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Fieldwork campaign

Les Cottés excavations (near Poitiers, France)

Les Cottés is one of the very few sites in western Europe with occupations in sequence by the very last Neandertals and the first anatomically modern humans.

Marie Soressi
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany
Ministère de la culture et la communication, Paris, France

Les Cottés (Vienne, France) is located on the corridor between the Parisian basin and the Poitou in West-Central France. It is next to the Grand Pressigny area and to the Anglin valley, which are well-known for Paleolithic sites, including the rockart site of Roc-aux-Sorciers in Angle-sur-l’Anglin.

Impressions of the excavations at les Cottés.

Les Cottés is one of the rare sites, if not the only site, which contains a sequence of Late Mousterian, Evolved Chatelperronian, Protoaurignacian and Early Aurignacian. The late Mousterian and Chatelperronian were produced by the last Neandertals, wheras Protoaurignacian and Early Aurignacian are attributed to the earliest anatomically modern humans in western Europe.

Evolved Chatelperronian is a variant of the Chatelperronian, which was first defined at Les Cottés by L. Pradel in the 1950s.

It corresponds to a final stage of the Chatelperronian, is characterized by the Les Cottés point, and could therefore be evidence of the final Neandertals’ behavior in France. Protoaurignacian and Early Aurignacian with split-base bone points are also well preserved at the site. Anatomically modern human remains were already found in the Early Aurignacian layer during the first excavation at the site by R. de Rochebrune in 1881.

Our goal at this site is to better understand the behavior of the last Neandertals and the first anatomically modern humans in Western Europe and to evaluate the nature and the amount of interaction between these two populations just before the demise of Neandertals.


Twenty papers about the results of the excavation at Les Cottés have been published in peer-reviewed international journals including Nature, Science, Journal of Human Evolution, Journal of Archaeological Sciences, Advances in Archaeological practice, Quaternary International, Rapid Communication in Mass Spectrometry, and the Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique française.  

Slon et al paper reporting the first extraction of aDNA from the sediment at five sites including Les Cottés has been commented upon in more than 100 news outlet and featured as one of the top 5 human evolution discoveries in 2017.

Pdf available on https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/marieSoressi

List of papers using data and findings from Les Cottés excavation.

Rendu, W., Renou, S., Soulier, M. C., Rigaud, S., Roussel, M., & Soressi, M. (2019). Subsistence strategy changes during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition reveals specific adaptations of Human Populations to their environment. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.

Porter, S. T., Roussel, M., & Soressi, M. (2019). A Comparison of Châtelperronian and Protoaurignacian Core Technology Using Data Derived from 3D Models. Journal of Computer Applications, 2, 15.

Jaouen, K., Richards, M., Le Cabec, A., Welker, F., Rendu, W., Hublin, J.-J., Soressi, M., Talamo, S. (2019) Exceptionally high ∂15N values in collagen single amino acids confirm Neandertals as high-trophic level carnivores. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(11), 4928-4933.

Hajdinjak, M., Fu Q., Hübner A., Petr M., Mafessoni F., Grote S., Skoglund P., Narasimham V., Rougier H., Crevecoeur I., Semal P., Soressi M., Talamo S., Hublin J.-J., Gušić I., Kućan Z., Rudan P., Golovanova L.V., Doronichev V.B., Posth C., Krause J., Korlević P., Nagel S., Nickel B., Slatkin M., Patterson N., Reich D., Prüfer K., Meyer M., Pääbo S., Kelso J. (2018) Reconstructing the genetic history of late Neanderthals. Nature, n° 555, p. 652-656.

Slon, V., Hopfe, C., Weiß, C. L., Mafessoni, F., de la Rasilla, M., Lalueza-Fox, C., Rosas, A., Soressi, M., Knul, M. V., Miller, R., Stewart, J. R., Derevianko, A. P., Jacobs, Z., Li, B., Roberts, R., G., Shunkov, M. V., de Lumley, H., Perrenoud, C., Gušić, I., Kućan, Ž., Rudan, P., Ayinuer-Petri, A., Essel, E., Nagel, S., Nickel, B., Schmidt, A., Prüfer, K., Kelso, J., Burbano, H. A., Pääbo, S., & Meyer, M. (2017). Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments. Science, 356(6338),

Falcucci, A., Peresani, M., Roussel, M., Normand, Ch. & Soressi, M. 2016 What’s the point? Retouched bladelet variability in the Protoaurignacian. Results from Fumane, Isturitz, and Les Cottés. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 1-16.

Porter, S. T., Roussel, M., & Soressi, M. 2016 A simple photogrammetry rig for the reliable creation of 3D artifact models in the field: lithic examples form the Early Upper Palaeolithic Sequence of Les Cottés (France). Advances in Archaeological Practice, 4(1): 71-86. 3D models of artefacts accompanying this article are available on: http://dx.doi. org/10.13020/D6201D

Welker, F., Soressi, M., Rendu, W., Hublin, J. J., & Collins, M. 2015 Using ZooMS to identify fragmentary bone from the Late Middle/Early Upper Palaeolithic sequence of Les Cottés, France. Journal of Archaeological Science, 54: 279-286

Jacobs, Z., Li, B., Jankowski, N., & Soressi, M. 2015 Testing of a single grain OSL chronology across the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition at Les Cottés (France). Journal of Archaeological Science, 54, 110-122.

Roussel M. & Soressi M. 2014, Le Châtelperronien. In: Otte M. (Ed.) Néandertal / Cro Magnon. La Rencontre. Editions Errance, p. 31-59

Rigaud S., Roussel M., Rendu W., Primault J., Renou S., Hublin J.-J. & Soressi M. 2014 Les pratiques ornementales à l’Aurignacien ancien dans le Centre-Ouest de la France : l’apport des fouilles récentes aux Cottés(Vienne). Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, 111 (1): 21-40

Soressi, M., & Roussel, M. 2014 European Middle to Upper Paleolithic Transitional Industries: Châtelperronian. In : Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (pp. 2679-2693). Springer New York.

Hollund, H. I., Ariese, F., Fernandes, R., Jans, M. M. E., & Kars, H. 2013 Testing an alternative high-throughput tool for investigating bone diagenesis: FTIR in attenuated total reflection (ATR) mode. Archaeometry, 55(3): 507-532

Frouin F., Soressi M.A., Rendu W., Macchiarelli R., El Albani A. & Meunier A. 2013 Clay minerals of late Pleistocene sites (Jonzac and Les Cottes, SW France): Applications of X-ray diffraction analyses to local paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions, Quaternary International, 2013, vol.302 : 184-198

Roussel & Soressi M. 2013 Une nouvelle séquence du Paléolithique supérieur ancien aux marges sud-ouest du Bassin parisien: Les Cottés dans la Vienne in P. Bodu et al. (dir.), Le Paléolithique supérieur ancien de l’Europe du Nord-ouest. Réflexions et synthèses à partir d’un projet collectif de recherche sur le centre et le sud du Bassin parisien, journées SPF, Sens, 15-18 avril 2009, Mémoire 56, Société préhistorique française: 283-298

Talamo, S., Soressi, M., Roussel, M., Richards, M. and J.-J. Hublin 2012 A Radiocarbon chronology for the complete Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transitional sequence of Les Cottés (France). Journal of Archaeological Science. 39(1):175-183.

van Doorn N. L., J. Wilson, H. Hollund, M. Soressi, M. J. Collins 2012 Sitespecific deamidation of glutamine: a new marker of bone collagen deterioration. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, vol. 26(19) : 2319-2327.

Soressi, M., Tavormina, C. 2011 L’intérêt du tri du refus de tamis de maille 5 mm et 2 mm dans l’analyse d’assemblages lithiques du Protoaurignacien et de l’Aurignacien ancien. Bulletin de liaison et d’information - Association des Archéologues de Poitou-Charentes, t. 40, p. 9-16.

Soressi, M., Roussel, M., Rendu, W., Primault, J., Rigaud, S., Texier, J.P., Richter, D., Talamo, S., Ploquin, F., Larmignat, B., Tavormina, C., Hublin, J.J., – Les Cottés (Vienne). 2010 Nouveaux travaux sur l’un des gisements de référence pour la transition Paléolithique moyen/supérieur. In: Buisson-Cattil, J., Primault, J. (Eds.): Préhistoire entre Vienne et Charente. Hommes et sociétés du Paléolithique. 25 ans d’archéologie préhistorique en Poitou-Charentes. Association des Publications Chauvinoises, Chauvigny, p. 221-234

Soressi, M., Goval, E., Larmignat, B., Roussel, M. 2009 Cartographie et modèles numériquesde terrain du gisement de la transition Paléolithique moyen/ supérieur des Cottés (Saint- Pierre-de-Maillé, Vienne), Bulletin de liaison et d’information - Association des Archéologues de Poitou- Charentes, t. 38, p. 11-20.

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