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Field Projects

Field Projects - Jonzac (Charente-Maritime), France


Jonzac ExcavationFrom 2004 through 2007 the MPI, in collaboration with the Institut de Prehistoire et de Geologie du Quaternaire (IPGQ) at the University of Bordeaux I, excavated the Middle and possibly early Upper Paleolithic site of Jonzac (Charente-Maritime), France.



Chez Pinaud Jonzac is today an open-air site situated against a low, limestone cliff in the Seugne River valley. It was first identified in the 1990s by a geologist who observed fauna and stone tools in a section cut through the site by a century old quarry road. Subsequently, excavations were conducted on the exposed sections by Jean Airvaux working under the auspices of the Service de l’archéologie de Poitou-Charente. Airvaux, who excavated for several seasons, sampled the layers exposed in the existing sections and established the depth and extraordinary richness of the deposits.


excavation school 2006Airvaux’s excavations, which were published in 2004, show a sequence that begins with a very rich Quina Mousterian industry associated with a fauna dominated by reindeer. These deposits include an over one meter thick layer of densely accumulated fauna followed by several more layers of alternating sterile and archaeological horizons. What follows is more complicated.  In one portion of the site a Denticulate Levallois industry is followed by a Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition with numerous bifaces.  In another portion of the site, Airvaux identified a Chatelperronian industry.  Capping the entire sequence is a dispersed, low density Aurignacian.


stone tool from Jonzac excavationWith this sequence, given the importance of clarifying the relationship of the late Mousterian, Chatelperronian, and Aurignacian industries to one another and given the significance of this period of time for the transition from Neandertals to anatomically modern humans in western Europe, the MPI and IPGQ team decided to continue work on this site. The goals of this work were as follows:

  • Better establish the geological context of the industries. In particular, collect information on site formation processes using evidence from geological, faunal, and lithic observations.

  • Obtain dates. Airvaux attempted to date the levels but was unsuccessful. The MPI/IPGQ team has attempted AMS, TL, and OSL dating techniques in order to date this sequence.

  • Collect new data on the stone tool industries. The Chatelperronian, in particular, is at present poorly known from the site. The new excavations attempted to clarify the nature of this and the other industries at Jonzac.

  • Collect new data from the Quina Mousterian levels. The Quina Mouserian is still a relatively poorly understood phenomenon. At Jonzac, where it is associated with a rich and well preserved fauna, we hope to be able to say something new about this particular Neandertal adaptation.


In the summer of 2007, the MPI/IPGQ team finished four years of excavation at Jonzac aimed at resolving the issues outlined above.  Analysis is still on-going but we have also published a number of papers on the results to date.  These include:

2013 “Thermoluminescence dates for the Middle Palaeolithic site of Chez-Pinaud Jonzac (France)” Journal of Archaeological Science 40(2):1176-1185 ( D. Richter, J.-J. Hublin, J. Jaubert, S. P. McPherron, M. Soressi, J.-P. Texier). [pdf]
2012 “Neandertal mobility and large-game hunting: The exploitation of reindeer during the Quina Mousterian at Chez-Pinaud Jonzac (Charente-Maritime, France)” Journal of Human Evolution 63:6242-635. (Laura Niven, Teresa E. Steele, William Rendu, Jean-Baptiste Mallye, Shannon P. McPherron, Marie Soressi, Jacques Jaubert, Jean-Jacques Hublin) [pdf]
2011 “Strontium isotope evidence for migration in late Pleistocene Rangifer: Implications for Neanderthal hunting strategies at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Jonzac, France” Journal of Human Evolution (Kate Britton, Vaughan Grimes, Laura Niven, Teresa Steele, Shannon McPherron, Marie Soressi, Tegan E Kelly, Jacques Jaubert, Jean-Jacques Hublin, and Michael P Richards) [pdf]
2010 “Le Gisement Paléolithique de Chez Pinaud à Jonzac (Charente-Maritime)” in (edited by J. Buisson-Catil and Jérôme Primault) Préhistoire entre Vienne et Charente: Hommes et societies du Paléolithique, pp. 117-121. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (J. Jaubert, J-J Hublin, S. McPherron, and M. Soressi).
2009 Identification par l'expérimentation de la percussion au percuteur de calcaire au Paléolithique moyen : le cas du façonnage des racloirs bifaciaux Quina de Chez-Pinaud (Jonzac, Charente-Maritime). Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française. 106(2):219-238. (Roussel, M., Bourguignon, L. and M. Soressi)
2009 Des blocs de calcaire utilisés comme percuteurs dès le Moustérien? L'exemple de Jonzac (Charente-Maritime). In: C. Dumas, B. Roussel and J.P. Texier (eds.), Langage de pierre-La restitution du geste en archéologie préhistorique. Musée des Baux de Provence, 11-13. (Roussel, M., Bourguignon, L. and M. Soressi)
2009 “An example of Structured-Light Scanning for High-Resolution Documentation of in situ Archaeological Finds” Journal of Archaeological Science 36:19-24. (S. McPherron, T. Gernat, J.-J. Hublin). [pdf]
2008 "Le statut fonctionnel des bifaces au Paléolithique moyen récent dans le Sud-Ouest de la France. Étude tracéologique intégrée des outillages des sites de La Graulet, La Conne de Bergerac, Combe Brune 2, Fonseigner et Chez-Pinaud / Jonzac" Dissertation, Université Sciences et Technologies - Bordeaux 1, J. Jaubert, dir. (E. Claud) [link]
2008 “An Application of Structured Light Scanning to Documenting Excavated Surfaces and in situ Finds: Examples from the Middle Paleolithic Sites of Jonzac and Roc de Marsal, France” in Layers of Perception (edited by P. Posluschny, K. Lambers, and Irmela Herzog), Bonn, Dr. Rudolf Habelt, pp. 51-56. (Tim Gernat, Shannon J.P. McPherron, Harold Dibble, and Jean-Jacques Hublin)
2008 “Isotopic dietary analysis of a Neanderthal and associated fauna from the site of Jonzac (Charente-Maritime), France” Journal of Human Evolution 55:179-185. (M.P. Richards, G. Taylor,T. Steele, S.P. McPherron, M. Soressi, J. Jaubert, J. Orschiedt, J.-B. Mallye, W. Rendu and J.J. Hublin) [pdf]
2008 “Paléolithique moyen récent et Paléolithique supérieur ancien a Jonzac (Charente-Maritime): premiers résultats des campagnes 2004-2006." In Les Sociétés du Paléolithique dans un Grand Sud-ouest de la France: nouveaux gisements, nouveaux résultats, nouvelles méthodes (edited by J. Jaubert, J.-G. Bordes, and I. Ortega). Mémoire de la Société Préhistorique Française 48:203-244. (J. Jaubert, J-J Hublin, S. P. McPherron, M. Soressi, J-G Bordes, E Claud, D. Cochard, A. Delagnes, J-B Mallye, A. Michel, M. Niclot, L. Niven, S-J Park, W. Rendu, M. Richards, D. Richter, M. Roussel, T.E. Steele, J-P. Texier and C. Thiébaut)