PESESSE Damien

Paléoanthropologue, chercheur post-doctorant LabexMed (Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme, LAMPEA)
Period of residence: 
octobre 2012 - septembre 2013
Research project: 
Through social and environmental constraints, the pathway from Aurignacian to Gravettian in the North Mediterranean
Summary of the research project: 

A profound shift in the cultural landscape can be seen across the European continent between 31,000 and 29,000 14C BP. This shift corresponds to a complete overhaul of socio-economic and symbolical systems, marking the change from the Aurignacian (c.37,000-30,000 14C BP) to the Gravettian (c.29,000-22,000 14C BP). During the Upper Palaeolithic few cultural changes are as marked as this one, and yet it remains the least well-documented. This research program is designed to identify, define and understand these changes in the Mediterranean area.

Chronologically, our work bridges the boundary between the Aurignacian and the Gravettian. This makes possible an examination of the Aurignacian-Gravettian cultural divide, and allows critical assessment of the criteria generally used to distinguish these two periods (particularly in terms of material culture and symbolic behaviour). To achieve this goal, we need to tackle the concepts used to construct and define these differences. Indeed, archaeological explanatory frameworks used to describe this period come mostly from the biological and geological sciences, and are therefore inappropriate when questions of social process are considered. Explanatory approaches may also come from social anthropology but, contrary to social anthropologists, prehistorians have yet to completely abandon direct correlations between material culture and ethnic groups, considering them methodologically and conceptually necessary to tackle these periods. Explanatory approaches and terms used (transition, culture) create biased or circular narratives, which serve to hide the real issue: what processes contribute to socio-economic and symbolic changes ? For this period, how does rock art develop, and how do the first burials of Homo sapiens in Europe and the profound changes in technical systems occur?

To address these broad questions, a study developed in conjunction with different specialists will focus on South-eastern French and Italian sites which have yielded rich archaeological assemblages (lithic and osseous industries, faunal remains, shells beads, human remains etc.). This interdisciplinary perspective is the only way to approach the complexity of these evolutions. My own work will concern lithic industries, which lie at the crossroads of disciplines, constraints and methodologies. Beyond this, we would also like to discuss limits of a palaeo-historical approach, namely when attempts are made to understanding causalities.

Résident accueilli à l'IMéRA en partenariat avec le LabexMed.

Pertaining to the residency: 

D. Pesesse Les premières sociétés gravettiennes. Analyse comparée de systèmes techniques lithiques, Editions du CNRS, 2013.

Curriculum Vitae: