22-2017, tome 114, 4, p. 691-710 - Fabien Convertini - Les dégraissants des céramiques des sites d?€?Avignon (Vaucluse). Nouvelles données, nouvelles visions de l?€?implantation du Campaniforme dans le Midi de la France

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22-2017, tome 114, 4, p. 691-710 - Fabien Convertini - Les dégraissants des céramiques des sites d?€?Avignon (Vaucluse). Nouvelles données, nouvelles visions de l?€?implantation du Campaniforme dans le Midi de la France

L’analyse en lames minces d’une série de céramiques campaniformes de style pointillé géométrique issues des fouilles réalisées par J. Courtin et G. Sauzade en Avignon dans les années 1960-1970 a permis de déterminer les origines des terres exploitées, le plus souvent locales mais avec des vases étrangers aux contextes géologiques des sites, ainsi que la nature des dégraissants introduits dans ces terres au moment de la préparation des pâtes. Ces analyses complètent celles réalisées il y a 25 ans sur les céramiques de même style d’autres sites provençaux et plus récemment languedociens. Elles ont également été confrontées aux analyses réalisées sur des corpus de vases attribués aux cultures autochtones.

Même si macroscopiquement la céramique campaniforme de style pointillé géométrique (style 2 d’O. Lemercier) est nettement différente de celle des groupes culturels locaux (Fontbouisse, Vérazien), elle présente en fait une proximité marquée dans l’emploi des types de dégraissant, lorsqu’ils ont été introduits dans les pâtes, ainsi que des terres exploitées similaires. Ces convergences ne peuvent pas être le fruit du hasard et résultent vraisemblablement de relations étroites, de transferts et d’emprunts entre potiers de différentes traditions.

Nous proposons d’expliquer cette situation par la mise en place de relations précoces dans le Sud de la France entre les populations autochtones et des individus étrangers qui fabriquent en majorité localement des gobelets campaniformes. Une adoption probablement rapide (quelques décennies) de cette céramique par une partie des indigènes conduit à la création de nouvelles formes et à la diversification des décors comme cela est illustré sur les sites d’Avignon, mais également d’autres sites provençaux et languedociens.


Mots clés : Sud de la France, Néolithique final, Campaniforme, céramique, dégraissant, matière première, emprunt.


The thin section analysis of a series of Bell Beaker geometric dotted style ceramics and of a mixed beaker from the city of Avignon (Vaucluse) allowed us to consider the current state of our knowledge and to reflect in an innovative manner on the Bell Beaker implantation in the South of France. The starting point of the study showed that the majority of the clay resources are local and come from the exploitation of a natural mixture of Rhone alluvions and lateral carbonate contributions. Apart from the mixed beaker, ceramics made from these clays were all tempered only with crushed calcite. The places of origin of the clays of the other two families, represented by only one vase each, are farther away, without it being possible to be more specific. Moreover, these two vases were the only ones that were tempered with grog. These data have made it possible to establish that geometric dotted style productions present in Avignon included various practices implemented in different geographical areas; one of the two foreign vases, moreover, has a paste that also contained crushed carbonates. On the other hand, in Avignon, on the basis of the samples analysed, the practice of tempering ceramics with grog does not seem to have existed; only the presence of crushed calcite could be identified for locally manufactured geometric dotted productions.

Within the series analysed, two types of temper were therefore used. The first, the most commonly used, corresponds to the crushed calcites present in the majority of pastes of decorated Bell Beaker pottery as well as in that of the pre-oral rope vase. Grog, which is the second temper, was introduced only in the pastes of the two foreign vases. In western Provence, crushed calcite is a temper which has already been identified in the pastes of decorated Bell Beakers vases from Les Calades (Orgon, Bouches-du-Rhône) and Les Barres (Eyguières, Bouches-du-Rhône), which are stylistically similar to those of Avignon, as well as in the pastes of Rhodano-Provençal decorated production from Collet-Redon (Martigues, Bouches-du-Rhône). To the west of the Rhone, in eastern Languedoc, very few Bell Beaker ceramics of the same style as those from Avignon are known and none have been analysed. Very few petrographic analyses were carried out on beakers attributed to J. Guilaine’s early phase, which proved to be almost never tempered with crushed calcite. On the other hand, the use of crushed calcite is largely attested for the ceramics of the Rhodano-Provençal group and the associated common ceramics in eastern Languedoc.

Since the Early Neolithic, crushed calcite has been traditionally used as a temper by potters in Provence and in eastern Languedoc. A large part of the Late Neolithic productions from Provence contain it and it is omnipresent in the pottery from the other Late Neolithic sites (Fontbouisse) in the Gard and the east of the Herault département.

The Avignon series has especially brought results for local vases of the geometric dotted style that have been confronted with the data previously obtained on other corpuses from Provence and Languedoc.

The new data acquired over the past few years allow two hypotheses to be envisaged. The first is to consider that the Bell Beaker potters originally corresponded to individuals from the same substratum, possessing a unique and common (but no longer determinable) practice, or they may also correspond to geographically heterogeneous individuals, without a single practice concerning the use or otherwise of tempers. In both cases, when settling in, they would have adopted the cultural practices of the populations of the local substratum. This would involve the borrowing of clay preparation recipes from indigenous populations. The second hypothesis resumes a proposition already presented in a previous study. In order to explain the characteristics of the geometric dotted production of phase 2 of J. Guilaine’s model, we proposed that at the end of the Neolithic, after an initial phase (phase 1) of short duration (probably some decades) during which the beakers were made locally by individuals foreign to the substratum, part of the indigenous population copied these beakers and then quickly created new shapes while diversifying the decoration.

The first proposal implies that the Bell Beaker potters who wished to establish themselves systematically adopted local cultural practices concerning the temper for the preparation of the ceramic pastes of each population of the substratum present on the territory where they settled. This hypothesis is quite plausible because several ethno-archaeological studies have shown that potters displaced into another human group can modify their know-how under the influence of the traditions of the populations in which they settle. Such borrowing may concern the temper but also shaping or decoration techniques. The nature and duration of contacts appear to be important. The reasons given for such borrowing are the ease and speed of shaping as well as consumer demand. These types of borrowing do not seem to be retained in the case of the Bell Beaker potters since the forms and the decorations are radically different from those of the indigenous productions. Nevertheless, the adoption of a locally used temper may have helped spread the beakers among indigenous populations.

The second hypothesis that we have chosen to privilege and develop is the opposite of the previous one. It is not the newcomers who borrow traditions but the natives who adopt a new ceramic form, the beaker. This hypothesis explains why the Bell Beaker productions are identical to the ceramics of the substratum, from the point of view of the use of temper, in particular crushed calcite, since they were made by the same local cultural groups. Moreover, this hypothesis also explains the systematic presence on the Bell Beaker sites of substratum ceramics other than through acquisitions made with indigenous populations. Nevertheless, a specificity can differentiate Bell Beaker productions from other locally made ceramics because, on the left bank of the Rhone, at Calades and Barres, but also in Avignon in the case of the two allochtonous ceramics, grog is found, in association with the crushed calcite still used in most productions.

This hypothesis thus makes it possible to propose a renewed reading of modalities concerning the borrowing, reinterpretation and development of Bell Beaker ceramics by some of the potters of the indigenous cultures of the Late Neolithic following the first contacts with individuals foreign to the substratum. In particular, they highlight the variability of the behaviour of potters who use this pottery with, in particular, the manufacture of stylistically similar ceramics in different places according to distinct practices, but which are largely identical with local traditions. This situation can be observed in current traditional societies where borrowing mechanisms can be rapid, in the region of a few decades. Imitations can be the result of the arrival of a new potter with his own decors, which is very close to the situation envisaged for the Bell Beaker culture. On the other hand, the time required for the appearance of new ceramic decorations and forms is difficult to access by ethno-archaeology, but archaeological examples from lakeside sites which have yielded dilated stratigraphic sequences allow an order of magnitude of a few decades for this period.


Keywords : South of France, Late neolithic, Bell Beaker, ceramics, temper, raw material, borrowing.