Acheulean (from Saint-Acheul, Somme region)
Prehistoric cultural group belonging to the Lower Palaeolithic, characterized by bifaces, cleavers and tools on flakes (side scrapers, denticulates, etc.).
Axe with a cutting edge perpendicular to the handle.
Accelerator Mass spectrometry dating. It allows obtaining a radiocarbon 14 date from a small size sample.
Modified by the action of Humans.
Branch of anthropology concerned with the study of the measurements and proportions of the human body.
Aurignacian (from Aurignac, Haute-Garonne region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 35,000 and 28,000 years B.P.) of the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic. The developing of tools made from reindeer bone and antler, of body ornaments and art are typical features. Previously subdivided into I, II, III and IV from the La Ferrassie sequence, today Proto-Aurignacian, Early Aurignacian and Middle/Upper Aurignacian are the only terms used.
A hominid type that appeared in Africa around 5 million years ago. They are divided into two groups: gracile and robust. They have a small brain size (500 cc) and many archaic features (robust and massive jaw, size of molars and premolars, etc.). Although probably still arboreal, they were already bipeds.
Azilian (from Mas d’Azil, Ariège region)
Modified by the action of Humans.
Prehistoric cultural group of the Epipalaeolithic (between 12,500 and 9,500 B.P.). It follows the Magdalenian and is characterized by a lesser diversity of stone and bone tools and by the creation of a schematic art form.
Bladelet with one edge worked by abrupt retouching (back), the other remaining a cutting edge.
Badegoulian (from Badegoule, Dordogne region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 17,500 and 19,000 years B.P.) of the Upper Palaeolithic situated between the Solutrean and the Magdalenian. It is characterized by a larger proportion of flakes and tools on flakes (raclettes) than in the periods before and after.
Of a geometrical shape obtained by the joining-up of two cones at the base.
Any hard rock flake with a length twice bigger than the width.
South African site where some of the oldest evidence of symbolic activity (engravings and body ornaments) were found associated with Modern humans about 80,000 years ago.
Genus of the bovidae family, bovinae sub-family, which includes the primitive ox (aurochs) and current domestic oxen.
Alloy of copper and tin. The Bronze Age, between 2,300 and 800 B.C. is the beginning of Protohistory or Late prehistory.
Of a type of tooth with rounded denticles (reliefs). It is the case of premolars and molars in species with an omnivorous diet (bear, boar, humans, etc.).
see Radiocarbon dating
Technique of cutting away the surface of an object around a pattern to make it stand out in relief.
Chatelperronian (from Châtelperron, Allier Region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 40,000 and 35,000 B.P.) situated between the Mousterian and the Aurignacian. Assigned to Neanderthals, the typical toolkit is similar to the one modern human developed (objects on blades, endscrapers, burins, etc.).
Relating to turtles and tortoises
Pebble worked by one or several removals on one side.
Human type defined from the discoveries done in 1868 at the Cro-Magnon rock shelter in Les Eyzies de Tayac (Dordogne). It is an anatomically modern human type and more specifically the one found in Europe in the Upper Palaeolithic.
Block or block fragment from which flakes, blade or bladelets were removed.
Circular hollow done by humans on a rock or bone surface.
Seashell shaped like a small tube. It lives in sand and mud and was frequently used by prehistoric people as body ornament.
Knapped stone tool with toothed edge.
Climate episode (from 10,300 to 8,000 B.P.) characterized by three phases of cooling climate usually called Dryas I (Older), Dryas II (Middle) and Dryas III (Younger).
Period (between 12,500 and 9,500 years B.P.) situated between the Upper Palaeolihtic and the Mesolithic. The toolkit still belongs to the Palaeolithic tradition.
Front part of the head of horses and of some mammals, from the poll to the arch of the nose.
Geographical area covering greater South-western France and the northern side of the Pyrenees and of Cantabria (Spain). The strongest concentration of Palaeolithic rock art in the world is found in this region.
Metamorphic rock made of mica, quartz and feldspath crystals, organized as sheets.
Gravettian (from La Gravette, Dordogne region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 28,000 and 23,000 years B.P.) situated between the Aurignacian and the Solutrean, characterized by a toolkit on blades and small retouched rectilinear backed points.
A perfect biped, with a skull much more developed than the Homo habilis one. It has a less-projected forward face and modern teeth. Its repartition spreads much beyond Africa.
This human type was defined on the basis of the dental features of east African fossils dated between 3 and 1.5 million years old. The front teeth are similar in size to their predecessors, but the back teeth are smaller. Homo ergaster was a biped and its size was similar to the one of today’s populations leaving in similar environment conditions.
Species of hominine featuring a large brain, a straight forehead, small-size teeth and a marked chin. This is the Anatomically Modern Human. These features are all found as early as -195,000 in East Africa (Omo Kibish, Ethiopia). Older cases like Djebel Irhoud in Morocco, dated to -330,000, are debated and could be archaic forms. Homo sapiens has been the only species representing the Homo genus for the last 30,000 years. (In the past, classification was separating the Homo sapiens species into two sub-species: Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens sapiens… According to the latest studies, there is no lineage relationship between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals… So today only the terms “Homo sapiens” and “Homo neanderthalensis” are used)
Name of lithic assemblages essentially made of bladelets.
Flint object knapped on both sides, with an overall shape recalling the leaf of the laurel. This object is typical of the middle phase of the Solutrean.
Process in which soluble elements in a soil or a layer are washed away by water.
« Livre de Beurre »
Large core whose shape reminds of the old pounds of butter. Typical of the Late and Final Neolithic workshops (3,500 to 2,300 B.P.) in the region of Grand-Pressigny (Indre-et-Loire region), it allowed extracting 30 cm long blades.
Magdalenian (from La Madeleine, Dordogne region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 18,000 and 10,000 years B.P.) characterized by a highly diversified toolkit, numerous knapped flint, an abundant bone toolkit and numerous art forms that evolved in time In the past, it was subdivided into six phases (from I to VI) according to these modifications. A first phase with raclettes was followed by another one rich in microlithic objects and then the industries with harpoons developed.
Period between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic. It gathers the cultural groups of the last hunter-gatherers (between 7,500 and 5,500 years B.P.) whose toolkit is characterized by very small size objects (microliths).
Bone of the terminal part of the limb skeleton of vertebrates, corresponding to the foot or the hand, and preceding the phalanges.
Monoxylon (or dugout)
Dug out in a single wood piece.
Study of the proportions and shape of an object.
Mousterian (from Le Moustier, Dordogne region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 250,000 and 40,000 years B.P.) characterized by a highly diversified toolkit on flake in which several facies were identified: Quina Mousterian, Acheulean tradition Mousterian…
Most recent subdivision of Prehistory (between 5,500 and 2,300 years B.P.) in which the first agro-pastoral communities developed. The production of foodstuff (agriculture, farming) led to profound changes in the environment, such as the clearing of forests and the appearance of permanent villages. Pottery, architecture, demographic increase and hierarchization of society go together with this “quiet revolution”.
Neanderthal or Homo neanderthalensis
Hominid species descended from the first humans settled in Eurasia characterized by an average height (1.60 to 1.65 m), a stocky body, a sloping forehead and prominent brow ridges. This species cohabited with other representatives of the Homo genus and became extinct around -30 000 years ago.
Modification of the edge of a flake that creates a notch.
Biological and behavioural study of Humans in their diversity, their evolution, from the appearance of the human lineage up to a recent past.
Period from the appearance of Humans up to the Mesolithic (from 2.5 million years to 8,000 years ago). It is usually subdivided into three parts: Lower Palaeolithic (from 2.5 million to 250,000 years B.P.), Middle Palaeolithic (from 250,000 to 40,000 year B.P.) and Upper Palaeolithic (from 40,000 to 10,000 years B.P.).
Particular ecosystem, mostly made of plants adapted to a waterlogged environment and whose waste accumulate through time. The slow decomposition of these elements produce peat.
Perigordian (from Perigord, Dordogne region)
Old name of the Gravettian.
Relating to the filiation of living beings through time.
Phase or style
One of the units proposed by Andé Leroi-Gourhan to classify parietal art representations. The full framework is made of four phases or styles corresponding to the four large cultural groups of the Upper Palaeolithic.
Geological period of the Quaternary corresponding to the early phase (from 1.8 million to 10,000 years B.P.). It corresponds to glaciations and is usually subdivided in Early Pleistocene (from 1.8 million to 700 000 years B.P.), Middle Pleistocene (from 700,000 to 130,000 years B.P.) and Upper Pleistocene (from 130,000 to 10,000 years B.P.).
Term used for the glacial maximums.
Protohistory (or Late Prehistory)
Chronological period, intermediary between Prehistory and History, corresponding to the existence of rare written or indirect documents about the history of societies.
Prehistoric cultural group (between 22,000 and 20,000 years B.P.) known in few rare sites following the Gravettian and anterior to the Solutrean. It is characterized by a blade industry and the presence of portable art. Currently considered as a final Gravettian.
Decorative element in the shape of an animal or human head, or the front part of an animal.
Word created to characterize the formations above the tertiary deposits. It covers the period from 1.8 million years ago until today and is subdivided in two parts: Pleistocene (marked by glacial phenomena) and Holocene (warming up started 10,000 years ago, still ongoing today).
Quina (Les Gardes, Charente region)
Prehistoric site where a Mousterian facies very rich in side-scrapers on short thick flakes and a specific “step-like” retouch type were defined.
Measurement of the residual radioactivity of carbon 14 in organic remains discovered during excavations (bone, antler, wood, shell) in order to determine their age.
Shaped like several branches
Reconstruction of the skin and muscle from their insertion traces on bones (technique used in forensic medicine).
About an element coloured in red by the oxydation of the iron it contains, for example through the action of fire.
Seashell sometimes used as body ornament by prehistoric people.
Solutrean (from Solutré, Saône-et-Loire region)
Prehistoric cultural group (between 23,000 and 18,500 B.P.) characterized by finely worked flint pieces. In the early phase, the retouching is only on one side, then in the middle phase (called with “Laurel leaf”) on both sides, then in the final phase shouldered point appeared.
Implement made of a handle and a hook, used to throw spears, increasing the strength and length of the throw.
Science that describes the strata or geological layers, their shape, organization, division, with the purpose of reconstructing their history.
Art of preparing dead animals to preserve their natural shape (= naturalization).
Group of living organisms descending from the same ancestor and presenting common features.
In archaeology, artificial hill made by the superimposition at the same place of remains of protohistoric settlements.
Unciform (from uncus in Latin)
Villafranchian (from Villafranca d’Asti, Italy)
Period situated at the junction between the Tertiary and the Quaternary periods that started around 3 million years BP and ended around 1 Million years BP. It is characterized by the beginning of climate oscillations and by significant changes in faunas in all continents.
Relative to the measurement of volumes.
Tactile hairs of some mammals. Also found around the eyes and the corner of the beak in birds of prey.
Würm (from the name of a tributary of the Danube River)
Last glaciation of the Quaternary defined in the Alps region. It can be subdivided in two main parts: Early Würm between 80,000 and 40,000 years ago and Later Würm from 40,000 to 10,000 years ago.