Students have already begun preparing for their trip to France by participating in pre-trip workshops. Hard to believe we leave in just two weeks! Last week’s workshop was presented by Professor Sebastien Lacombe, co-director of the Peyre Blanque Project. The Peyre Blanque is an open air Paleolithic excavation site in the south of France where we will get a chance to do some hands-on field work.
Prof. Lacombe explained how the artifacts they are uncovering at Peyre Blanque are challenging traditional assumptions about how man lived 15,000 years ago. They suggest, he says, that “stone-age” man was much more sophisticated than previously thought, and were not limited to simply living within caves. They also suggest that the notion of a “Neolithic revolution” is flawed. These open air Paleolithic sites are providing signs that many of the characteristics associated with the Neolithic age, such as the rise of agriculture, the domestication of animals, and the use of baked clay, were present well before the dawn of the Neolithic age.
After listening to Prof. Lacombe describe the work of an archaeologist, it occurred to me that it is not unlike the work of a police detective, who must piece together the story of what happened by studying the fragments of evidence left behind at a crime scene. For an archaeologist, the challenge is to piece together the story of how a particular people lived, what they were like, and what they believed by combing through the artifacts of their lives that have been left behind. Why is this kind of information important? “So that we can better understand where we come from,who we are, and how we developed.”
Following the formal presentation, we had the chance to handle some of the artifacts that Lacombe brought with him in order to familiarize ourselves with the kinds of things we’ll be looking for when we participate in the excavation. It was pretty amazing to realize these were tools crafted by men who lived thousands of years before the rise of the earliest Roman, Greek or Egyptian civilizations–which themselves seem so incredibly ancient.