The human settlement of Europe during Pleistocene times was sporadic and several stages have been recognized, both from paleaoanthropological and archaeological records. If the first phase of hominin occupation (as early as 1.4 Ma) seems mainly restricted to the southern part of the continent, the second phase, characterized by specific lithic tools (handaxes), is linked to Acheulean settlements and to the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis, the ancestor of Neanderthals. This phase reached northwestern Europe and is documented in numerous sites in Germany, Great Britain and northern France, generally after 600 ka. At la Noira (Brinay, Central France), the Middle Pleistocene alluvial formation of the Cher River covers an archaeological level associated with a slope deposit (diamicton). The lithic assemblage from this level includes Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), flakes and cores, associated with numerous millstone slabs. The lithic series is classified as Acheulean on the basis of both technological and typological analyses. Cryoturbation features indicate that the slope deposits and associated archaeological level were strongly frozen and disturbed after hominin occupation and before fluvial deposition. Eight sediment samples were dated by the electron spin resonance (ESR) method and the weighted average age obtained for the fluvial sands overlying the slope deposits is 665±55 ka. This age is older than previous chronological data placing the first European Acheulean assemblages north of 45th parallel north at around 500 ka and modifies our current vision of the initial peopling of northern Europe. Acheulean settlements are older than previously assumed and the oldest evidences are not only located in southern Europe. La Noira is the oldest evidence of Acheulean presence in north-western Europe and attests to the possibility of pioneering phases of Acheulean settlement which would have taken place on a Mode 1-type substratum as early as 700 ka. The lithic assemblage from la Noira thus provides behavioral and technological data on early Acheulean occupation in Europe and contributes to our understanding of the diffusion of this tradition. © 2013 Moncel et al.
Moncel, M. H., Despriée, J., Voinchet, P., Tissoux, H., Moreno, D., Bahain, J. J., … Falguères, C. (2013). Early evidence of acheulean settlement in northwestern Europe - La noira site, a 700 000 year-old occupation in the center of France. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075529