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by Archaeology Newsroom

History of the Research

From the Medieval period on, the Bible was the source of all theories concerning the origin of man and Prehistory. The impulse for a more realistic interpretation of Prehistoric tools was given by the explorations of the 15th and 16th century. They brought to light the existance of primitive people who were practising hunting and collecting and were using stone and bone tools. Later the observation of the succession of the finds containing strata started, a fact which introduced the dimension of time in the study of the History of Nature and man. The acceptance of the contemporary presence on earth of man and the mammals -which had been considered as ante diluvium- as well as the reconciliation of Natural Science and Archaeology were achieved in the mid-19th century by the French J. Boucher de Perthes. In the second half of the 19th century the promotion of Palaeolithic Archaeology is owed to the excavations at the caves and rock-shelters in NW France. The research objective was to define the evolution of the Palaeolithic and its chronological framework, The work of E. Larnet and H. Christy but mainly that of G. de Mortillet contributed to this direction. The first half of the 20th century is marked by the activity of H. Breuil who studied a great number of Palaeolithic works of art. Together with D. Peyrony they re-examined the archaeological material from old excavations and established the subdivisions and the cultural sequence of Late Palaeolithic. In the second half of our century F. Bordes, who was the first to use Statistics, invented a method for studying tool groups and introduced a theory, according to which the similarities or differences of the tool groups are owed to cultural and chronological reasons. He also contributed significantly to the development of Experimental Archaeology and especially to the sector of the technology of stone chipped tools. A. Leroi-Gourhan advanced the ethno-archaeologic study of Palaeolithic sites and applied to his excavations the method of the horizontal uncovering of strata: he also engaged himself with Palaeolithic art. “New Archaeology” turned towards Palaeolithic Archaeology, by proposing the theory of the functional interpretation of stone tool groups, which, however, was not successful in its application. Finally, the Soviet school promoted the study of habitation and dwelling structures by applying in a wide range the method of the horizontal uncovering of strata as well as the research of the lithic use-wear.