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Breathing New Life into Old Rocks: A Study of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic Site of Abri des Merveilles in the Vézère Valley, France Open Access

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ABSTRACTAs museum shelves buckle under the weight of thousands of unstudied and virtually forgotten boxes of artifacts, many institutions are questioning the utility and benefit of future curation of these historically excavated materials. Much of the material in question is comprised of lithic artifacts excavated during the infancy of American archaeology abroad. This project was undertaken to evaluate the integrity of such a lithic collection and to examine the efficacy of utilizing the resulting data for larger research questions. This thesis will provide a detailed history of the site of Abri des Merveilles, including the American and French excavations and subsequent dispersal of the collections abroad. In addition to the historical account, it is important to describe the prehistoric environmental context within which the site was formed. Abri des Merveilles was one of the few sites in southwestern France containing both Middle and Upper Paleolithic layers of deposition and thus may contribute significantly to the understanding of the transition between these two periods throughout the region. Next, the thorough examination of specific attributes was performed on the Merveilles lithic collection, curated at three different museums. Finally, the lithic analysis of a large collection of lithic artifacts excavated from Merveilles in the 1920s combined with a comparison of data sets from other similar sites provide a unique opportunity to assess the integrity and future research potential of old museum collections.

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