Tag Archives: Shell Midden

GEOarchaeology and PRehistory of Atlantic Societies(GEOPRAS)

Programme supported by ANR (n°CE27-024)

The GEOPRAS consortium comprises seven partners that have been involved for several years in coastal archaeology (UMR 6566 CReAAH, UMR 6554 LETG, UMR 5607 AUSONIUS, UMR 6553 ECOBIO, UMR 6539 LEMAR, UMR 7266 LIENSs, INRAP). It was born directly from the dynamics established in the framework of the IRN PrehCOAST, applying the reflections to Atlantic France.

Our programme studies the coastal societies of recent Prehistory (Mesolithic and Neolithic) on the French Atlantic shores in order to understand their social and economic organization and the role they play in broader historical dynamics such as neolithization. Characteristics such as the accumulation of goods through storage, specialised modes of production, and the emergence of a social hierarchy or a sedentary lifestyle are often attributed to these coastal populations, on the basis of ethnographic documents from the last two centuries. However, each of these social manifestations must be described according to regional environmental variables, without evolutionary preconceptions. Our research hypothesis is that environmental dynamics have greatly facilitated certain forms of historical evolution. This encourages us to determine with greater precision the nature of these environmental transformations, then to analyse human networks at the continent-ocean interface.

Corpus of archaeological sites integrated into the GEOPRAS programme

The first task will be to restore the environmental benchmarks. During the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, most coastal landscapes were radically transformed by the sea-level rise and the associated processes of erosion and sedimentation. The coastal environments of the past will be reproduced through a three-level approach combining a large scale (region) with an intermediate scale (nearby landscape) and a local scale (archaeological site). Our consortium proposes a combination of methods suited to different geographical conditions (dunes, rocky coasts, marshlands) around the Bay of Biscay, testing the limits of several of them. To gain the best possible understanding of an “archaeological signal”, the GEOPRAS project will focus on developing rapid intervention and rescue methods for archaeology and geoarchaeology. We intend to apply these methods to sites currently being excavated or whose exploration is planned as part of the project, such as foreshore and marshland sites and shell middens. Optimal integrated methods and procedures will be developed for the recording of archaeological remains, which are often ephemeral on foreshores, as well as for sampling, particularly in shell middens. These procedures include geophysical surveys, archaeozoology, micromorphology, geochemistry, taphonomy, metagenomic approaches, and OSL datings.

Mesolithic Shell Midden of Beg-er-Vil (Quiberon, Morbihan, France)

The second task is to study how human societies have managed the land-sea interface. Shell middens have become the emblematic nodes of these coastal Holocene settlements because they contain an abundance of bio-archaeological data. They will be analysed to judge biodiversity as well as food practices.

Sampling and coring in Hoedic (Mesolithic Shell Midden, 2021).

The third task is to understand the specific features of technical systems in a maritime context, especially seafaring. This technical field is at the heart of all the questions raised about the relationships between coastal areas, as well as the decisive features of the various technical systems developed in these areas. To overcome the lack of knowledge of prehistoric watercraft, we suggest an approach, based on three disciplinary poles in permanent interaction: 1) ethnographic and historical references, 2) technological and use-wear analyses of lithic and bone tools, 3) experimentation.

In addition to proposing methodological developments, we aim to lay down the conceptual, methodological and technical foundations of a maritime prehistory with procedures adapted to coastal heritage. The results will be included in a handbook of maritime prehistory, to be published in French and English. The involvement of amateur archaeologists, observers, tourists and other citizens in scientific tasks will be anticipated and coordinated by inviting them to take part in the main scientific meetings and, of course, in field operations such as surveys, excavations and experiments.

About micromorphology….

The mission objective was to bring together the researchers working on aspects of site formation processes of coastal Mesolithic sites in Brittany, including existing samples from Hoedic (Morbihan), collected in the excavation seasons of 2019 at the archaeological site of Port-Neuf.

Hoedic 2021: micromorphological sampling in a Mesolithic layer by P. Arias (photo: G. Marchand).

For that, Dr. Carlos Simões stayed at the IUEM Brest, from Monday 21st to Friday 25th of November 2022, hosted by Dr. Marylise Onfray. Both micromorphology specialists, during the first two days, they carried out microscopic analysis of the existing micromorphological thin sections from Hoedic, producing the first descriptions as a basis for future analysis to conduct in coordination with the further members of the team working at the site.

In a one-day meeting, on the Wednesday 23rd, member of the GEOPRAS/PreCOAST specialists met at the IUEM to bring together data from several aspects of coastal geoarchaeological, geomorphological and geophysiscal research in Brittany, included that of Hoedic.

Shell Midden of Beg-an-Dorchenn: contemplation…

On Thursday 24th, a field trip was organised to the site of Beg-an-Dorchenn, in Pointe de la Torche (Finistère), where the remains of a Mesolithic shell midden is preserved, and aspects of coastal geomorphological dynamics and evolution could be observed.

On Friday 25th, a seminar was organized at the IUEM, with an introduction by Dr. Onfray, followed by a presentation of Dr. Simões titled “What is a shell midden? Microstratigraphic insights from Mesolithic sites in Iberia”, which closed the mission activities.

Rennes, 2014

Archaeology of maritime hunter-gatherers: From settlement function to the organization of the coastal zone

Rennes (France), 10th-11th April 2014

Catherine Dupont and Grégor Marchand

General topics

Maritime hunter-gatherers have been the subject of particular attention from anthropologists, due to the wide variety of social organization all over the world. The diversity of their technical system, whether to fish, food preservation or storage, also just caught their attention. Archeologists have meanwhile focused their consideration on the so emblematic shell middens. These coastal or estuarine sites often combine dumps, graves, homes and daily activities areas. The recent resumption of their exploration in Europe came to highlight all their informative potential to answer the question of relations between humans and the marine environment. This new dynamic research is also supported by the diversification of disciplines related to archeology, which deliver more attention on these so singular remains. The workshop of Rennes in April 2014 allowed archaeologists from several countries to make an assessment under all latitudes and along all the oceans. It appeared that these sites could not be conceived out of wider economic and social networks. The papers published in this book are also an opportunity to question the place of these so particular human groups during the Prehistory of our species.


The organization of this event also received financial support from a number of public bodies and research projects:  UMR 6566 CReAAH, the European “Arch-Manche” project (Interreg IVA 2 Mers, FEDER funds), the project “SeaMeso” from la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme en Bretagne, the CNRS (DR 17), the Rennes Observatory of the Sciences of the Universe (Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers de Rennes, OSUR), the Ministry of Culture (Regional Archaeology Service) and the Brittany region. The University of Rennes 1 kindly let us use the Donzelot amphitheatre. Finally, we wish to thank the Société préhistorique française for accepting to categorize this event as a “French Prehistoric Society session”.

This conference has been published online for free since 2016 on the website of the French Prehistoric Society and can be viewed here.


Jeudi 10 avril 2014 (9h-18h)

Nuno Bicho – Coastal resources and its importance for early human adaptations in Southern Iberia

Jean-Marc Pétillon – Vivre au bord du golfe de Gascogne pendant le Tardiglaciaire : un nouveau paradigme

Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Bárbara Avezuela, Joan Emili Aura, Inmaculada Barreram, Réné-Pierre Carriol, Katerina Douka, Catherine Dupont, Maria José Fernández, Sonia Gabriel, Alejandro Gómez Fuentes, Jesús Jordá, María Paz Villalba – Importance des ressources côtières dans le sud-ouest de l’Europe durant le Pléistocène supérieur et l’Holocène : espèces collectées et zone de collecte

Véronique Laroulandie – Sur l’exploitation des oiseaux marins par les chasseurs-collecteurs via le site de Santa Catalina en Espagne  (Pléistocène)

David Cuenca Solana, Igor Gutiérrez-Zugasti, Manuel R. González-Morales – Shell tool and subsistence strategies during the Upper Paleolithic in Northern Spain

Joan Emili Aura Tortosa, Jesús F. Jordá Pardo, Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Manuel Pérez Ripoll; Domingo C. Salazar-García, Ernestina Badal, Adolfo Maestro, Juan Vicente Morales; Bárbara Avezuela, Maria J. Rodrigo, Ricard Marlasca, Josep A. Alcover, Maria P. Villalba Currás

Palaeolithic – Mesolithic Seapeople of the southern Iberian coast

Ana Cristina Araújo – Shells … as usual: understanding patterns of early Mesolithic organization

Pablo Arias – Transitions côtières : Les processus de néolithisation dans la vallée du Sado (Portugal) et la région Cantabrique (Espagne)

Pablo Arias, Miriam Cubas, Miguel Ángel Fano, Eneko Iriarte, Inés L. López-Dóriga, Christoph Salzmann, Carlos D. Simões, Felix Teichner et Luis C. Teira

L’habitat asturien: une nouvelle approche pour un problème ancien

Igor Gutiérrez-Zugasti, David Cuenca-Solana, Manuel R. González-Morales – Shell midden formation by Mesolithic hunter-fisher-gatherers in northern Spain: old and new perspectives

Mariana Diniz – Between the Land and the Sea: debating Final Mesolithic and Early Neolithic site catchment areas in Southern Portugal

Raphaële Guilbert-Berger, Bernard Gassin, Isabel Figueiral, Viannet Forest; Lionel Gourichon, Berger Jean François – Premiers résultats concernant le statut du site de Laverune et son organisation spatiale

Ingrid Sénépart, Didier Binder, Nicolas Weyder – Économie d’un espace littoral : le cas des chasseurs-cueilleurs mésolithiques du bassin de Marseille et de ses environs

Grégor Marchand, Catherine Dupont, Nathalie Desse-Berset, Yves Gruet, Marine Laforge, Jean-Christophe Le Bannier, Camille Netter, Marylise Onfray, Guirec Querré, Pierre Stéphan – Beg-er-Vil revisited: new methodological approaches of the maritime hunter-gatherers in Atlantic France

Rick Schulting – Diet and territory at Téviec and Hoëdic, southern Brittany

Cyrille Billard, Vincent Bernard – Les barrages à poissons au Mésolithique : une économie de prédation ou de production ?

Vendredi 11 avril 2014 (9h-18h)

Søren Henning Andersen – Danish shell middens – new results on internal organisation and intersite relations between shell middens in Danish fiords?

Erik Brinch Petersen – Marine Adaptation of the South Scandinavian Population

Garry Momber, Lauren Tidbury, Julie Satchell – Flooded landscapes, human cultural divergence and the North sea basin

Lu Peng, Anne Tresset, Jia Xiaobing, Jin Yingxi, Yuan Jing – Holocene sea level rise, biodiversities and late prehistoric economies: a comparative approach of North-East China and North-West Europe

Hirofumi Kato – From “Okhotsk culture” to “Ainu culture”: maritime adaptation and human migration

Christine Lefèvre, Dominique Legoupil – Chasseurs-pêcheurs-collecteurs maritime de Patagonie australe : exploitation de l’espace littoral

Dominique Bonnissent, Nathalie Serrand, Pierrick Fouéré, Christian Stouvenot, Laurent Bruxelles, Sandrine Grouard – Archéoécologie des sociétés insulaires des Petites Antilles au Mésoindien : l’enjeu des ressources

Sandrine Grouard, Sophia Perdikaris, Dominique Bonnissent – Peuplements humains de l’Arc antillais : une chronologie précolombienne de la pêche

Nicolas Valdeyron – Entre permanences et changements : la collecte de coquilles marines dans la baie de Luanda (Angola), du début de l’ère à l’actuel. Données archéologiques et ethnologiques, réflexions méthodologiques

Robert Vernet – L’exploitation ancienne des ressources du littoral atlantique mauritanien (7500-1000 cal)

Sophie Méry – Le Totémisme est-il bien mort ? Les Dugong Bones Mounds du Détroit de Torrès (sub-actuel, Australie) et  d’Akab (Néolithique récent, Détroit d’Ormuz).

Jean-François Berger, Vincent Charpentier, Rémy Crassard, Federico Borgi, Philippe Béarez – Premiers chasseurs-collecteurs maritimes en Mer d’Arabie (XIe -IVe  BCE)

Antoine Zazzo, Olivia Munoz, Jean-François Saliège† – Diet and mobility in a late Neolithic population of coastal Oman inferred from radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis.

Paul Wallin – The Use and Organisation of a Middle-Neolithic Pitted Ware coastal site on the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea

Alexander Popov, Andrei Tabarev – Lords of the Shell Rings: Boisman Neolithic Culture, Russian Far East

Sergii Telizhenko – Stone assemblage of Copper Age shell midden of Ardych Burun site on Southern shore of Crimean peninsula


Claire Houmard – L’exploitation des ressources animales des premiers peuples maritimes de l’Arctique de l’Est canadien (~2500 B.C.)

Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Inmaculada Barrera, Réné-Pierre Carriol, Marián Cueto, María José Fernández, Alejandro Gómez Fuentes – Nouvelles données sur les relations des groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs avec la côte durant le Tardiglaciaire dans la Région Cantabrique : la grotte de El Cierro