"The success of a production depends on the attention paid to detail": the example of bladelet production with Raysse method (Middle Gravettian, France) [«La réussite d’une production repose sur l’attention prêtée aux détails»: l’exemple des débitages...]

  • Laurent Klaric Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Keywords: Upper Palaeolithic, Gravettian, Noaillian, Raysse burin, bladelet, chaine opératoire, lithic technology, flaking process


This paper aims to present the last developments about Raysse-burin cores, Picardie bladelets and Raysse bladelets, three typical artefacts of the second stage of French Middle Gravettian a.k.a the “Rayssian” phase (who just follows the classical Noaillian). Through a brief state of the art, reminding how Raysse burins have been discovered by L. Pradel in the 50’s and later described by H.L. Movius and N. David in the 80’s, we will set out how these artefacts have finally been interpreted as burin core. Indeed, technological studies of the beginning of the XXIth century have demonstrated that these so-called “burins” are real bladelet cores for the production of lithic implements now called “Picardie bladelets”. These bladelets are sharp, pointed, elongated and show a dissymmetric section. They are sometimes slightly twisted. All specimens exhibit a simple marginal direct retouch (not necessarily continuous) lateralised on the right side of the microlith. Thanks to the presence of impact fractures, they are interpreted as weapon implements. These artefacts usually replace microgravettes and abrupt backed bladelets in several sites studied (e.g., La Picardie or Reindeer cave). In order to underline the role of the technological approach in this study about the Rayssian phase, we will remind the main technological principles that rule the production on a Raysse burin core. We will also give details about the technical features that allow their recognition in new lithic assemblages, providing relevant examples lately identified in different sites freshly excavated (Bouyssonie cave) or recently re-excavated (Maldidier cave, Les Fieux) and in old collections reassessed (Laussel). Afterwards, based on some archaeological examples (La Picardie, Reindeer cave, Solvieux), we will focus on the morphological, dimensionnal and technical variability of the Picardie bladelets and the Raysse-burin cores. From on site to another, these artefacts tend to exhibit clear dimensional and sometimes technical variability. For example, the comparison of la Picardie and the Reeinder cave bladelets reveals a great variation of dimension. Several hypothesis will be proposed to bring up leads that could explain such a variability. Finally we will detail briefly the main original features and differences we have noticed during our previous investigations conducted these last ten years. In addition, experimental reconstitutions and technological studies of Raysse-burin cores also lead to a better understanding of discreet technical key-details of this original method of débitage. We will focus on the question of the preparation of the patform on Raysse burin core as well as on the type of hammer used for the removal of the bladelets and the kinetic of the gesture required to perform a successful removal. In the conclusion we will examine the consequences of this better understanding of Raysse burin cores technology. We will discuss the reasons that could explain the emergence and the short life-time of this peculiar type of débitage. The major advantage of this method of production lies in the high degree of predetermination of the products obtained asthey finally do not require a high degree of retouch to achieve a functional implement. On the other hand, a disadvantage lies on the lack of flexibility of the chaine opératoire. In term of transmission it is very likely that this method is not so easy to transmit, learn properly. The high number of parameters to master in order to reproduce successfully this method may have been a problem for its spreading. In other words, this peculiar method may have evolved quickly into other forms of more flexible débitage because of it was too much constraining.

Author Biography

Laurent Klaric, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

CNRS, UMR-7055, Préhistoire et Technologie
Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie
21 allée de l’Université
92023, Nanterre Cedex

How to Cite
Klaric, L. (2017). "The success of a production depends on the attention paid to detail": the example of bladelet production with Raysse method (Middle Gravettian, France) [«La réussite d’une production repose sur l’attention prêtée aux détails»: l’exemple des débitages.]. Journal of Lithic Studies, 4(2), 387-421. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.v4i2.2547