Early Man in the Somme Valley, France

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    A SCEPTICISM similar to that to which Mr. J. Reid Moir referred in his recent Huxley Memorial Lecture in reviewing the evidence for the existence of man in Pliocene times, has appeared among French archaeologists, in attacks on the authenticity of the evidence which would associate the Ahbevillian industry, formerly known as pre-Chellean, with an early type of mammalian fauna with Pliocene affinities in the Somme valley. The evidence is derived from the observations of Ault du Mesnil on a quaternary site at Porte du Bois, Abbeville, between 1875 and 1896. He recorded the association there in the lower horizons of implements with a fauna, which included relics of Elephas meridionalis. This site was further investigated by Commont from 1906 onward; but although he confirmed the existence of a fauna such as Ault du Mesnil had described, with the addition of two early types of rhinoceros, no implements were found in association. In view of this, doubt has been cast on Ault du Mesnil's testimony. It is said that he was misled as to an association, of which, in default of a categorical statement, it is assumed that he had no direct and personal ocular evidence. It is well known that early investigators, including Boucher de Perthes, suffered much from fraud on the part of workmen. The whole matter is thoroughly discussed by the Abbe Breuil in the current issue of L'Anthropologie (49, 1-2; 1939), where he shows that not only was Ault du Mesnil too careful an observer to make a statement for which he had not good ground, but also that the records of the finds occur in unpublished memoranda still extant, though many of his notes have been destroyed. Further, a closely reasoned archaeological argument by Breuil supports the authenticity of the evidence, as well as shows the impossibility that such implements as these could have been introduced from another source to be foisted on Ault du Mesnil by fraud. Further argument is rendered unnecessary by the discovery, after this paper was written, by Breuil, accompanied by the chief critic, of implements in the strata in which their existence is in dispute.

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    Early Man in the Somme Valley, France. Nature 143, 1016 (1939) doi:10.1038/1431016a0

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