A researcher tracked the bones of whales … in the Pyrenees

Archaeological collections in northern Spain contain examples of whalebone objects. 1: El Pendo (Kentabria), 2: Ermitia (Guipusco), 3: Tito Bustillo (Asturias), A and B: Focusing on the material. – Alexandre Lefebvre

  • Alexander Lefevre, researcher at Toulouse Laboratory Trace, has published an article on the exploitation of marine resources by prehistoric men.
  • An expert in the study of objects made of bone material, this scientist was interested in coastal economies before tracking whale bones.
  • They demonstrated the first relationship between humans and cetaceans during prehistoric times, about 18,000 years ago, using the whalebone tool found in the Pyrenees.

One cannot imagine people of prehistory sailing at sea. Considered as hunters, they have exploited marine resources, such as carcasses of whales, stranded, not fish. This derives from the study of prehistoric archeology researcher Alexandre Lefèvre associated with the Trace Laboratory in Toulouse.

Specialized in the study of objects made from bone material, this scientist has published an article on these discoveries in the journal Quaternary Science Review. There he exhibits the first relationship between humans and whales during prehistoric times, about 18,000 years ago, to whalebone devices found, as surprising as it may be, in the Pyrenees.

Land communication

The purpose of the researcher was to find out whether the use of whale bones as a raw material is a phenomenon limited to the Pyrenean massif or whether it has spread to all Atlantic communities.

“We track the presence of whalebone objects in Cantria, in northern Spain, where 54 items have been identified in old and recent collections at twelve sites,” explains Alexandre LeFèvre. These are the oldest objects made of whalebone, mainly weapons, found in the Iberian Peninsula. We thought that prehistoric hunters mainly exploit land resources, but we realize the importance of marine resources in the subsistence of these populations.

Structured communication network

These items were thus operationalized in the Pyrenees, which was structured around the Bay of Bisque thanks to the communication network. These discoveries revived the premodern hypothesis of the first coastal economies at the end of the first glacier in this part of Europe. “It was found that these whalebone weapons lay inland, between the north of Spain and the southwest of France, in Haute-Geron, Lespugu, and Gourdon,” details Alexandre Lefèvre.

By tracing traces of these objects, scientists infer that they propagated thanks to the structured communication network on either side of the Pyrenees. They are thus certain that relations existed between different groups of hunters, without knowing whether the relationship was social or economic only. Another mystery that remains: have men moved with these whalebone devices for generations or have these goods been exchanged from one group to another, in a prehistoric way of barter? Alexandra Lefèvre stated, “In addition to bone tools, we found shells that served as the remains of marine mammals, such as jewelery or seals.

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