France Prehistory

France Prehistory

Paleolithic and Mesolithic

According to, the richness of the Paleolithic deposits in France testifies to the occupation by man since the most archaic times. The most ancient traces seem to be represented by the findings of the Vallonet cave (Roquebrune-Cap Martin, Provence), with Villafranchian fauna. The Acheulean is very widespread: in the northern part of the region are the deposits of the Somme valley (Cagny, Atelier Commont etc.); in southern France the alluvial levels of the Charente and Garonne valleys, but also caves and shelters in Ardèche, Hérault, Provence and above all in the Dordogne. At the beginning of the Würm Glacial it gives rise to the Micocchiano, which is found in the northern France (Houppeville, Le Tillet) and in some caves and shelters in the South. Provence. In the Mousterian, which flourished during the early stages of the Würm, various cultures can be recognized which are found variously interstratified on much of the French soil. The oldest Perigordian levels (Allier, Yonne, Dordogne, Vienne), while in its higher stages this culture is more widespread, especially in the South-West. In the same areas the finds of Aurignacian materials are abundant. The Solutrean (19,000-16,000 years ago) has the greatest flowering in the classical region of Périgord-Charente.

During the rich Maddalenian civilization (15,000-11,000 years ago), especially in its upper phases, the density of the Paleolithic population reaches its maximum, judging by the number and extent of deposits found practically throughout France. After this period, the Magdalenian transforms into the Azilian (10,000-8000 BC), a culture characterized by a lithic industry of Maddalenian tradition, to which new types are added (short and circular scratchers on splinter, points with curved back, geometric armor). Starting from the Aurignacian (Grotta Chauvet, Ardèche), and above all in the upper Perigordian, parietal and furniture art flourished (Franco-Cantabrian sphere), which left traces above all in the Dordogne and in the Pyrenean region (Lascaux, Les Combarelles, Font-de-Gaume, La Madeleine, Pech-Merle, Rouffignac, Roc-de-Sers etc.).

The Mesolithic is mainly represented by the Sauveterrian and the Tardenoisian, whose traditions continue for a long time, even after the introduction of the productive economy.

Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages

The first evidence of Neolithic cultures in northern France consists of the Danube current with ribbon pottery established in Alsace, while in the Mediterranean regions the Neolithic with impressed pottery develops. Later, while the Rössen groups assert themselves in the North-East, the so-called Western Neolithic with Hasanic aspects spreads in southern France Between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, while the Chassean has a rapid geographical expansion up to the Paris basin, the Michelsberg group extends throughout the Rhine basin. At the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC Iberian influences lead to the penetration of the bell-shaped glass and to the phenomenon of the diffusion of megaliths, which assumes vast proportions in France and which finds its greatest example in Carnac.

In the early Bronze Age, in the north-eastern part of the world the elements referable to the Straubing civilization are revealed in particular in the first mounds of the forest of Haguenau, while in the Rhone valley and in the Jura local groups related to the Swiss developed. The culture of Armorican mounds, which extends into the Middle Bronze Age, is known from individual burials under the mound, and is linked to that of Wessex. In northeastern France and in Alsace, the Middle Bronze Age is represented by the development of the mound civilization (Haguenau). The culture of the urn fields (11th-9th century BC) had a wide diffusion in the eastern and southern part of the city, and some necropolises, such as that of Aulnay-aux-Planches, attest to the continuity of the funeral rite of cremation – with the collection of bones in a clay cinerary urn placed in a hole in the ground – up to the Iron Age. Starting from the 7th century. the influence of the advanced civilizations of central Europe intensifies in relation to the formation of the Celtic people. This process takes place in particular during the Hallstatt period in the Rhenish countries, and in the North-East the evolution is very different from that which occurred in the South. The transition from the Hallstatt civilization- through the art of the late Hallstatt age of tombs and princely residences (6th-5th century BC) – to that of La Tène it is fully implemented especially after the end of the 4th century. B.C

For the historical events of the civilization spread in France with the invasion of the Celts and the subsequent affirmation of the Roman dominion ➔ Gaul.

France Prehistory