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1How noble and just an idea it is, to work one’s way up the chaînes opératoires, to leave aside, for a while, the lithic technocomplexes, the percentages of identified remains, the tables of OSL dates or our Neanderthal archeo‑sequences for the South-West of Europe, tacked on to marine isotope stages. And to get back to the source. The tools. And better still, the traces left on those tools or on the carcasses, resulting from their processing via that which we like to call – and not without pride, to ape the learned ethnologist – “technical subsystems”. Yes, of course, the true technical systems will be forever beyond our reach: the meat, the hides, the plant materials which were processed, arranged, woven, the green wood (or virtually, for this last element). We have had a habit of doing without them, of trusting their media – the stone tools – and their wear-traces, the negatives of their impacts. What a vocation it is to go back again through time, and the evidence of time. And here, the time is that of the Neanderthal, who we know spanned tens of millennia with, as a bonus – as if it were not already enough – the inevitable differential preservation which we know to be cruel to Palaeolithic researchers.

2This “projet collectif de recherche” (collective research project) – PCR to those who know it best – is just like those who ran it: fascinating, forging new paths, preferentially experimental in this case, which forms the backbone of the project; a PCR which is full, true, transparent (with the bare minimum of makeup, therefore), fantastically effective in its sincerity – documentary, visual (filmic, even) and scientific. And this is inevitably paralleled by a human adventure which was evoked in a manner that is as concise at it is moving in Céline Thiébaut’s foreword. For, behind the chapters, behind the tables and the illustrations, as we too often forget when perusing academic publications, there are also men and women. What am I saying? Women and a few men. Fragments of careers, academic journeys, post-doctoral projects, which may at times, alas, be frustrated.

3And it so happens that I have been fortunate enough to know a certain number of these, and for quite some time. I mention this, not in relation to a mentor-apprentice situation (after all, one rarely asks an undergraduate student for a preface…), but because, I too, dear Céline, have had several lives, as you know. I have spent long and memorable times – at least, that is how I remember it – with many of your co-authors (I will not cite them all, there would be very few left unmentioned) on various sites. But at times, these were distinctly more painful; life is thus, unfair and sometimes cruel. Sites rather Quercy-like, often with quite a lot of bison remains, a little dryer and more mineralized than those which you skinned with your colleagues in front of the camera held by your brother, to whom you dedicate this publication. And Sandrine had come by a short time before you, though she hid in the cool neighboring cave rather than in level 4 at Coudoulous, which was out in daylight. It was level 4’s loss. As for Émilie, I will never forget the day when, in my B18 office at the beginning of the second year of what we did not yet call a “Masters”, she declared to me her passion for Middle Palaeolithic use-wear analysis. It was the right move – in my view at least. What a pleasure, and what good fortune to have had the singular honour of crossing paths with you all. And I have stuck to the triumvirate of academic editors, but just behind them, there are also other names for whom I have great admiration, a sincere friendship, cemented in the sharing of Causse quartz, Pyrenean quartzite or Yemeni rhyolite. You all know it, I hope.

4The pages which follow also make up a work which is just a touch radical – no more than is necessary – which goes against the flow of the current system of academic recognition, of its persistent and rather stupid bibliometry, of its no less dreadful impact factors which satisfy only those who consult them indiscriminately. But the mentors of this adventure are not, for all that, outside of time. They are of their time. Or even ahead of it: with a website, video recordings of their experiments, fitting media coverage and, here, an impressive online publication. Environmentally responsible and with a local distribution network: complete success and respect for their commit-ments, and even convictions. A splendid project whose superb realization you can now enjoy.

5Everyone knows that I am vain, but I try, with varying degrees of success – as this preface proves… – to be so ironically. This increasingly insufferable fault will not be helped by the compilation of tables 50 to 52 where two sites which I had the pleasure of exploring with a few of you (Coudoulous and Jonzac – I prefer Jonzac to “Chez-Pinaud” – just ahead of Mauran and layer K at Les Fieux) were the most generous suppliers of results! Helped by the colours, they flattered my interpretation for a time, but I will need to step back somewhat to appreciate the totality of the results conveyed by the collective which took part in the project. And I will rue for years to come not having been available to participate in the processing of the bison of the Garonne.

6We can all think of some exceptional methodological or experimental adventure, invariably mentioned to students as a milestone example, THE reference which succeeds in communicating an idea or a concept within our disciplines. For example, the PCR directed by Chadelle, Geneste and Plisson on the functional technology of Solutrean projectile points. It is cited annually by this author as an interdisciplinary success which combined excavation, technological study, ethnographical examples and experimental reconstructions – the students are just frightened by the animal targets pierced with notched points! While the experimenters – and that’s just the boys! – seemed so harsh towards their prey, paralysed on their wooden frames, they were paradoxically the gentlest of colleagues, the friendliest of conversation partners. Come the start of the autumn academic term, the choice will be a difficult one, and this PCR, Des traces et de Hommes may well dethrone my Solutreo‑Perigourdine favourite since (sorry, guys), this one is published in its entirety. And, as we know, that is important. I will henceforth have the pleasure of recommending the work to the few generations of Bordeaux students who stand between me and emeritus status.

7And long live such monographs (even in dematerialized form) of Man-Animal, Woman-Plant – or, rather, the other way around – interdisciplinary programs. Especially those which make such an important contribution to the patient and slow redemption of our dear Neanderthals.

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Jacques Jaubert, « Preface »Palethnologie [En ligne], 10 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2019, consulté le 21 juin 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Jacques Jaubert

Professor of Prehistory - University of Bordeaux

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Palethnologie est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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