Ancient River Camps Are Oldest Proof of Humans in Paris

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Today the area is about 820 feet (250 meters) from the Seine, but ten thousand years ago the river was probably much closer. The camps may even have been established on an island within the river.

"The likely original appearance of the River Seine, and most other major European rivers before they were embanked and controlled, would have been a braided form [with multiple channels] fringed by marshy wetlands," Scarre said.

Ancient people would have hunted mammals, such as deer and wild boar, using bows and arrows rather than spears, scholars say.

"Forest-dwelling animals may have come to the water's edge to drink, making this a good place for hunting," Scarre noted.

Preserved in Sludge

Since February 2008, Souffi and her colleagues have unearthed debris from multiple hunter-gatherer campsites, all dating to the Mesolithic period—9000 to 5000 B.C.

Researchers also uncovered larger tools made from sandstone. These include a spherical hand-held "pounder" and long blades possibly used for making arrow shafts or scraping animal skins.

"We also discovered a hearth, which could have been used for dissolving adhesive for arrowheads or for cooking game," Souffi said.

Frequent flooding of the Seine had washed layers of silt over the artifacts, sealing them in and helping to preserve them.

Finds of younger polished axes and decorated pottery indicate that the site continued to be used through the ages.

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