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Main results


In the field of palaeoenvironmental studies, the project has confirmed the presence of dense forest cover between 5200 and 3400 cal BC, however, varying locally, from 4500 BC on, either with a decrease, or with a slight increase of the tree species, more particularly in the downstream basin of the Marne valley. Anthracological analyses highlighted similarities in the exploitation of wood resources between the Michelsberg culture and the adjacent groups (Spiere and Northern Chassean): deciduous oak forests and their well-marked edges or river side forests were exploited.
The analysis of the faunal remains has evidenced strong similarity of the heights at whither of the domestic animals both in France and Germany, and their slight decrease compared to the Early Neolithic. It was possible to identify oxen, castrated bovines, and their presence may indicate the use of animal traction. Stock-raising aims at meat production based on immature animals (aged 2 - 4 years for the bovines, 5 -14 months for pig and 2-12 months for sheep/goat). Dairy production, known for that period, is likely. The faunal deposits are complex, often varying from one site to the other and they have symbolic character: seven types of deposition have been recognized from the enclosures, spanning from an isolated bone to the complete skeleton (deposition of dogs for example), and including accumulations of bones as well as vertebrae and/or limbs in anatomical connection.
Pottery manufacturing techniques reveal significant inter-site variability, even within the same region. Such variability, notably the direction of the coils, cannot be interpreted in terms of chronology, geography or function, as it is shown by the results stemming from the Aisne valley. An interpretation based on apprenticeship filiations was advanced in order to explain the differences existing between contemporaneous sites located in close vicinity: Michelsberg potter communities, comparable to apprenticeship communities known from ethnographic examples or from companionship, share homogenous techniques across very large geographic areas, but develop, according to their social networks, styles proper to each site or group of sites. The clay materials and the temper indicate varying types of fabrics for sites located in close vicinity according to local logics that can be interpreted in a similar manner: several groups of potters in interaction creating different types of pastes in the sites.
Bone and antler industries stemming from the enclosures mirror a context wherein manufacturing takes precedence over consumption; a global picture far away from what would have been expected for a settlement but consistent with a function of redistribution or even a ritual function attributed to the enclosures. This is suggested by the unusual deposit of entire shed antlers, constituting unexploited stocks of raw materials. The spatial distribution of the bone assemblages is rather recurrent from one enclosure to the other, the greater part being deposited along the pathways.
The stone tools are characterized by the use of local raw materials (mostly limestone, sandstone) as well as by a significant rate of recycling and re-use. By-products are present, the degree of fragmentation strongly differs from one site to the other and a new tool type was recognized.
The analysis of the distances between the flint sources and the settlement sites for the domestic production in the Michelsberg culture and the Northern Chassean highlighted quite differing strategies of settlement foundation (not related to the raw material sources vs on-site) and flint procurement (search for high quality material independent from the distance vs local procurement independent from the quality). Equally, the techniques of tool production of the Michelsberg and the Chassean clearly distinguish (laminar and flake production according to different techniques vs flake and blade-like-flake production by direct percussion). The Michelsberg sites in Germany suggest that procurement was mostly distant, oriented towards the search of exogenous high-quality materials. These sites are therefore comparable to the Michelsberg sites of the Paris basin and moreover to the sites in the Champagne and Lorraine regions.
It was possible to analyse several flint mining productions in France (western part of the Paris region) and in Belgium (Spiennes). At Spiennes, where blade and axe productions coexisted, the enclosure is directly related to mining activities (productions, topography and radiocarbon dates). The hypothesis that the enclosure had the control over the mining site is therefore reinforced. In the western part of Île-de-France, in Chassean context, big and small mines as well as workshops for axe manufacturing coexisted. The presence of an enclosure nearby the Flins-sur-Seine mining site confirms the relationship existing between the enclosures and the organization of the lithic production. The axes produced on the mining sites were distributed along the Seine River and towards Normandy in the western direction. Axes made of exogenous materials stemming from the Armorican Massif or the Alps circulated and were more abundant in Chassean than in Michelsberg context, where they were rare even absent. The Michelsberg therefore seems to be highly dependent on its internal networks of procurement at the regional or supra-regional scale, with regard to both domestic production and mining site production. By contrast, the Northern Chassean seems to be quite impermeable with regard to its domestic production, somehow self-sufficient whilst it remains open on even long-distance networks with regard to the mining site productions. Spatial analysis performed by GIS systems in Germany allowed to better understand the relationships between the enclosures, salt springs and axes made from alpine rocks (correlation, visual inspection, density), whereas chemical analyses performed on the ceramics recovered from these sites have demonstrated the presence of heavily corroded containers related to the use of salt (food preservation).
The analysis of the environmental contexts permitted to propose models of territorial occupation taking into account the periods immediately preceding the Michelsberg culture in order to approach evolution. For example, the Post-Roessen occupations (4400-4200 cal BC) of the Aisne valley are located on small, unfloodable terraces. The preferential locations of long-term occupations during the Michelsberg are transitional areas between wet environments and unfloodable terraces. The analysis also highlights the attractiveness of discharge areas on plateau edges, more particularly in the sector of Vaudreuil.
Different scenarios of spatial modelling allow to advance the hypothesis of a kind of hierarchic ranking from the local to the regional, corresponding to distinct levels of complexity referring to the social and political organization. In addition to similarities with regard to territorial organisation it can be stated that they present comparable sizes at the local scale, within an area of 10-15 km radius wherein establishes a first level of interconnection between settlement sites and burial places. A second level appears in the Michelsberg where a territory within a radius of about forty kilometres encompasses all the sites surrounding monumental enclosures, related to the availability and the types of procurement of flint or salt resources.

The research program and its results have provided matter for publishing 10 articles (of which 6 are peer-reviewed) and 25 chapters of books, as well as about thirty papers at international congresses in France and elsewhere (Germany, Belgium, Finland, Czech Republic, USA), notably at the EAA, SAA, IUPPS and WAC. A specific session was organised at the EAA congress (Helsinki). Two monographs are in press and a third is planned as well as a French-German overview article. And lastly, the data bases will be soon on-line with a « client-server-architecture » permitting remote connection to the data by everyone and an updating of the data on the whole of the base. The online base works with PostgreSQL, a free object-relational database management system (ORBDMS).

       
       
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