Saint Césaire Neanderthal skeleton
Recreation of the Saint Césaire individual by Elizabeth Daynès, from http://limousin-poitou-charentes.france3.fr/dossiers/42693930-fr.php
Cette exceptionnelle sépulture exhumée en 1971 en Charente-Maritime associe pour la première fois un squelette néandertalien incomplet à une industrie du Castelperronien datée d'environ 36 000 ans.
L'individu, peut-être une jeune femme présentait les stigmates d'une grave blessure crânienne, d'origine traumatique, partiellement cicatrisée.
Le corps était circonscrit dans une espace circulaire de 70 cm de diamètre sans doute aménagé intentionnellement, mais aucune fosse n'a été détectée à la fouille.
This exceptional burial exhumed in 1971 (sic, should be 1979) in Charente-Maritime combines for the first time an incomplete skeleton of a Neanderthal and the Castelperronien tool industry dated at about 36 000 years.
The individual, perhaps a young woman, showed the scars of a severe cranial injury of traumatic origin, partially healed.
The body was completely within a circular area of 70 cm in diameter, probably built intentionally, but no pit has been detected in the search.
Text: Adapted and translated from the display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008
Artist:© Emmanuel Roudier, 2008
Superb watercolours were done for this exhibition by the French artist, Emmanuel Roudier.
Blog: http://roudier-neandertal.blogspot.com/ Contact: email@example.com
Source: Display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Tools found at the Saint Césaire site. It consists of a Châtelperronian tool kit, which is normally associated with Homo sapiens sapiens, not Neanderthal. This is seen by some as coexistence in a particular area, and trading of techniques between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon. Computer-tomographic imaging and computer-assisted reconstruction have also revealed a healed fracture of the skull.
At 36 000 years BP, the Saint Césaire neanderthal is the latest Neanderthal known in France, proof that Neanderthals survived into the early Upper Paleolithic, contrary to what had been believed up to the time of discovery.
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008
Source: Casts on display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Posterior view of the Saint-Césaire 1 right femoral proximal diaphysis. Scale in centimeters.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 12; 95(10): 5836–5840.
Copyright © 1998, The National Academy of Sciences
Figure 1 Posterior view of the Saint-Césaire 1 right femoral proximal diaphysis. Scale in centimeters. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 12; 95(10): 5836–5840. Copyright © 1998, The National Academy of Sciences
In 1975, earthworks to facilitate the passage of trucks carrying mushrooms unearthed some flints and animal bones. The first to see these was an amateur prehistorian, Bernard Dubiny. He was on his way to fish for trout, and stopped to have a look at the road cutting. Although the area was not known as a prehistoric site, he persuaded the owner of the cutting, the mayor of Saint-Césaire, René Boucher, to stop work on the cutting immediately.
Quickly, a team of archaeologists formed around Francois Lévêque. Four years later, the work was rewarded by the discovery of human Neanderthal remains that the CNRS laboratories dated at only 36 000 years BP, which meant that it was possible that there had been several millenia of coexistence between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons.
The collapsed rock shelter, or abri, was called La Roche-à-Pierrot, since the name given to the twenty year old Neanderthal was Pierrot. However it may be that the original Neanderthal was a woman. Local usage has now changed the name to Pierrette, in recognition of the uncertainty. A further interesting fact is that the skull shows signs of a healed injury, and locals speculate that Pierrette may have been a battered wife! Not very scientific, perhaps, but the skeleton has been very good for the local economy, bringing many tourists every year, and any spin publicists can make up is seized upon.
Note: I have flipped the left hand, coloured image horizontally - it is amazing how many times images are wrongly shown in this way. It is only the right hand side of the skull which has been recovered. - Don
Text: translated and adapted from www.julien-labruyere.eu/media/2005__054460600_1615_13022008.pdf
Evidence for interpersonal violence in the St. Césaire Neanderthal
Authors: Christoph P. E. Zollikofer, Marcia S. Ponce de León, Bernard Vandermeersch, and François Lévêque
The St. Césaire 1 Neanderthal skeleton of a young adult individual is unique in its association with Châtelperronian artifacts from a level dated to ca. 36 000 years ago. Computer-tomographic imaging and computer-assisted reconstruction of the skull revealed a healed fracture in the cranial vault. When paleopathological and forensic diagnostic standards are applied, the bony scar bears direct evidence for the impact of a sharp implement, which was presumably directed toward the individual during an act of interpersonal violence. These findings add to the evidence that Neanderthals used implements not only for hunting and food processing, but also in other behavioral contexts. It is hypothesized that the high intra-group damage potential inherent to weapons might have represented a major factor during the evolution of hominid social behavior.
Left, a recreation of the Abri Saint Césaire, also known as La Roche-à-Pierrot, where the Neanderthal skeleton was discovered, at the Paléosite at Saint Césaire (which opened on May 27 in 2005, and had 65 000 visitors in 2007).
The original is a collapsed rock shelter at the foot of a limestone cliff 5 to 6 metres high in a valley which runs north-south on a small river, the Coran, a tributary of the Charente.
Right, a cast at the Paléosite of the skeleton at the time of its discovery.
This is a token or jeton from the Paléosite using an image of Pierrette, found at Ebay:
For those interested in going to this site, here is some relevant information from the Paléosite website:
Localisation : 17770 St Césaire (Charente-Maritime)
- Avril, Mai, juin et Septembre : de 10h à 19 h.
- Juillet, Août : de 10h à 20h.
- Octobre à Mars : de 10h30 à 18h.
- Janvier : fermeture du site
- Adultes : 10 euros
- Enfants 5 à 14 ans : 6 euros
- Pass Famille : 26 euros (2 adultes et 2 enfants)
- Pass Fidélité : 30 euros (1 adulte pour un an)
- Gratuits pour les enfants de moins de 5 ans. Actualités
0 810 130 134
Text and graphics below adapted from:
The Saint-Césaire Faunal RecordIn 1979, a Neanderthal skeleton was found at the base of a limestone cliff at Saint-Césaire in Charente-Maritime, France, associated with Châtelperronian artifacts, an EUP (Early Upper Palaeolithic) industry then attributed to modern humans. This finding had important repercussions because it indicated that Neanderthals were involved in the emergence of the Upper Paleolithic.
Further work at Saint-Césaire revealed a high-resolution stratigraphy covering the full span of the M/UP (Middle to Upper Palaeolithic) transition. Fifteen occupations, thermoluminescence-dated between 30 000 and 43 000 BP, along with several thousand artifacts and animal remains were uncovered during the excavations. In this sequence, levels EGPF through EJJ are particularly important because they document the M/UP boundary. Level EGPF corresponds to a Denticulate Mousterian occupation, EJOP sup to a Châtelperronian occupation, EJO sup to a Proto-Aurignacian occupation, EJF to an Early Aurignacian occupation, and EJM and EJJ to two distinct Evolved Aurignacian occupations. EJOP inf and EJO inf are small occupations for which the cultural attribution is less secure.
The Saint-Césaire stratigraphy.
From bottom to top:
EGPF corresponds to a Denticulate Mousterian occupation, EJOP sup to a Châtelperronian occupation, EJO sup to a Proto-Aurignacian occupation, EJF to an Early Aurignacian occupation, and EJM and EJJ to two Evolved Aurignacian occupations. EJOP inf and EJO inf are small occupations with unclear cultural attribution.
Diagram of stratigraphy from:
Lévêque, F; Backer, AM; Guilbaud, M. Context of a Late Neandertal: Implications of Multidisciplinary Research for the Transition to Upper Paleolithic Adaptations at Saint-Césaire, Charente-Maritime, France. Madison, WI: Prehistory Press; 1993.
The abundance of burned and cut-marked specimens and the low incidence of carnivore remains and carnivore-modified bones in the faunal samples indicate that humans were the main accumulators of the faunal remains at Saint-Césaire. Furthermore, the high δ15N value found in western European Neanderthals, including the St Césaire 1 specimen, indicate that most of their dietary proteins came from large herbivores. This finding strengthens the use of the Saint-Césaire fauna for examining changes in human population densities in Late Pleistocene Europe. Lastly, a study of bone refits has shown that occupation mixing has been limited at Saint-Césaire. These results support the potential of the stratigraphy of this site for addressing fine-grain research questions.
Reindeer, steppe bison, and horse represent 96% of total species composition for the Saint-Césaire occupations (Table 2). These three species are well represented in the Denticulate Mousterian (EGPF), Châtelperronian? (EJOP inf), and Châtelperronian (EJOP sup) occupations. In contrast, reindeer increased dramatically in abundance in the overlying Aurignacian occupations, reaching percentages from 69% to 85%. This increase is highly significant (Châtelperronian versus Proto-Aurignacian; ts = 23.27, P < 0.0001).
|Evolved Aurignacian |
|Large species||(n = 866)||(n = 285)||(n = 803)||(n = 411)||(n = 3432)||(n = 829)||(n = 327)|
|Micromammals||(n = 9)||(n = 2)||(n = 38)||(n = 84)||(n = 69)||(n = 100)||(n = 109)|
Antlers excluded. Micromammal data are from Morin (25) and Marquet (28).
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 January 8; 105(1): 48–53.
Published online 2008 January 2. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709372104.Copyright © 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA