Terra Amata Provence a trip back to the dawn of man

Terra Amata is an archaeological site located on the slopes of Mont Boron in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes). Located twenty-six meters above the present level of the sea, it has yielded remains of the Lower Paleolithic (Acheulian) period, and one of the oldest human habitats in Europe.

Discovered during 1966, early salvage excavations were conducted by a team led by Henry de Lumley. The interpretations of archaeological data from Terra Amata are very different depending on whether one refers to the work of the author or those of Paola Villa, who devoted part of his PhD to the site.

According to H. de Lumley, the archaeological levels correspond to several land habitats of old Acheulian bunkers on a fossil beach. They date back 380,000 years. The distribution of archaeological and natural features translates into the presence of huts built on the beach. The discovered lithic industry, of silicified limestone and flint, is divided into two series:

Industry “beach” is marked by the preferential use of pebbles as tools. These tools are many carved stones, some partial atypical bifaces and single-sided trihedral picks, whose bases are reserved for the so-called “peaks of Terra Amata.”

The most abundant are small flake tools (scrapers, denticulate, etc.).According to H. de Lumley, both series have many similarities and are broadly presented.

More recently, P. Villa has clearly demonstrated, especially by making many bumps and matching between different levels, that the degree of preservation of the site of Terra Amata was greatly overestimated.

He claimed the assumptions involving huts were unlikely and that the archaeological levels could not be regarded as independent units. He also proposed to revise downwards the age of the Acheulian series, which dates back about 230,000 years before the present.