02-2022, tome 119, 1, p. 37-47 - Nicole Pigeot - L'objet « lame » : un épiphénomène technique, économique, culturel et cognitif

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02-2022, tome 119, 1, p. 37-47 - Nicole Pigeot - L'objet « lame » : un épiphénomène technique, économique, culturel et cognitif

L'objet « lame » : un épiphénomène technique, économique, culturel et cognitif


Nicole Pigeot (1950-2019)


Résumé : Suite à la conférence que Nicole Pigeot avait donnée à la table ronde organisée aux Eyzies par Anne Delagnes et Nicolas Teyssandier en 2006 : « Le phénomène laminaire au Paléolithique moyen et supérieur en Eurasie », elle prépara ensuite un article en vue des actes de la table ronde, mais ceux-ci ne virent pas le jour. La présente édition de ce texte est couplée à la mise en ligne des figures conçues par l'auteure pour accompagner sa conférence (https://doi.org/10.34847/nkl.dd82z8eq). Le résumé qui introduisait celle-ci synthétise l'essentiel de cette réflexion théorique prolongeant un précédent article de référence (Pigeot, 1991b) ; nous le reproduisons intégralement ici : "L'équation débitage laminaire = Paléolithique supérieur" est fallacieuse alors qu'elle reste souvent un arrière-plan paradigmatique fréquent. La documentation démontre pourtant que les débitages laminaires ne sont pas l'apanage de cette dernière période du Paléolithique ni des capacités cognitives des formes les plus modernes de notre humanité. On propose d'apporter ici une base de discussion à ce sujet en explicitant la définition du phénomène laminaire qui ne se résume pas à l'expression d'une complexité conceptuelle et économique de type "moderne". L'objet "lame" est l'épiphénomène des nombreux paramètres qui interviennent au carrefour de questions purement techniques (volumétriques et opératoires), économiques (en termes de productivité et d'objectif qualitatif), culturelles (choix entre des possibles), et bien évidemment cognitives (limitatives en amont des choix culturels) ".


Mots-clés : Analyse systémique, débitage laminaire, débitage Levallois, Paléolithique moyen, Paléolithique supérieur, technologie lithique.


Abstract:  This posthumously published theoretical text follows on from the round table organised by Anne Delagnes and Nicolas Teyssandier at Les Eyzies in 2006: "he laminar phenomenon in the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in Eurasia". Nicole Pigeot presented an introductory lecture and then prepared this text' finalized by her editors - for the publication of the proceedings of the round table, but they were not published. As for the figures, her editors have the PowerPoint figures designed by Nicole Pigeot to illustrate the conference and have decided to make almost all of them available to readers (https://doi.org/10.34847/nkl.dd82z8eq). Nevertheless, had the edition been completed, the author would clearly have taken more care with the illustrations and their consubstantial link with the writing of her very pictorial thought. For this reason, the publication of these slides has been deliberately dissociated from the present text. Through both of them, the reader will discover an important intellectual construction in the author's scientific journey. In the wake of her "Habilitation à diriger des recherches" (Pigeot, 1991a: https://doi.org/10.34847/nkl.1b806d6z) and the resulting reference article (Pigeot, 1991b), and then her new reflections on the laminar debitage of Etiolles (Pigeot et al., 1991; Pigeot dir, 2004), we see here the full development of a genuine method - inspired in its logic by André Leroi-Gourhan's "degrees of fact" (1943) - to identify technical acts according to a systemic perspective, constantly promoted by Nicole Pigeot. In her view, this dynamic point of view protects against the all too frequent confusion between consequences and causes, the latter being so difficult to grasp in prehistory. It also provides the best way of distinguishing - at an advanced stage of research and not at the beginning! - the exact part of the cultural dimension in the "stratification of constraints" ("physical", "economic and functional", "cognitive", etc.: cf. Pigeot, 1991 a and b). Moreover, this approach, enriched by the work of the philosopher Georges Simondon (1958), opens up new perspectives - and this is the main point - on the evolution and the main stages of laminar techniques, and, for each of them, the "field of constraints and possibilities" (Pigeot, 1991b).

In the background of this reflection on the evolution of techniques, the author distances herself completely from the fallacious equation according to which "laminar debitage = Upper Palaeolithic". This in no way dispenses with trying to understand what happened at the end of the Palaeolithic when blade production became so frequent compared to earlier periods. To do this, Nicole Pigeot begins by analysing the advantages of laminar debitage, without omitting the technical constraints linked to this type of operative concept. In order to study the parameters involved in the laminar objective, she begins by setting out the criteria for defining the blade by referring first to its basic appearance: a long, narrow and thin debitage product. A second level of analysis then focuses on understanding how the blade actually fits into a wider network of ramifications, revealing the essential role of recurrence, the cornerstone of productivity and standardisation. Given the multi-functional aspect of the interacting elements, we cannot simply infer the primary intention behind the choice of this type of debitage. This may be the result of a desire for length, or narrowness, or operative ease, or productivity, or standardisation, or several or all of these advantages "functioning" together.

Nicole Pigeot then reminds us that laminar debitage is possible from the early periods of the Palaeolithic onwards, even with a "facial" management of cores (i.e., debitage on the largest surface). Such debitage with the hard hammers used during those periods entails numerous constraints, including sacrificing one or more of the intrinsic laminar qualities, in particular the operative ease induced by good recurrence, and also the elongation of the product, its regularity, its standardisation, as well as its productivity. At the beginning of the laminar lineage, the different parameters thus act for themselves, independently, which is in line with Georges Simondon's definition of the "abstract" technical object. Then, at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, it would seem that the conjunction of the use of the soft hammer (organic or mineral) with the conceptual opening towards "frontal" debitage (i.e., preferential exploitation of the small surface) offers a very new situation, where the laminar system conditions really fall into place. The ensuing operative and conceptual complexity involves a strong cultural codification with numerous possible solutions: there is obviously not only one type of laminar debitage in the Upper Palaeolithic. However, from the Aurignacian onwards, with the synergy of the different elements, the process begins to move towards what Simondon calls "concretisation". This will only be truly accomplished with the complete investment of the whole volume to be knapped, which is made possible by the debitage method with the indirect percussion and above all pressure. With these innovations, the knapper can obtain such regularity of the product that it sets up the optimal regularity of the following product, and so on. All the parameters interact synergistically and none of them can "work for itself" without "working for all". Length, narrowness, thinness, straightness, standardisation, productivity: all the parameters are now inseparable and each one contributes to the functioning of the others. The blade thus becomes the epiphenomenon of the laminar system. The retroaction cycle of recurrence is almost absolute and background noise of irregularity is almost inexistent. This is the complete definition of the final stage of a lineage according to Simondon. Perhaps at this stage we have reached a "hypertelic" technique, in the words of the philosopher, i.e., an exaggerated situation that becomes non-adapted in the event of the slightest change in the milieu? At this stage, the laminar lineage can no longer evolve: it is "saturated" in Simondon's words.


Keywords: Systemic analysis, laminar debitage, Levallois debitage, Middle Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic, lithic technology.