Programmes > Par auteur > Chuan-Chou Shen

Vallonnet Cave: an early presence of hominins in Southern Europe
Veronique Michel  1, *@  , Shen Chuan-Chou  2, *@  , Jon Woodhead  3, *@  , Hu Hsun-Ming  2, *@  , Wu Chung-Che  2, *@  , Pierre Elie Moullé  4, *@  , Samir Khatib  5, *@  , Dominique Cauche  5, *@  , Marie-Hélène Moncel  6, *@  , Patricia Valensi  7, *@  , Chou Yu-Min  8, *@  , Sylvain Gallet  9, *@  , Anna Echassoux  10, *@  , François Orange  11, *@  , Henry Lumley De  12, *@  
Université Côte d\'Azur, CEPAM
Nice -  France
2 : 3High-Precision Mass Spectrometry and Environment Change Laboratory (HISPEC),
Department of Geosciences, National Taiwan University, 10617 Taipei, Taiwan ROC. -  Taïwan
3 : 4School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia. -  Australie
4 : Musée de Préhistoire Régional de Menton
Ville de Menton
Musée de Préhistoire Régional de Menton, 06500 Menton, France. -  France
5 : 7Laboratoire Nice Côte d'Azur, 06300 Nice, France.
7Laboratoire Nice Côte d'Azur, 06300 Nice, France. -  France
6 : UMR 7194 CNRS MNHN
UMR 7194, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)
IPH 1 rue René Panhard 75013 Paris -  France
7 : Musée de Préhistoire, 06690 Tourrette-Levens, France.
ville de Tourette
Musée de Préhistoire, 06690 Tourrette-Levens, France. -  France
8 : Department of Ocean Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology
Department of Ocean Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology -  Taïwan
9 : Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, OCA, IRD, Géoazur, 06560 Valbonne, France.
Géoazur, Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis
Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, OCA, IRD, Géoazur, 06560 Valbonne, France. -  France
10 : Réserve de biosphère de Fontainebleau et du Gâtinais, 77300 Fontainebleau, France.
Réserve de biosphère de Fontainebleau et du Gâtinais, 77300 Fontainebleau, France. -  France
11 : Université Côte d'Azur, Centre Commun de Microscopie Appliquée (CCMA), 06108 Nice, France.
Université Côte d'Azur, Centre Commun de Microscopie Appliquée (CCMA), 06108 Nice, France. -  France
12 : IPH Fondation
Fondation I.P.H
Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, 75013 Paris, France. -  France
* : Auteur correspondant

The first “Out of Africa” migrations represent a seminal event in the history of humankind. At the gates of Europe, the first appearance of Hominins is recorded in Georgia, 1.8 million years ago (Ma); however, the picture of migration across the continent remains incomplete. Vallonnet Cave (France) is a Lower Paleolithic prehistoric site with traces of hominin activities including lithic remains and cut-marks on mammal bones. Here, we apply the uranium-lead (U-Pb) methods to two flowstones to date the intervening archaeological levels. The U-Pb data, coupled with paleomagnetic constraints, provide an age range from 1.2 to 1.1 Ma.

The new radiometric U-Pb analyses of the two flowstones (complexes I and IV) combined with paleomagnetism measurements of the deposit infilling provide the first robust chronological framework for the site. The results show the presence of hominin activities in a den for a bivouac at ~1.2 Ma, associated with a normal paleomagnetism polarity (Cobb Mountain interval) corresponding to MIS 36, a cold glacial period. This result is consistent with the fact that the archaeological levels (complex III) record a cold climate and is supported by palynological data and faunal taxa. Within the 2s uncertainty on the U-Pb dates (sample PLI-H1), the formation of the Lower flowstone (complex I) and the deposit of the beach (complex II) can be correlated to MIS 37, just before 1.2 Ma during a warm climate.

The results conclusively demonstrate that Vallonnet Cave is one of the oldest European prehistoric sites in France with early hominin occupations associated with an Epivillafranchian fauna. Combined with data from other archaeological sites, the new precise chronology suggests a widespread occupation the Northern Mediterranean to Southwestern Europe at ~1.2 Ma.

It thus greatly improves our knowledge of the first dispersals of the Homo genus “Out of Africa” during the Early Pleistocene (Calabrian) in this area of Europe. The new chronological framework is contemporaneous with Spanish sites such as La Sima del Elefante (Level TE9c) and with Bois-de-Riquet in France, suggesting a widespread synchronous Hominin activity around the Northern Mediterranean and Southern Europe at ~1.2 Ma, followed by a northward colonization at ~1.0 Ma. While it remains a challenge to precisely date all archaeological sites with adequate precision, the application of robust radiometric dating techniques to current and future sites will offer further insights and understanding into the routes of Hominin dispersal of Africa in to Europe.

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