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ABF Archaeological Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2011-2012

The Postdoctoral Fellow of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Tsenka Tsanova, begins working with the Paleolithic stone collection in the Anthropology Department at The Field Museum.

Tsenka is working on a large French lithic collection from the open-air site of Solutré (Burgundy region, eastern France).  This collection and many others were brought from France in the 1920s by Henry Field, former Assistant Curator of the Anthropology Department. The study of the Solutrean collection today is significant because it comes from the eponymomous site of the Solutrean culture (20,000-16,000 BC). This site was the focus of one of the first Paleolithic excavations in France in 1886, and it has been re-excavated many times up until 1998. The Field Museum’s Solutrean collection was excavated in 1895-6 by Adrien Arcelin. It contains more than 2,500 lithic artifacts from four different cultures: the Magdalenian, Solutrean, Gravettian, and Aurignacian (from youngest to oldest). All these Upper Paleolithic cultures are associated with anatomically modern humans. Most of the collection, however, can be linked to the Solutrean phase. More than 150 leaf-shaped points, characteristic tools of the Solutrean, will be studied using techno-typological and economical analysis. The collection from Solutré contains end-scrapers, burins, other Upper Paleolithic tools, and many flakes resulting from the production of bifacial leaf points and blades.

The study of the Solutrean collections is important for two additional reasons: to discuss the hypothesis regarding the gradual development of the Solutrean from the Aurignacian  (Laville et al. 1980), and to debate the “Solutrean hypothesis,” according to which the Solutrean people brought their lithic technology to North America by crossing the Atlantic Ocean (Bradley and Stanford 2004; Straus et al. 2005; Wikipedia 2012).

In the photographs, Tsenka Tsanova is classifying the Solutrean collection and analyzing the lithic artifacts by creating a database. The recorded information for each artifact includes its archeological context, raw material, state of conservation and patina, measurements, and other technological, typological and economical characteristics.
References Cited:

Bradley, B., and D. Stanford. 2004. “The North Atlantic Ice-Edge Corridor: A Possible Paleolithic Route to the New World.” World Archaeology 36(4):457-478.

Laville, H., J.-Ph. Rigaud, and J. Sackett. 1980. Rock Shelters of the Perigord: Geological Stratigraphy and Archeological Succession. New York: Academic Press, Inc.

Straus, L.G., J.D. Meltzer, and T. Goebel. 2005. “Ice Age Atlantis? Exploring the Solutrean-Clovis ‘Connection.’” World Archaeology 37(4):507-532.

Wikipedia. 2012. “Solutrean Hypothesis.” Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Accessed February 10, 2012.