The theme of this post is slightly off focus of this blog. But it's not often that archeologists make an exciting discovery in my own town, Paris, France. In fact, these archeologists have found that human groups of hunter-gatherers were living in Paris around 7600 BC during the Mesolithic period. They've found thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bones near the Seine river in the 15th arrondissement just one mile from the Eiffel Tower -- and half a mile from where I live. I visited the dig site last Saturday, and it was quite impressive. But read more...
You can see above a general view of the excavation site where this discovery has been done. (Credit: Laurent Petit, INRAP) Here is a link to additional information (in French) and to a larger version of this picture.
And you can see above some of the Mesolithic flint arrows discovered by the French archeologists. (Credit: D. Gliksman, INRAP) In case you want to know, INRAP is an acronym for "Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives," the French government agency for preventive archaeology. It always intervenes on sites where new buildings are scheduled.
So what did the archeologists find? This was widely reported by the French press, but not so much in the rest of the world. Here are some details given by The Independent, UK. "An area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone. The site, between the Paris ring road and the city's helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river. Once the dig is complete, the site will be occupied by a plant for sorting and recycling the refuse generated by the two million Parisians of the 21st century."
Of course, you all know that Paris is a very old city. But these excavations show that there were Parisians 3,000 years than previously thought. "'You could say that we've come full circle,' said Bénédicte Souffi, one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site. 'Our ancestors were sorting rubbish from usable objects here in 7600 BC. We are going to be doing much the same thing on a more elaborate scale. Maybe, there is a lesson there.' The oldest previous human settlement discovered within the Paris city boundaries dates back to about 4500 BC -- a fishing and hunting village beside the Seine at Bercy near the Gare de Lyon railway station."
According to the INRAP team, the site has been preserved by silt from the frequent flooding of the Seine -- and also because the river was using another branch 250 meters away from the current main river.
For more information about this archeological discovery, here are two links to French sites -- so you'll need to know a little bit of French to enjoy.
- Le Paris des chasseurs-cueilleurs ("The Paris of hunter-gatherers," INRAP press release, June 25, 2008). You'll have access to a 6 minutes video interview of Bénédicte Souffi and to a photo gallery.
- Paris et les derniers chasseurs-cueilleurs ("Paris and the last hunter-gatherers," PDF format, 2 pages, 665 KB). This document contains additional maps and pictures).
The archeologists have up to the end of July 2008 to end their dig. After that, the site will be occupied by a plant for sorting and recycling the 15,000 tons of refuse generated by Parisians. Here is a link to this future recycling center (also in French), which ironically will connect people living 10,000 years apart.
Sources: John Lichfield, The Independent, June 26, 2008; and various websites
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