to in situ lithic craftsmanship. Looked at separately, this data appears to support the presence of short-lived occupations: occupation US 16 associated with hearth F3 yielded very few faunal remains, all of which were very fragmentary and for which the species remained undetermined. It is likely that the remains unearthed in US 10 unite faunal remains belonging to both levels.

38The variety of species seen could correspond to brief, but repetitive visits. The faunal remains of the Neolithic US are also mostly of anthropogenic origin (table 8) and represent a mixture of wild and domestic fauna.

39The presence of cereal pollens within this environment indicates that, at least since the Final Neolithic, cultivated fields existed in the vicinity of the cave. The relatively high frequency observed in US 10 and 16 (4.5%), could also correspond to a contribution of materials of cereal origin in the cave (seeds, straw, bales, for example) by the Neolithic occupants.

40Objects of adornment are represented by remains (a discoidal calcite bead and a pierced bear tooth) present in a chronological and geographical range that is too wide for a cultural attribution.

41On the other hand, the ceramic material consists of two small batches of ceramics representing a total of 268 sherds and a weight of 2,456 g. This collection provides us with additional information as it includes morphologies that would have been adapted to the specific needs of the small groups that frequented Laà 2 during their short stays. We were able to isolate nine individual objects and to, at least partially, restore them.

42On the occupation level (US 16; fig. 43) associated with hearth F3, the reconstructed ceramic material includes beakers and a carinated bowl, as well as an incomplete round bottom and a sub-cylindrical pot.

43The V1 beaker, sub-spherical in shape with a flat bottom and thinned lips, has a button under the rim. This shape is very similar to beakers unearthed in level 5 of the Phare cave in Biarritz dated between the 25th and 24th centuries BC (Marembert et al. 2000, Dumontier 2019) and in the sepulchral level of the Isturitz cave, dated between the 29th and 23rd centuries BC (Dumontier et al. 2015).

44The V8 beaker, cylindrical in shape with a round or flattened bottom and a rounded rim is similar to Verazian style morphologies, including those discovered in a pit in the Zac du Parc de l'Adour in Souès (Hautes-Pyrénées; Pons et al. 2013), as well as with ceramics from Loupiac (Lot; Prodéo 2003), identified in a level dated between the 25th and 23rd centuries BC.

45The high-sided, likely round bottomed, bowl, is new to southern Aquitaine in the Final Neolithic environment. By broadening the scope of our research, we were able to identify elements of comparison in the Vérazien of Ouveillan (Guilaine et al. 1980) or Mailhac (Aude) (Montécinos 2005), for example.

46For the other morphologies, the presence of a rounded bottom (V7) among them is reminiscent of Level 5 of the “grotte du Phare” (or Lighthouse Cave) where a round bottom form was found associated with several flat-bottomed vases.

47For US 9 (bands D to E) and 10 (bands B and C), thin-walled ceramic production (fig. 50) is represented by a relatively large pot. Thicker walled morphologies are represented by pot fragments and a possible bowl.

48Of the four vases present exclusively in US 9/10, the thin-walled cylindrical pot with a thin rim (V3), and the large cylindrical pot with slightly converging walls and a thin rim (V5) are in fact very close in morphology to the V8 beaker. A continuity is thus observable between these two levels.

49This ceramic material, demonstrates syncretism with the productions of the Vérazian, in particular with the Vérazian of Toulouse, and southern Aquitaine.

50Beyond the material from Laà 2, the morphologies studied to date for the northwestern Pyrenees often belong to ubiquitous forms, present in many cultural groups for this period of nearly 10 centuries. We have not distinguished any specific characteristics of the North-Western Pyrenees. To date, during the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, the ceramic furniture seems to be the result of multiple influences, the Artenac centered in northern Aquitaine and the Center-West, the ceramics of Loupiac in the Lot and with the Véraza of Toulouse. Although certain ceramics evoke an Artenac influence, to date, the characteristic forms of this culture are absent in the northwestern Pyrenees. Additionally, the double tongued forms found below the rims of large jars at Las Areilles in Uzein (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and at Cazères sur l'Adour (Landes), (Elysagoyen et al. 2012, Dumontier et al. 2018) or one of the vases from the outer ditch of the Cabout 5 tumulus in Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques; Marembert et al. 2008), demonstrate, for example, the existence of an exchange flow or an east-west influence south of the Garonne, with the Véraza.

51A certain separation might exist between the Atlantic coastal sites, where the influence of the Artenac seem more present, while the sites located within the Piedmont and Bearnais valleys have more in common with the Véraza culture materials, as it exists in the Toulouse region.

52The occupants of the Laà 2 cave made their ceramics with clays of morainic origin present a few hundred meters south and east of the cave. Some of the vessels were grog-glazed (1, 5, 6 and 8) while others were not. The chamotte vessels correspond to both fine (1 and 8) and coarse ware (5 and 6) productions.

53At Uzein (Elysagoyen et al. 2012), we hypothesized that chamotte vessels appeared from 2600/2500 BCE, whereas here the majority of chamotte vessels are associated with the earliest level (US 16) dated to the first half of the 3rd millennium BCE and non-chamotte vessels are present in the upper level (US 9/10).

54Thus, the interpretation of this small ceramic production remains open and its relationship to other analyzed corpuses of the Late Neolithic are difficult to establish.

55Thin-slice analysis of the nine vases show that the occupants of Laà 2 cave made their ceramics with clays of morainic origin found a few hundred meters south and east of the cave. The heterogeneity of the pastes seems to indicate distinct treatments carried out during the preparation of the clay. Some vases were grog-glazed (1, 5, 6 and 8) while others were not.

56The bone industry from US 10 is weakest in terms of the number of objects available for study: a single Capra or Ovis ulna shows evidence of use (fig. 51).

57Objects of adornment are represented by a calcite discoid bead and a pierced bear canine (fig. 52).

58The lithic material dating to the Late Neolithic is sparse. It consists of nine non-diagnostic lithic elements from US 10 and 16 (fig. 57).

Fig. 57 – Lithic material from the Final Neolithic levels.

Fig. 57 – Lithic material from the Final Neolithic levels.

1, 3 and 4. Flakes; 2. Blade fragment.

CAD P. Marticoréna.

59As is the case for the levels dated to the Mesolithic, one may wonder about the motivation for occupation of this small room during the Final Neolithic. Though Room 1 was not excavated in its entirety, it should be noted that no trace of Neolithic occupation was observed. There is no evidence, however, to preclude the possibility that Neolithic occupations were installed in an unstudied portion of the room.

The Iron Age

60The Iron Age is only mentioned summarily here; the layers corresponding to this period yielded a only few ceramic elements and faunal remains (US 4). This layer contained stones measured in decimeters, as well as a few shards of pottery and faunal bones without the presence of any particular combustion structure or planned layout.

Conclusion

61The limestone hills of the Arudy basin are home to a significant number of archaeological sites. To date, the caves where Mesolithic levels have been studied total four in number and thirteen for the Neolithic (fig. 2). For the Mesolithic, these occupations were installed along the porch area of caves or beneath the overhang of rock shelters. A burial was discovered in one of the levels of the Poeymaü cave. For the Neolithic, human occupations are also found within the entrances of caves and within rock shelters. Other cavities, mostly simple tunnels, were used to receive a selection of the dead from communities occupying the Arudy basin. These sepulchral cavities currently known and dated to the Neolithic total seven in number, six of which have been excavated and published (Courtaud et al. 2018).

62Thus, the Laà 2 cave occupations represent an integral part of an environment that is well documented but wherein, paradoxically, information that could attest to long-term human presence is lacking. The Mesolithic occupations of Poeymaü represent a possible exception to this, as they appear to extend between the 10th and 6th millennia cal BC. It is also true, however, that the frequency of these occupations cannot be determined (Laplace 1953, Livache et al. 1984).

63In 2011 our request to extend the excavation area was refused by the owner of the property for personal reasons. To date, this situation and impediment to our research ambitions has yet to be resolved.

64The small Room 5 of Laà 2 cave, as well as Rooms 1 to 4, retain significant scientific potential and promise to further our comprehension of these periods and the populations and cultures belonging to them. It is our hope that a resumption of excavation efforts will soon be possible.

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Notes

1 US refers to “unité stratigraphique” which translates to: stratigraphic unit.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Location of the cavern in the northwestern Pyrenees. Inset: location of the Arudy Basin in the Pyrenean isthmus on a map of France, IGN 2012 - Open license.
Crédits Map background P. Dumontier, CAD M. Le Couédic and B. Pace.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 173k
Titre Fig. 2 – Archaeological sites from the Magdalenian to the Final Neolithic in the Arudy Basin (64).
Légende Paleolithic sites: Espalungue, Laà 2, Malarode 1, Poeymaü, Sainte-Colome, Saint-Michel; Mesolithic sites: Bignalats, Malarode 1, Laà 2, Poeymaü; Neolithic sites: Bignalats, Bordedela 1 to 3, Espalungue, Garli, Houn de Laà, Laà 2, Laplace, Larrun 1, Malarode 1 and 2, Poeymaü.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 203k
Titre Fig. 3 – Plan of the cavern.
Crédits Measured drawing by M.-C. and M. Douat, M. Lauga and P. Dumontier, CAD M. Douat.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 428k
Titre Fig. 4 – Contour of the cavern
Crédits Measure drawing by M.-C. and M. Douat, M. Lauga and P. Dumontier, CAD M. Douat.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 74k
Titre Fig. 6 – Location of the stratigraphic sections and palynological core samples presented in the text.
Légende Section 1: line C/D 9 to 13, central axis; Section 2: line B/C 11 and part 12; Section 3: square E11, north/south axis, stratigraphic unit (US, “unité stratigraphique”) 24 to 40; Section 4: square C13, closing structure of the passageway to room 4 of Laà 2; Palynological core samples: series D (SD), E (SE) and F (SF).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Fig. 7 – Stratigraphic section 1.
Légende Line C/D, oriented roughly north-south. It was completed in 2010 on the D/E axis (red box), without it being possible to connect precisely the stratigraphic unit with the C/D section. The archaeological levels correspond to US 4, 9, 10/16, 18, 20base/30, 21/22, 32/33 and 35/36.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 263k
Titre Fig. 8 – Stratigraphic diagram made from section 1 on the C/D line.
Légende The presentation makes it possible to distinguish the variations of stratigraphic units between bands 9 to 13.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 242k
Titre Fig. 11 – Summary pollen diagram of the E series, section C-D/11-12.
Crédits Design and CAD Bui Thi Mai and M. Girard.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 210k
Titre Table 3 – Fauna. Distribution of different taxa within Mesolithic archaeological assemblages.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Fig. 17 – Mesolithic lithic industry.
Légende 1. Debitage byproduct (US 32/36); 2-4. Lithic reduction products; 5. Fragment of a lithic blade (US 32); 6, 7. Lithic reduction products; 8, 9. Blades (US 35 and US 36); 10. Blade; 11. Flake; 12. Blade (US 35/37); 13. Retouched flake (fragment; US 35/38); 14. Scalene triangle (US 35/36).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 125k
Titre Fig. 22 – Mesolithic lithic industry.
Légende 1. Debitage byproduct; 2. Fragment of a denticulated blade (US 20b); 3-8. Debitage byproducts; 9. Blade; 10, 11. Reworked objects (US 21).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Fig. 23 – Mesolithic lithic industry.
Légende 1. Lithic core for flakes (US 21 with reservations); 2. Lithic core for blades (US 20b).
Crédits Photo and drawings by A. Soto Sebastián.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
Titre Fig. 25 – Cut marks on the proximal portion of a deer radius.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 390k
Titre Fig. 26 – Relative distribution of bone cutting products and waste according to the primary stratigraphic unit.
Crédits A. Soto Sebastián.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 95k
Titre Fig. 27 – Relative distribution of object types according to the primary stratigraphic unit.
Crédits A. Soto Sebastián.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 58k
Titre Table 5 – Lithic industry within Mesolithic levels. Total distribution by types of produced object and vestige size, all stratigraphic units combined.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 86k
Titre Fig. 34 – Layout view of US 18 and of the combustion structure F2 (ST1). To the east, US 18 presents indurated areas recorded in US 11. Note that the combustion structure F2 is located near the opening that leads to room 4.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 161k
Titre Fig. 29 – Illustrations of the different radiometric dates for the Mesolithic sites discussed. In pink: the Mesolithic dates obtained for Room 5 of Laà Cave 2. Calibration performed with OxCal 4.4.4.
Crédits After Bronk Ramsey, 2020, IntCal20 curve, CAD P. Courtaud.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
Titre Fig. 38 – Layout view of level US 16, hearth F3 and closing structure US 13. All the material culture is located at the back of the hearth. The hearth is absent from the strips B and C where this stratigraphic unit was altered.
Crédits Measured drawing and CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 163k
Titre Fig. 40 – Flat hearth F3, associated with US 16, straddling squares D11 and D12.
Légende White and gray ash is visible around the rubefacient levels. The light band on the right corresponds to the indurated sediments of US 11. The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the previous designation for this room—oblique view taken from the south-west.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 787k
Titre Fig. 41 – Structure US 13, which closes the passageway leading to room 4.
Légende The photo plaque reads: “Laa 3”, the former name of room 5—view taken from the back of the structure, on the room 4 side to the north-west.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titre Fig. 42 – Cross-section of the final structure US 13 between rooms 4 and 5.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Fig. 43 – Ceramics associated with level US 16 and hearth F3.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 69k
Titre Fig. 46 – Layout view of US 9/10 and hearth F1.
Légende The ceramic material is primarily found at the back of the hearth, towards the rear of the cavern, and more specifically in bands B and C, which would have been more comfortable due to the superior ceiling height (however, some of this material comes from the disturbed levels of the underlying US 16). A wide distribution of human bone remains is visible.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 106k
Titre Fig. 47 – Level US 9 in square D12.
Légende The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the former name of this room—view taken from the south-west.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 932k
Titre Fig. 48 – Appearance of hearth F1 in US 10.
Légende White ashes (in the center) and the presence of a human femur in the lower right portion are visible. The plaque reads “Laa 3”, the former name of this room—overhead view. The north is located at the bottom left of the photo.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 943k
Titre Fig. 49 – The F1 hearth with heated stones, following the removal of ash and other archaeological material culture.
Légende Decimeter sized stones fill the small pit. The photo plaque is marked “Laa 3”, the previous designation for this room—overhead view.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 818k
Titre Fig. 50 – Ceramics uncovered in US 9 and 10, other than those belonging to vases from US 16 in bands D and E.
Crédits CAD P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Titre Fig. 51 – Ulna diaphysis (capra/ovis) presenting cutmarks (from percussive impact) and a blunted edge along the break. The tip shows no trace of use.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 121k
Titre Fig. 52 – Pierced bear canine.
Légende The root, which is not closed, has two conical and slightly oval perforations on each side.
Crédits Photo by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Fig. 53 – Spatial distribution of human bone remains from US 9, 10, 16 and 23.
Crédits Measured drawing by P. Courtaud; CAD by P. Dumontier.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 61k
Titre Fig. 54 – Anthropological record file, Skeletal fragment from Laà 2.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 217k
Titre Fig. 57 – Lithic material from the Final Neolithic levels.
Légende 1, 3 and 4. Flakes; 2. Blade fragment.
Crédits CAD P. Marticoréna.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/3899/img-33.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 65k
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Patrice Dumontier, Patrice Courtaud, Catherine Ferrier, Dominique Armand, Fabien Convertini, Bui Thi Mai, Michel Girard, Adriana Soto Sebastián et Nicolas Valdeyron, « The Laà 2 cave in Arudy (64). The Mesolithic and Final Neolithic occupations within their chrono-cultural contexts »Gallia Préhistoire, 62 | -1, 7-72.

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Patrice Dumontier, Patrice Courtaud, Catherine Ferrier, Dominique Armand, Fabien Convertini, Bui Thi Mai, Michel Girard, Adriana Soto Sebastián et Nicolas Valdeyron, « The Laà 2 cave in Arudy (64). The Mesolithic and Final Neolithic occupations within their chrono-cultural contexts »Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 62 | 2022, mis en ligne le 22 juin 2023, consulté le 12 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/3899 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/galliap.3899

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Auteurs

Patrice Dumontier

Groupe Archéologique des Pyrénées Occidentales | France

Articles du même auteur

Patrice Courtaud

CNRS – UMR 5199 – PACEA, université de Bordeaux, Pessac | France

Articles du même auteur

Catherine Ferrier

CNRS – UMR 5199 – PACEA, université de Bordeaux, Pessac | France

Articles du même auteur

Dominique Armand

UMR 5199 – PACEA, université de Bordeaux, Pessac | France

Fabien Convertini

INRAP Midi-Méditerranée, UMR 5140 – ASM, Centre archéologique de Nîmes, Nîmes | France

Bui Thi Mai

Chercheur associé au CEPAM-CNRS, SJA3, Nice | France

Michel Girard

Chercheur associé au CEPAM-CNRS, SJA3, Nice | France

Adriana Soto Sebastián

Université du Pays Basque, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba | Espagne

Nicolas Valdeyron

UMR 5608 – TRACES, université de Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès, Maison de la Recherche, Toulouse | France

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Éditeurs scientifiques

Stéphanie Bréard

UMR 7209 Archéozoologie, archéobotanique : sociétés, pratiques et environnements, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris | France

UMR 7209 Archéozoologie, archéobotanique : sociétés, pratiques et environnements, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris | France

Pablo Marticoréna

UMR 5608 – TRACES, université Populaire du Pays Basque, Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry | France

UMR 5608 – TRACES, université Populaire du Pays Basque, Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry | France

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