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The first Early Neolithic settlements in northwest France

Ivan Praud, Françoise Bostyn, Nicolas Cayol, Marie-France Dietsch-Sellami, Caroline Hamon, Yves Lanchon et Nathalie Vandamme
Traduction de Louise Byrne
p. 139-144
Cet article est une traduction de :
Les premières occupations du Néolithique ancien dans le Nord-Ouest de la France [fr]

Résumés

La découverte récente de plusieurs gisements datés du Néolithique ancien dans l’extrême Nord de la France s’est faite dans une région où cette période n’était pas attestée. Les dix sites présentés ici, sont tous datés de l’horizon chrono-culturel Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (BVSG) et sont implantés dans un secteur géographique compris entre les vallées de l’Oise à l’est, de la Somme au sud et des rivages de la Manche/Mer du Nord au nord-ouest. Cet effectif faible est aussi tardif pour un premier néolithique comparé aux occupations rubanées reconnues, dans le Hainaut belge ou le Bassin parisien, plus importantes mais aussi plus anciennes de quelques siècles. La synthèse des études a permis de préciser le cadre typo-chronologique de ces occupations à l’aide d’approches techno-fonctionnelles sur les différents mobiliers en les mettant en parallèle avec les mesures radiocarbone. Les comparaisons avec les sites du Néolithique ancien du Bassin parisien et de Belgique viendront alimenter la discussion sur les liens entretenus entre les différentes régions et permettront finalement de revenir sur les apports de ces sites dans l’étude plus générale des axes régionaux de colonisation néolithique rubanés et BVSG.

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Notes de la rédaction

This article is not quite a traduction but rather is a long summary of the french article « Les premières occupations du Néolithique ancien dans le Nord-Ouest de la France ».

Texte intégral

1Over the past few years, several Early Neolithic sites have been discovered in the extreme North of France, in a region situated between the Oise valley to the east, the shores of the Channel/North Sea to the northwest and the Somme valley to the south (fig. 1). For a long time, the absence of Early Neolithic sites in this intermediate zone between the abundant Linear Pottery Culture sites and the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain in the Paris basin valleys (Aisne, Oise and Seine), and the Linear Pottery Culture settlements and the Blicquy group in Belgian Hainaut was puzzling, as both sectors have many points in common in terms of the typological evolution of pottery during the second phase of Neolithic expansion –the Blicquy/Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (Constantin 1985)– and in terms of the composition of the lithic series (Bostyn 1994). Moreover, many researchers have highlighted long-distance contacts and exchanges between these zones, based on the presence of bracelets in schist in the Paris basin sites, which appears to come from the Armorican Massif and the Ardennes (Fromont 2003, Praud et al. 2003), and the presence of blades in middle Bartonian Tertiary flint from the Paris basin at the Belgian sites (Bostyn 1994 and 2008, Denis 2014a).

Fig. 1. Map of the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK) in the Seine Basin (black dots on a dark-grey background, according to Bostyn à paraître b) and Blicquy-Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (BVSG-orange dots on a light-grey background), as well as the areas where the Northwest LBK is located in Belgium and Alsace

Fig. 1. Map of the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK) in the Seine Basin (black dots on a dark-grey background, according to Bostyn à paraître b) and Blicquy-Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (BVSG-orange dots on a light-grey background), as well as the areas where the Northwest LBK is located in Belgium and Alsace

List of sites presented in this article: BLH: Boves “les Longues Haies” (80), SRM: Sancourt “Grande rue, rue du Moulin” (80), ECM: Amiens “Étouvie” (80), LQ:  Languevoisin-Quiquery (80); BSB: Blangy-sur-Bresle (76), VCL: Vermand (02), VCB: Vitry-en-Artois (62), LSL: Loison-sous-Lens (62), NSL: Noyelles-sous-Lens (62), VLV: Valenciennes “Le Vignoble” (59)

CAD I. Praud, Inrap

2In this article, we present a synopsis of the studies of these sites in order to describe the typo-chronological framework of these settlements, as well as techno-functional studies of the different objects, in parallel with radiocarbon measurements. Comparisons with Early Neolithic sites from the Paris basin and Belgium contribute to the discussion on the links between the different regions and the broader question of regional axes of expansion of the Neolithic, the Linear Pottery Culture and the BVSG.

Structuration of the sites

3The recently acquired archaeological data are very disparate in terms of quantity and quality. Some sites deserve more detailed presentation than others, as they contained sufficient quantities of objects to characterize them, such as Loison-sous-Lens (Pas-de-Calais), Languevoisin-Quiquery (Somme) or Vitry-en-Artois (Pas-de-Calais). On account of their corpus of objects and their structuration, these are the best documented reference sites (table 1). Partial or former data from diagnostics or surface surveys are included here to enrich interpretations. Due to the silty sedimentary contexts of the sites, none of them contained bone remains.

Table 1. General archaeological data on the studied sites

Table 1. General archaeological data on the studied sites

Sites (LSL: Loison-sous-Lens, NSL: Noyelles-sous-Lens, VCL: Vermand, ECM: Étouvie, VLV: Valenciennes, VCB: Vitry-en-Artois, LQ: Languevoisin-Quiquery, BLH: Boves, SRM: Sancourt), excavation surface in ha, diagnostic surface in ha, year of field work, topographic context, substratum, number of structures, type of structure, paleo-environmental studies, weight of pottery (g), number of pottery remains and minimum number of individuals, weight of the flint assemblage (g), number of flint artefacts, number of tools, sandstone tools in weight (g), number of artefacts, stone and ceramic ornaments by weight and number, types of dates and complementary studies

4The sites are spread over three geographic zones: the lower Somme valley (Boves and Étouvie), the upper Somme valley (Languevoisin-Quiquery, Sancourt and Vermand) and the Scarpe/Deûle/Scheldt sector (Vitry-en-Artois, Noyelles-sous-Lens, Loison-sous-Lens and Valenciennes).

5The site of Languevoisin-Quiquery is situated on the Santerre plateau. The excavation focused on a set of seven Early Neolithic pits spread over a surface of 1,800 m² (Baudry et al. 2013; fig. 3). Due to the absence of post holes, we cannot confidently reconstruct the domestic structuration of the site. The state of preservation of the pits is rather poor. The variety and quantity of discovered objects (pottery, lithics and sometimes ornaments), as well as the data from the different studies, point to a settlement zone. The waste is similar in many respects to the waste generally found in the lateral pits of Danube houses.

Fig. 3. Languevoisin-Quiquery “La Sole de Quiquery” (Somme): excavation plan

Fig. 3. Languevoisin-Quiquery “La Sole de Quiquery” (Somme): excavation plan

Baudry 2013

6The site of Loison-sous-Lens (Praud et al. 2010), is located in the north-eastern part of the Pas-de-Calais department in the centre of the silty plain of Gohelle. The site is on the slope of a south-facing silty mound. Overall, the land forms a slight ledge and then a light slope towards the base of the Souchez valley. After clearing the surface over nearly two hectares (fig. 6, B), several series were attributed to the BVSG culture, on the basis of the objects found. They consist of eighteen structures, mainly waste pits (13), several post holes (4) and a grave. The organization of the digging of these pits along an east/west axis recalls the layout of the lateral pits generally associated with “Danube” houses.

Fig. 6. Loison-sous-Lens (Pas-de-Calais)

Fig. 6. Loison-sous-Lens (Pas-de-Calais)

A. Diagnostic surface area and archaeological excavated surface of Early Neolithic settlement; B. Excavation plan

Praud et al. 2009a

7The site of Vitry-en-Artois-en-Artois “Chemin-Brûlé” (Pas-de-Calais) was excavated over a surface of 6,600 m² and yielded remains from a BVSG settlement (Cayol et al. 2015). The site is implanted on the slope of a chalky mound to the east of Arras. The settlement consists of three structures, including a pit with a “Y”-shaped profile which contained most of the finds, and two small very levelled pits, with few objects. The age of the pottery is correlated to the final stage of the BVSG, a stage which had not been recorded up until now.

8The sites make up a rather mixed bunch and the absence of house plans does not facilitate interpretation. It is difficult to determine the type of settlement.

9The site of Loison-sous-Lens could be a pioneering first village whereas Languevoisin-Quiquery and Vitry-en-Artois appear to be sites with temporary or specialized activities, located near a dwelling.

Material productions

Pottery

10The pottery assemblages identified at these sites can be attributed to the Blicquy-Villeneuve-Saint-Germain culture. The series contain 148 specimens for a total weight of 18.7 kg, one third of which are decorated. They come from five sites, including the site of Loison-sous-Lens which yielded almost half of the specimens. Overall, the pottery is not very well conserved, the surfaces are eroded, and the less deeply incised and impressed pottery is often difficult to identify and interpret. Low firing temperatures also render this type of pottery particularly fragile.

11This corpus presents several shared typo-technological characteristics: the use of added tempers (ground and calcined bone, limestone, sand), coil-mounted recipients, a majority of simple shapes (83%), accompanied by pots with an “S”-shaped profile and several bottles (fig. 13). On the other hand, no comparison of the percentages of the different categories of decoration can be undertaken due to the small number of objects (table 4). In detail, the incised fishbone decoration and the comb-impressed decoration are mostly from the site of Loison-sous-Lens (fig. 14). Stamped decoration alone or associated with incisions is more widely represented at the sites of Loison-sous-Lens and Vitry-en-Artois. The triangle theme is very frequent in this corpus (fig. 15). “V”-shaped impressions by pinching the clay are only attested at Loison-sous-Lens. Two sites yielded pots with “V”-shaped impressions made with a smooth and not very thick cord, by pulling from the edge towards a gripping element or by placing it horizontally under the edge. Several specimens bear nipple shapes beneath the edge. Smooth cord plastic decorations and double knobs are traditionally considered as characteristic of a recent, or final phase of the VSG and Blicquy cultures (Constantin 1985, Lanchon 1984, 2008).

Fig. 13. Simple and complex profiles of Early Neolithic pottery from northwestern France

Fig. 13. Simple and complex profiles of Early Neolithic pottery from northwestern France

LSL: Loison-sous-Lens (62), VCB: Vitry-en-Artois (62), VCL: Vermand (02), LQ: Languevoisin-Quiquery (80), ECM: Amiens “Étouvie” (80)

Collectif, Inrap

Table 4. Distribution of the number of decorative techniques by site

Table 4. Distribution of the number of decorative techniques by site

I. Praud, Inrap

Fig. 14. Comb-printed decoration on pottery

Fig. 14. Comb-printed decoration on pottery

Drawings 1-3: Y. Lanchon, Inrap; drawings 4-5: F. Prodéo, Inrap

Fig. 15. Stamp decoration on pottery

Fig. 15. Stamp decoration on pottery

Drawings: Y. Lanchon, Inrap

12For the sites of Loison-sous-Lens and Vitry-en-Artois, typological (decorative techniques) and especially technological (bone temper) comparisons point to a regional Blicquy facies of the vast BVSG culture, whereas the sites of Vermand, Languevoisin-Quiquery and Étouvie are attributed to the VSG facies of the Paris basin.

13The existence of “fishbone” incisions and modelled “V”-shapes, and the absence of real cords points to the attribution of the site of Loison-sous-Lens to a middle phase of the BVSG culture, while the rest of the sites are attributed to the recent and final phases of this culture.

The lithic assemblages

14The lithic assemblages present elements of convergence and divergence. The series from the sites of Loison-sous-Lens and Languevoisin-Quiquery will form the basis of our discussion (fig. 18) and the others will be used as far as possible to complete our observations.

Fig. 18. Number of flint artefacts from each studied site and number of structures from which they derive

Fig. 18. Number of flint artefacts from each studied site and number of structures from which they derive

F. Bostyn, Inrap

15The fundamental elements of BVSG flint assemblages (Bostyn 1994, Allard and Bostyn 2006, Denis 2014a) include the dual production of flakes/blades in local raw materials, at all the sites studied, but flakes largely outnumber blades. Blade production is particularly widespread at Loison-sous-Lens, and all of our technical observations or comments on the operating chain are strictly comparable to descriptions of assemblages in the Paris basin (Bostyn 1994, Allard 1999, Augereau 2004, Denis 2008), showing technical and, by extension, cultural unity in the BVSG geographic zone. However, studies of the lithic assemblages from this culture show a gradual decrease in blade production throughout time, ranging from about 20% during the early phases to much lower percentages during recent phases (fig. 37). The site of Languevoisin-Quiquery is clearly lacking in laminar products, which is an original feature for the BVSG.

Fig. 37. Comparison of Cretaceous flint blade production at the different BVSG sites

Fig. 37. Comparison of Cretaceous flint blade production at the different BVSG sites

LBRII and III: Longueil-Sainte-Marie “la Butte de Rhuis II et III”; VSSL: Villers-sous-Saint-Leu; CSV: Courcelles-sur-Viosne; LLB N and S: Longueil-Sainte-Marie “le Barrage” north and south; PFR: Pontpoint “le Fond de Rambourg”; PSLM: “Poses sur la Mare”

F. Bostyn, Inrap

16The other well-represented unifying factor in the studied series is the presence of Bartonian flint from the Paris basin (fig. 22). The circulation of this raw material throughout the BVSG culture, apart from in the westernmost margins (Bostyn and Denis 2016, Charraud 2013, Bostyn et al. forthcoming a), is now an established fact, but the way it was diffused within villages is still a matter of debate (Bostyn and Denis 2016). Some sites only received blade products, such as Noyelles, Boves, Vermand and Étouvie, whereas non-cortical flakes have been observed at the sites of Loison-sous-Lens and Languevoisin-Quiquery. Therefore, this raw material seems to have circulated in the form of preformed cores, like in Belgian Hainaut (Bostyn 2008, Denis 2014a, Bostyn and Denis 2016), where we also find these products, in spite of the distance. At Languevoisin-Quiquery, the hypothesis of the transport of preformed blade cores in Cretaceous and Bartonian flint implies that these skills were lacking on site and that the knapper moved, whereas similar productions are recorded at Loison-sous-Lens where local knappers present high levels of skill and also worked Bartonian flint cores. This is an important element as the Bartonian blade products from Loison-sous-Lens differ from those from Languevoisin-Quiquery by their smaller dimensions. The average blade width from the former site is 19.3 mm, which is comparable to those in Cretaceous flint (18.4 mm), as opposed to 21.9 mm for Languevoisin-Quiquery.

Fig. 22. Mapping of the sources of the non-local siliceous materials

Fig. 22. Mapping of the sources of the non-local siliceous materials

Base map N. Fromont, Inrap; CAD F. Bostyn, Inrap

17The minor role of end scrapers on flakes, which are less abundant than denticulates and retouched flakes, raises questions (fig. 26). Indeed, BVSG series are characterized by the predominance of end scrapers among flake tools (Bostyn 1994, Allard and Bostyn 2006). It is difficult to explain this deficit, but it may point to less hide-working and thus to different spheres of activity to those identified at other Paris basin sites. On the other hand, the preponderance of burins among blade tools is more traditional and this tool can represent more than half the blade tools. Plant working is well represented and the significant number of burins on flakes, in addition to burins on blades, tends to accentuate this sphere of activity (fig. 36). The presence of numerous sickle blade elements, on flakes as well as blades, attests to intensive agricultural activities.

Fig. 26. Proportions of the different types of tool blanks at the different sites

Fig. 26. Proportions of the different types of tool blanks at the different sites

F. Bostyn, Inrap

Fig. 36. Microscopic view of the different types of use-wear polish

Fig. 36. Microscopic view of the different types of use-wear polish

1. polish 50; 2. polish 21; 3. polish 25; 4. polish 23

N. Cayol, Inrap

18Tranchets are part of the flake tool series at three sites (Loison-sous-Lens, Vitry-en-Artois and Boves), but are absent at Languevoisin-Quiquery. This tool appears at a rather late stage in the Paris basin, during the final phase of the BVSG, whereas it is present at three Hainaut sites, including Irchonwelz “la Bonne Fortune”, which is attributed to the early phase of the BVSG (Constantin et al. 1978, Denis 2014a), Aubechies and Ellignies-Sainte-Anne.

19If we accept that the Belgian Hainaut and the Paris basin phases are synchronous, then we could consider that the tranchet appears during the early phase in Belgian Hainaut and is assimilated into the Paris basin tool panoply at a later stage. Nonetheless, the absence of this type of tool at Languevoisin-Quiquery is puzzling as this occupation dates from the end of the BVSG. This could, once again, point to the original status of this site, linked to site function. This would explain the presence of second choice (cortical and crested) blade products.

20The arrowheads are almost exclusively from the site of Loison-sous-Lens (with one from Vermand; fig. 35). The traditional perforating type, with inverse retouch on the base, is associated with a comparable quantity of cutting arrowheads. The latter also appear in large numbers during the final phase of the BVSG, at the sites of Hainaut, but several specimens are mentioned at the site of Irchonwelz “la Bonne Fortune” (Farruggia et al. 1982) and Blicquy “la Couture du Couvent” (Constantin et al. 1991), during the early phase.

Fig. 35. Perforating arrowheads (1-4) and cutting arrowheads (5-8)

Fig. 35. Perforating arrowheads (1-4) and cutting arrowheads (5-8)

1-7. Loison-sous-Lens; 8. Vermand

S. Lancelot, Inrap (except 8: F. Bostyn, Inrap).

Macro-tools

21The discovery of a particularly large number of grinding tools associated with manufacturing waste at Loison-sous-Lens (93 objects in sandstone for a weight of 165 kg) is noteworthy. This contrasts sharply with the paucity of objects in sandstone in the valley of the Somme, at Sancourt (one trimming flake from a grinding tool) or downstream at Boves (three sandstone elements).

22Altogether, the site yielded 12 querns, 10 grinders,  5 fragments of grinding tools or manufacturing (four primary flakes, 41 shaping flakes) or maintenance flakes (6 trimming flakes; table 7). The presence of pairs of querns and grinders and the intact condition of practically all the 22 querns and grinders is exceptional for the BVSG. Four main themes will be addressed below: the typological diversity of the querns, tool function, site specialization in food preparation in comparison with “classical” settlement sites and lastly, the significance of the deposition or abandonment of large quantities of grinding tools at BVSG settlement sites.

Table 7. Composition of the toolkit from the BVSG pits from Loison-sous-Lens

Table 7. Composition of the toolkit from the BVSG pits from Loison-sous-Lens

C. Hamon, CNRS

23Three different types of querns are represented: the thinnest on trapezoidal or quadrangular plaques, thick querns with plane or concave surfaces with or without a proximal edge and a narrow and thick type (fig. 39 to 41). All the grinders can be assimilated to the short category, with two main types: ovoid grinders with a plane or convex active surface and quadrangular grinders with abrupt edges and an active plane surface. The typology of the tools from Loison-sous-Lens is very similar to neighbouring regions. They are comparable to the tools from Hainaut, Irchonwelz or Blicquy (Constantin et al. 1978, Hamon 2008), and to those from the north of the Seine basin, in particular in the plain of France at Saint-Denis (Hamon and Samzun 2004), Trosly-Breuil, Bucy-le-Long le Fond du Petit Marais or la Fosse Tounise in the Aisne valley (Hamon 2006), Longueil-Sainte-Marie in the Oise valley (Bostyn et al. 2015), or Ocquerre (Hamon 2009) and Luzancy (Hamon 2013) in the Marne valley. The use of grinding systems with short grinders used for back and forth actions is thus standard practice at Loison-sous-Lens. However, the secondary use of circular grinding was brought to light for at least one quern, and probably two others. The use-wear analysis of five querns and three grinders showed that they were used for grinding cereals.

Fig. 39. Querns from Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11

Fig. 39. Querns from Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11

C. Hamon, CNRS

Fig. 40. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11

Fig. 40. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11

Whole grinding tools: A-B. querns; C-D. grinder roughouts

C. Hamon, CNRS

Fig. 41. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 1008

Fig. 41. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 1008

A. quern fragment (NW p5); B. grinder (NE p4), C. grinder (US 2 p5)

C. Hamon, CNRS

24Several questions regarding the composition and nature of this assemblage are still pending. Why were no grinding tool remains or any other sandstone tools found in the pits, as is generally the case in the lateral pits of BVSG settlement sites?

25Finally, the absence of any specific organization of these querns also seems to exclude the deposition of the querns in situ. They seem to be related to discharge areas of grinding tools, abandoned in almost the same position in which they were used, associated with some of the manufacture and maintenance waste. The crude shaping of some querns, the presence of atypical forms (quern no. 4 from pit 11) and the fresh and partial sharpening of some of the active surfaces (ST 11 and 1074) indicate a high demand for grinding tools at the site. An episode of the intensive use of querns for grinding cereals at the end of the BVSG settlement of the site could explain this specific configuration.

Ornaments

26The series is made up of 33 fragments, with a minimum number of individuals evaluated at 19. Most of the ornaments discovered are in schist materials and the rest are in fired clay.

27Most of the schist cannot be accurately sourced but it may come from the Armorican Massif or the Ardennes, which are both in the BVSG sphere of influence.

28However, the micaceous schist with cordierites, which was identified for the first time at the end of the 1990s (Praud et al. 2003), clearly comes from the thermo-metamorphic belts surrounding the granite massifs from the north and east of the Armorican Massif.

Chronology

29Three sites have been radiocarbon dated (table 11). The results show that most of the structures (8 out of 10) are spread over a chronological segment corresponding more or less to the accepted duration of the BVSG, which is 300 years (5000/4950-4700/4650 BC; Dubouloz 2003). The overlap between charcoal dates from Vitry-en-Artois, Languevoisin-Quiquery and charred hazelnut shell dates from the site of Loison-sous-Lens indicates that the samples and results are accurate (fig. 52).

Table 11. Results of the Carbon 14 isotopic measurements

Table 11. Results of the Carbon 14 isotopic measurements

I. Praud, Inrap

30The sites discovered in this geographic sector mostly belong to the recent-final phase of the BVSG, as far as can be judged from the analysis of the objects and the isotopic dates. The site of Loison-sous-Lens can be attributed to the middle phase of the BVSG and thus appears to be the oldest in this territorial expansion of agro-pastoral communities.

Fig. 52. Graph of radiocarbon dates

Fig. 52. Graph of radiocarbon dates

OxCal. V4.3.2 and I. Praud, Inrap

Site status and exchange networks

31The techno-functional approach shows that the flint toolkit was mostly used for plant processing. The tools were used for maintaining natural areas and/or for hoeing crops (tranchet), for cutting and scraping plants (burin, denticulates), and in particular for harvesting cereals (sickle blades) and scutching plant fibres (only burins). Plant processing and transformation are largely preponderant, as confirmed by the presence of numerous burins and sickle elements on blades but also on flakes. Tranchets are lacking at the site of Languevoisin-Quiquery, whereas they are represented at three other sites (Loison-sous-Lens, Boves and Vitry-en-Artois). Overall, wood working is less represented and includes scraping, planing and cutting actions (denticulate, debris, retouched flake and end scraper adze).

32The flint assemblage and the ornaments include non-local materials. The synthesis of the flint assemblages revealed the importance of Bartonian flint from the Paris basin in circulation networks in the northwest quarter of France and Belgium. It can be considered as an essential social and identity marker for the cohesion of this cultural group over a vast territory ranging from the Paris basin to Belgian Hainaut and from Lower Normandy to the upper part of the Seine valley (Bostyn 1994 and 2008, Bostyn and Denis 2016, Charraud 2013, Denis 2014a, Bostyn et al. forthcoming a). The tools made in Bartonian flint require considerable technical investment and are characteristic of this culture (burins, sickle blades, arrowheads), reinforcing this identity aspect (Bostyn 2008). This intense diffusion is thus once again confirmed here, in particular by the presence of blades in the Somme valley at Étouvie, far from the main circulation axes along the main valleys.

33On the other hand, the situation is very different for the flint from Ghlin, which was only used at Vermand, confirming that the inhabitants of the Paris basin were not particularly attracted to these products, and emphasizing the role of the upper Oise valley as a milestone between these regions. The circulation of flint from Ghlin was thus mostly directed towards the Hesbaye sites (Denis 2014b). Considering the proximity of Loison-sous-Lens to the Belgian Hainaut sites, the absence of this flint there raises questions, but may be related to its involvement in the economy of the Hesbaye sites.

34The main sites also yielded bracelets in stone or fired earth. Materials from the Ardennes Massif and the Armorican Massif are present at the sites of Loison-sous-Lens and Languevoisin-Quiquery, indicating transport over very long distances, way beyond the large valleys of the Paris basin (Praud et al. 2003), and as far as Belgium (Fromont 2003).

Contribution of the sites to understanding the Neolithization process in north-western France

35Other data renew our vision of the BVSG culture, such as the presence of wheat in slightly smaller quantities than emmer wheat in the carpological spectrum of Loison-sous-Lens, whereas up until now, this naked wheat had only been identified in the recent BVSG in the Paris basin (Dietsch-Sellami 2007). The introduction of this new cereal occurred at the same time as another early technical innovation: the flint tranchet. This relationship is significant as it points to a change in agricultural activities (maintenance of cultivated fields and use of the tranchet for hoeing) for cultivating this naked wheat grain, which is more fragile than the hardy cereals. Up until now, wheat crops and tranchet manufacture were only known in the recent phase of the BVSG in the Paris basin. Thus, the chronological attribution of the site of Loison-sous-Lens to the middle phase, on the basis of pottery and radiocarbon dates, tends to age this association. In the current state of knowledge, the development of agricultural practices associated with a new flint toolkit occurs earlier in the Blicquy group zone of influence than in the Paris basin.

36The geographic position of the sites raises questions about their affinities with the two main settlement basins: the South of Belgium and the Paris basin. As expected, on a regional scale, we observe affinities between the sites of the Deûle-Scarpe basin, on one hand, which appear to be linked to the south-western extremity of the Neolithic expansion of the Blicquy group, and on the other hand, between the sites of the Somme basin which appear to be under the influence of the Paris basin. The Blicquy group sites and sites in the North of France also display many elements in common, such as the choice to settle in a slightly hilly area, with a loess soil (plateau silts), near water resources.

37Moreover, Loison-sous-Lens and the sites of the Dendre basin present many similarities, such as the widespread use of a ground bone temper in pottery, the fishbone decoration technique, the abundance of grinding tools and the early introduction of the tranchet. These elements point to the existence of a regional Blicquian tradition. At Languevoisin-Quiquery, the proximity of the Oise valley, similar pottery shapes and the use of a sandy temper from Ocquerre “La Rocluche” (Seine-et-Marne; Praud et al. 2009b), as well as the high proportion of tools in Bartonian flint (half the tools), show that privileged links existed with sites in the north of the Paris basin.

Implications for the Neolithization process: a decline in expansion

38According to our current knowledge, the geographic area under consideration here corresponds to a zone marked by the stopping of the earliest Neolithic expansion. In spite of the development of rescue archaeology, no Linear Pottery Culture sites have been discovered there up until now and only several pioneering sites dating from the BVSG spread to these new natural areas during the maximum expansion of the Early Neolithic in the northern half of France. For our region, this expansion occurred from the sites of Belgian Hainaut and the Paris basin.

39The type of soils and the geological context cannot account for the paucity of Danube settlements in this sector. The substantial silty cover developed on a mainly chalky substratum, which forms a very conducive environmental context for the development of agricultural practices and the acquisition of lithic materials. Therefore, the absence of Neolithic populations before 4950 cal. BC is still enigmatic, whereas in Belgian Hainaut, the oldest sites date to 5400/5300 BC (Crombé et al. 2005). The natural context cannot explain this absence of Early Neolithic sites. This standstill or stabilization in Neolithic spatial diffusion could be linked to a high density of hunter-gatherer populations implanted on these territories and impervious to lifestyle changes. However, regional settlement during the final phase of the Mesolithic was rather inconsequential. The recent discovery and radiocarbon dating of a final Mesolithic site south of Lille (Féray et al. 2016) yielded an age of 6590 ± 40 BP (Beta-439839), or between 5616 and 5481 cal. BC (to 95.4%). This time frame is earlier than the first extra-regional Linear Pottery Culture. For this terminal phase of the Mesolithic, the rare Somme valley sites do not provide any data on possible contacts or links between these populations (Ducrocq 2001). The only date is from the Mesolithic site of Castel (6090 BP ± 95 BP, Gif-10419, or 5290-4788 cal. BC), which points to overlapping with the Early Neolithic but is too imprecise (five centuries).

40Another explanatory factor could be linked to the physical appearance of the regional hydrographic network. It was difficult for rivers flowing through this region along a north/south or east/west axis to carve out beds, as the valley bottoms were covered with thick loess deposits during the Upper Pleistocene. The flow rate was limited, slopes were slight, and very wide valleys led to the development of vast wet plains which were not always very practicable. In contrast, Linear Pottery Culture sites in the Seine basin are distributed along the main waterway routes. When the river network was particularly unsuited to long distance movements, isolated settlements could have formed, like the Linear Pottery Culture sites in Hainaut, which could not extend further south, whereas in the Paris basin, the valleys offered more navigable penetration routes along a southeast/northwest axis, and settlement extended until the Channel shores.

41Neolithization on a regional scale is quite similar to the expansion observed in the north-western part of the Northern European plain. Our questions and unsolved problems regarding Neolithic extension are relatively similar to those encountered by our Belgian colleagues. Indeed, only the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th millennia BC correspond to the whole colonization of the territory, including the sandy regions further north which had not been settled by Neolithic populations until then (Crombé et al. 2005), more than a millennium after the first implantations on the silty terrains of southern Belgium. In the same way, the neolithization of the western part of the Netherlands observed around the Rhine and Meuse deltas shows irreversible changes in the lifestyles of hunter-gatherer populations with the emergence of Middle Neolithic 2 cultures (Louwe Kooijmans 2011) via slow acquisition processes of new technical and economic strategies. On the other side of the Channel/North Sea, in Great Britain, new Neolithic ways of life did not durably develop until the transition between the 5th and 4th millennia BC (Whittle et al. 2011).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Map of the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK) in the Seine Basin (black dots on a dark-grey background, according to Bostyn à paraître b) and Blicquy-Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (BVSG-orange dots on a light-grey background), as well as the areas where the Northwest LBK is located in Belgium and Alsace
Légende List of sites presented in this article: BLH: Boves “les Longues Haies” (80), SRM: Sancourt “Grande rue, rue du Moulin” (80), ECM: Amiens “Étouvie” (80), LQ:  Languevoisin-Quiquery (80); BSB: Blangy-sur-Bresle (76), VCL: Vermand (02), VCB: Vitry-en-Artois (62), LSL: Loison-sous-Lens (62), NSL: Noyelles-sous-Lens (62), VLV: Valenciennes “Le Vignoble” (59)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 377k
Titre Table 1. General archaeological data on the studied sites
Légende Sites (LSL: Loison-sous-Lens, NSL: Noyelles-sous-Lens, VCL: Vermand, ECM: Étouvie, VLV: Valenciennes, VCB: Vitry-en-Artois, LQ: Languevoisin-Quiquery, BLH: Boves, SRM: Sancourt), excavation surface in ha, diagnostic surface in ha, year of field work, topographic context, substratum, number of structures, type of structure, paleo-environmental studies, weight of pottery (g), number of pottery remains and minimum number of individuals, weight of the flint assemblage (g), number of flint artefacts, number of tools, sandstone tools in weight (g), number of artefacts, stone and ceramic ornaments by weight and number, types of dates and complementary studies
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 505k
Titre Fig. 3. Languevoisin-Quiquery “La Sole de Quiquery” (Somme): excavation plan
Crédits Baudry 2013
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 173k
Titre Fig. 6. Loison-sous-Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
Légende A. Diagnostic surface area and archaeological excavated surface of Early Neolithic settlement; B. Excavation plan
Crédits Praud et al. 2009a
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 380k
Titre Fig. 13. Simple and complex profiles of Early Neolithic pottery from northwestern France
Légende LSL: Loison-sous-Lens (62), VCB: Vitry-en-Artois (62), VCL: Vermand (02), LQ: Languevoisin-Quiquery (80), ECM: Amiens “Étouvie” (80)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 367k
Titre Table 4. Distribution of the number of decorative techniques by site
Crédits I. Praud, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Fig. 14. Comb-printed decoration on pottery
Crédits Drawings 1-3: Y. Lanchon, Inrap; drawings 4-5: F. Prodéo, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 581k
Titre Fig. 15. Stamp decoration on pottery
Crédits Drawings: Y. Lanchon, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 438k
Titre Fig. 18. Number of flint artefacts from each studied site and number of structures from which they derive
Crédits F. Bostyn, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 82k
Titre Fig. 37. Comparison of Cretaceous flint blade production at the different BVSG sites
Légende LBRII and III: Longueil-Sainte-Marie “la Butte de Rhuis II et III”; VSSL: Villers-sous-Saint-Leu; CSV: Courcelles-sur-Viosne; LLB N and S: Longueil-Sainte-Marie “le Barrage” north and south; PFR: Pontpoint “le Fond de Rambourg”; PSLM: “Poses sur la Mare”
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 85k
Titre Fig. 22. Mapping of the sources of the non-local siliceous materials
Crédits Base map N. Fromont, Inrap; CAD F. Bostyn, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 782k
Titre Fig. 26. Proportions of the different types of tool blanks at the different sites
Crédits F. Bostyn, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 273k
Titre Fig. 36. Microscopic view of the different types of use-wear polish
Légende 1. polish 50; 2. polish 21; 3. polish 25; 4. polish 23
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M
Titre Fig. 35. Perforating arrowheads (1-4) and cutting arrowheads (5-8)
Légende 1-7. Loison-sous-Lens; 8. Vermand
Crédits S. Lancelot, Inrap (except 8: F. Bostyn, Inrap).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 249k
Titre Table 7. Composition of the toolkit from the BVSG pits from Loison-sous-Lens
Crédits C. Hamon, CNRS
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 227k
Titre Fig. 39. Querns from Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11
Crédits C. Hamon, CNRS
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 322k
Titre Fig. 40. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 11
Légende Whole grinding tools: A-B. querns; C-D. grinder roughouts
Crédits C. Hamon, CNRS
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 345k
Titre Fig. 41. Loison-sous-Lens. Structure 1008
Légende A. quern fragment (NW p5); B. grinder (NE p4), C. grinder (US 2 p5)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 261k
Titre Table 11. Results of the Carbon 14 isotopic measurements
Crédits I. Praud, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 612k
Titre Fig. 52. Graph of radiocarbon dates
Crédits OxCal. V4.3.2 and I. Praud, Inrap
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/999/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 257k
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Ivan Praud, Françoise Bostyn, Nicolas Cayol, Marie-France Dietsch-Sellami, Caroline Hamon, Yves Lanchon et Nathalie Vandamme, « The first Early Neolithic settlements in northwest France »Gallia Préhistoire, 58 | 2018, 139-144.

Référence électronique

Ivan Praud, Françoise Bostyn, Nicolas Cayol, Marie-France Dietsch-Sellami, Caroline Hamon, Yves Lanchon et Nathalie Vandamme, « The first Early Neolithic settlements in northwest France »Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 58 | 2018, mis en ligne le 12 novembre 2018, consulté le 25 octobre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/999; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/galliap.999

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Auteurs

Ivan Praud

CRA Inrap, 11 rue des Champs, 59650 Villeneuve d’Ascq, Inrap Hauts-de-France, UMR 8215, Trajectoires — ivan.praud@inrap.fr

Françoise Bostyn

CRA Inrap, 11 rue des Champs 59650 Villeneuve d’Ascq, Inrap Hauts-de-France, UMR 8215, Trajectoires — francoise.bostyn@inrap.fr

Nicolas Cayol

CRA Inrap, Parc d’activités Noyon-Passel, 60400 Passel, Inrap Hauts-de-France, UMR 8215, Trajectoires — nicolas.cayol@inrap.fr

Marie-France Dietsch-Sellami

CRA Inrap, Domaine de Campagne, 24260 Campagne, UMR 5554 ISEM équipe Dynamique de la biodiversité, anthropo-écologie — marie-France.dietsch-sellami@inrap.fr

Caroline Hamon

CNRS UMR 8215 Trajectoires, Maison de l’archéologie, 21 allée de l’Université, 92023 Nanterre cedex — caroline.hamon@mae.cnrs.fr

Articles du même auteur

Yves Lanchon

Nathalie Vandamme

10 rue de la Longue Paume, 02380 Coucy le Château Auffrique — vandamme.nathalie@yahoo.fr

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Gallia Préhistoire

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