Les économies de chasse épipaléolithiques et mésolithiques dans le nord et l'est de la France : nouvelles analyses


fr Anthropozoologica 19 - Pages 55-67

Published on 01 July 1994

Epipaleolithic and Mesolithic hunting economies in North and East of France: new analyses

The research presented in this paper summarizes the results of a recent Doctoral thesis. Hunters-gatherer societies of Western Europe have experienced a series of environmental changes which had generated important transformations of their ecosystems front ca. 12000 to 6500 BP, with the development of a forested and relatively closed landscape. The adaptation of these hunter-gatherers to the new situation has been interpreted in various and conflicting ways. From an anthropological standpoint, the work presented here considers two opposite models prevaling in Mesolithic research: affluent hunter-gatherer societies vs societies based on the management of scarce ressources. Beyond the general economic context under consideration, the sequence of procurement, butchering, transport, consumption and discard of animal products is analysed in order to highlight decision — making features of the Mesolithic societies of Northern and Eastern France. These decisions may have concerned prey selection, hunting places and game habitats, hunting techniques, treatment modalities... Our conclusions are based on an archaeozoological analysis of twenty faunal assemblages and a supra-regional bibliographic database. Between ca. 12000 and 6500 BP neither broadening of prey spectrum, nor chronological diversification of the subsistence can be attested in these regions. Hunters used to rely on two of the highest ranked preys (red deer and wild boar). Similarly, they chose to exploit principally few habitats: open forests and clearings. Mortality curves suggest that during the Epipalaeolithic and Mesolithic periods hunting strategies were well differentiated: a high risk adult red deer hunting, a less selective and less risky wild boar hunting, and a more opportunistic small game predation. These conclusions do not support the “scarcily model”. Other analyses suggest the existence of hunting camps (characterised by a specific composition of squeletal parts, lithic industry and by settlement structures) which were occupied seasonnally. Such hunting camps could indicate a logistical mobility of the human groups.


Epipaleolithic, Mesolithic, France, economy, hunting strategies, sites function.

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint