for National Geographic News
Hunter-gatherers who made temporary camps along the Seine about 9,500 years ago were among the earliest "residents" of what is now Paris, archaeologists say.
A recent dig near the river revealed thousands of arrowhead bits and animal bones from about 7600 B.C. that scientists say are the oldest evidence of human occupation within modern city boundaries.
Previously the oldest such evidence was a 4500 B.C. fishing village near the current Gare de Lyon railway station.
Nomadic tribes camped at the newfound site for periods of days or even weeks while they collected flint to make arrowheads for hunting, the dig team believes.
"It was a strategic choice, next to the river," said Bénédicte Souffi, a lead archaeologist on the dig.
Chris Scarre, a French prehistory expert from Durham University in the U.K., said the hunter-gatherers may also have used the river "for transport and for fishing as well, of course, as a ready supply of fresh water."
Although there is no evidence of ancient river transport at the site, dugout canoes from the same time period have been found in other parts of Europe, said Scarre, who was not involved with the Paris project.
The dig site lies on the southwest edge of the French capital, sandwiched between the Parisian beltway and the city's helicopter port.
It covers an area about the size of a U.S. football field.
The French government's archaeology agency Inrap commissioned a survey of the site in preparation for building a recycling plant.
(Related: "Rome Subway Digs Reveal Medieval, Renaissance Treasures" [March 10, 2008].)
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