Trajectoires : de la sédentarisation à l’État is the laboratory of Neolithic and Iron Age archaeology at the University of Paris 1/CNRS.

On August 21, 1968, the Czech archaeologist Bohumil Soudský and a handful of assistants, including a 21-year-old Jean-Paul Demoule, were in the midst of excavating the Neolithic site of Bylany, seventy kilometers from Prague, when a line of tanks belonging to the Soviet, Polish, East German, and Bulgarian armies entered the capital. In one night, these scores of tanks would put an end to the Prague Spring.

Soudský and Demoule both learned an important lesson. Political events leave visible marks, not only in books and consequently in history, but also in the soil. They are, in this sense, archaeological events.

In 1971, Soudský fled to France, where he died five years later, but not before revolutionizing his discipline with two pioneering techniques. The first was the use of mechanical excavators to strip the soil in the search for artefacts; the second, the use of computers in the assessment of archaeological data.

Since its founding by Soudský, Trajectoires has followed a path determined by these two technological innovations.

Early Influences

It was during the 1970s that English archaeologists argued that all was not well in archaeology. Their discipline, Colin Renfrew insisted, needed to be refashioned, and archaeological conclusions needed to be established by means of the same logically rigorous arguments found in the hard sciences. In some areas, Soudský and the so-called New Archaeologists had much in common. Both agreed that data collection and classification were as sterile in archaeology as in entomology. Data come to make sense only in the light of an interpretative scheme—a theory. Ten years before, Noam Chomsky had made the same argument in linguistics. And more than this, archaeology had to become more self-conscious about its own practices. No longer was “extracting, dating, and interpreting data” enough; archaeologists were now to begin “engaging in reflection about the types of information that transmit these typologies and about their limits.”1

Aside from the New Archaeologists, another powerful influence on the work at Trajectoires was Jean-Claude Gardin, who introduced and encouraged the use of new information technologies in the humanities in general, as well as in archaeology. As early as 1969, he had organized an international colloquium on the role of computers, statistics, and new methods of calculation in archaeological research.2

Gardin wrote about the theory of archaeology, and he was in turn influenced by the work of the New Archaeologists. He was, in fact, one of the foremost advocates of what in Une Archéologie Théorique (Theoretical Archaeology) he called analyse logiciste, a scheme in which the chain of operations that goes into an archaeological conjecture or demonstration is made perfectly explicit or formal.3 The defenders of theoretical archaeology and the New Archaeology had two important points in common. They shared the desire to assign to archaeological research objectives that went beyond data collection, and they hoped to formulate laws of human behavior in much the same way that physicists formulated laws of nature.4

Created in the early 1970s, Trajectoires has become one of the pillars of Neolithic archaeological research. Under the direction of Laurence Manolakakis, it has become one of the largest archaeology laboratories in Europe, with 93 members ranging from young researchers and PhD students to more experienced senior members. Sixty members of the laboratory are permanent. A main research base is in Cuiry-lès-Chaudardes in the Aisne valley, 150 kilometers northeast of Paris, where 33 Neolithic houses, 120 pits, and 55,000 animal remains have been discovered. Situated in the western suburbs of Paris, the laboratory proper is part of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

The Neolithic way of life first appeared gradually in the Middle East around 10,000 BCE, and so predated the appearance of pottery. Since it began at the end of the last ice age, one explanation for the systematic practice of Neolithic agriculture is the warming of the climate. Middle Eastern farmers arrived in Europe around 6,000 BCE. The Neolithic period gave way around 2,200 BCE to the Bronze Age, and ultimately to the Iron Age. The European Neolithic period, strictly speaking, thus covers less than four millennia.

The term Neolithic means new rock, and the Neolithic period was an age of polished stone in which the first flint axes appeared. One perceptible consequence was deforestation, but flint axes were only minor indicators of far more significant events. Plants and animals were domesticated and, as a result, new modes of economic life arose. Agriculture and animal domestication made securing food and material goods far easier than they had ever been. Goat and calf skins were used for making garments; having died some 5200 years ago and then been mummified by the ice of some miserable Austro-Italian mountain, the very Neolithic Ötzi was found in 1991, three thousand meters above sea level, leathery-looking but well preserved, covered in jaunty animal skins.

Political Archaeology

In his work at Trajectoires, Demoule has extended the tradition of Soudský and Gardin. Like them, Demoule opposes the flat typologies that characterize the German style of archaeology—the simple, purely descriptive inventory of archaeological findings.5 His focus is on theory and interpretation, but only if they can be tied closely to the facts. And so Demoule insists on the need for a meticulous treatment of the archaeological data. Gardin’s analyse logiciste, Demoule argues (with a marked lack of exuberance) is “a healthy intellectual exercise that should push each archaeologist to attempt the logical self-criticism of his own work.”6 He is also cautious, however, since the approach as a whole has not yet proved itself in a significant body of publications.

Demoule’s own path has taken him in the direction of what might be called political archaeology. The technological and political aspects of a society, he has argued, are inseparable. Technical changes are rarely neutral politically. They are in fact made possible, facilitated, or hindered by struggles over power. This was true of the Neolithic period; it is true today. Political issues have an effect on any archaeological excavation. Some archaeologists in France practice under the Ministry of Culture. Others are employed by private companies. The division is politically and ideologically loaded.7

An illustration is the case of the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), created in 2001 under Demoule’s leadership. As its name might suggest, the institute is designed to prevent valuable archaeological sites from being destroyed or otherwise altered by development, as when a priceless Neolithic village is ground under a suburban shopping mall. Before site development begins, areas of known archaeological value must be excavated, either partially or completely, and any discoveries monitored and described. INRAP is under the supervision of the Ministries of Culture and Research, which are responsible for financing its excavations.

Given what is at issue—the archaeological heritage, after all—nothing might seem too expensive.

Still, the institute has elicited protests from politicians, who argue that its costs are too steep for the benefits it confers. How many Neolithic flint axes does one need? And if a few more remain forever uncovered? As Demoule notes, however, the cost of preventive archaeology in France represents 0.2% of the budget for construction and public works, or “three euros a year per person.”8 Nor does Demoule have much use for the frequent charge that preventive archaeology is responsible for endless delays in construction, as when that shopping mall is held up for months and months as archaeologists first undertake their dig. Archaeological excavations, he argues, should be incorporated into the usual construction schedule. They are not an afterthought. It is better by far to budget for time than to discover at the last moment some priceless archaeological remains whose excavation requires bringing a construction site to a halt.

These controversies in the wake of the creation of INRAP have resulted in some compromises. In particular, the excessive cost of preventive excavations was attributed to the fact that INRAP and other preventive archaeology services are public institutions. In 2003, private commercial archaeological companies were permitted. The idea was to encourage competition among archaeologists, in order to bring down the cost of excavation. For Demoule, however, the consequences were not positive. A land developer tends to worry more about performance and lower cost than about the quality of the excavation, and so will often choose the cheapest—and least qualified—archaeological company.

INRAP cannot control or guarantee the quality of private preventive archaeological research. In the United States, very similar phenomena fall under the concept of regulatory capture (as when an agency monitoring a financial firm finds itself on the financial firm’s payroll).

Archaeological Logic

In the 1930s, logical positivists argued that a statement was meaningful only if verifiable. Alfred Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic spread the message far and the faith widely.9 Avancez-vous et la foi vous viendra. Apparently not. No one today quite believes in the principle of verifiability, if only because the principle cannot itself be verified. But its influence has lingered. One of the persistent questions pursued by European archaeologists is whether the Indo-Europeans had an original homeland—Anatolia, perhaps, or the steppes to the north of the Black Sea. Another, parallel question is whether similarities among Indo-European languages can be explained by an original Indo-European language, what linguists sometimes call Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.10 In Demoule’s view, there is no archaeological evidence for a homeland, and no linguistic evidence for PIE. In this, Demoule has arrayed himself against Renfrew, who suggests that in Europe, at least, PIE was the unique source of subsequent language diversification. Demoule objects on the grounds that there were “non-Indo-European languages ​​at the end of the Neolithic settlement of Europe by the supposed original Indo-European people.”11 If, as Renfrew holds, Neolithic settlers from the Near East and their Indo-European languages overwhelmed the native hunter-gatherers in Eurasia, how to explain the persistence of non-Indo-European languages like Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian, and Basque?

The languages that preceded Neolithic colonization, Renfrew argues, resisted change, or made their European appearance later than languages derived from PIE. Basque is plainly not an Indo-European language, but the Basques certainly adopted the Neolithic way of life. They took up farming; they raised animals. These practices were imported by the first Neolithic settlers from the Middle East, and they spoke Indo-European languages. Alien in their language, the Basques were Indo-European in their material culture.

For Demoule, this view of things is contradicted by the archaeological evidence, Archaeologists have found no traces of Neolithic settlements in the areas Renfrew suggests, such as southwest France, where the Basques lived. The Basques therefore could not have adopted the Neolithic way of life. Thus:

there is no way to identify isolated cases where Neolithization was a result of a process of adoption and borrowing, by local populations of hunter-gatherers, of the Neolithic mode of production.12

Demoule addresses this same criticism to Georges Dumézil’s theory of the correspondence between societies with Indo-European languages and societies with a trifunctional ideology. Dumézil compared the three castes of Indo-European religion (priests, warriors, and producers) with the three priests of Roman religion (the so-called archaic triad: Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus) and found the same three-fold division of society in both religions.13 He conjectured that such a division was specific to Indo-Europeans; there would be a correspondence between societies that used Indo-European languages and those with a tripartite ideology.

Neat.

But ancient Greece was also an Indo-European society. This conjecture should hold true there as well. Yet, as Dumézil himself noted, “tripartition does not work in Greek religion.”14

“The model works except when it doesn’t.”15

Neolithic Technology

The archaeologists at Trajectoires are especially interested in the technologies used by Neolithic farmers. A team led by Caroline Hamon was able to study the manufacture of sandstone querns. These were used to crush nuts or fruit, and to grind cereals, in particular wheat. After the raw block of stone was collected, it was shaped, and then dressed or smoothed by repeated tapping. Due to the team’s work, these different stages of production are now precisely known.16

Another Trajectoires interest is in the technical activities that lie behind the stages of manufacturing. In the 1960s, André Leroi-Gourhan developed the concept of an operational chain, a sequence of gestures and actions through which human beings come to effect some material change. Behind each step in manufacturing the sandstone quern, for example, is a set of such gestures and actions. Archaeologists at Trajectoires are able give detailed descriptions of the precise activities used in the manufacture of these millwheels.17 In addition to being a core focus of Trajectoires, the social context of technology is a characteristic interest of broader French scholarship.18

Against Ideology

Two other major archaeological approaches should be mentioned: first, the characteristically national or ethnic approach of archaeologists in the German tradition, which is based on the nineteenth-century idea of the nation-state, and second, the characteristically theoretical approach of British and North American archaeologists.

On finding similar objects, such as tools and pottery decorations, German archaeologists tend to associate them with a particular culture, and a particular culture with a particular people. A people in this context designates, or at least suggests, a group with approximately the same physical characteristics, such as height or facial shape, and homogenous cultural characteristics, whether religious ceremonies or the use of tools. “Cultural areas,” Gustaf Kossinna argues, “sharply defined as far as archaeology is concerned, coincide in all ages with specific tribes or peoples.”19

The chain of associations moves inexorably upward.

At first glance, the idea may seem convincing. The Neolithic Cardial Pottery culture is named after their characteristic use of cockle shells (Cardium edulis) to imprint decorations on their ceramic pots, but includes a whole set of cultural practices. As a whole it is distinguishable from other contemporary Neolithic cultures. The relative homogeneity of the objects and practices of Cardial Pottery culture appear to reflect a people with a physical and cultural identity that is itself homogeneous and distinct.

But, as Demoule emphasizes, while this does seem a reasonable proposition, it masks both a certain naïveté and a somewhat disturbing set of ideological assumptions. How could Kossinna reduce the diversity of archaeological cultures to a model as narrow as that of a people? How can one not see behind the reference to archaeological peoples, the antiquated model of the nation-state?

Take for example, a group of similar tools and pottery shards distributed within a particular geographical area. For Demoule, it is naïve to see behind this distribution an ethnic group equally homogeneous in its institutions, its economy, and its language. It is naïve again to trace (or chase) the German people backward to their origin, and through them, to attempt to trace the Indo-Germanic and Indo-European people to their origins. For the stern and unbending Demoule, Kossinna’s approach was ideological because it involved “the use of archaeological arguments for preconceived ethnic identifications.”20 By flattening out an archaeologically complex reality, the ethnic approach “[imposes] on observation a very restrictive and limited interpretation.”21

The other major archaeological tradition is that of the British and North Americans, who tend to be more focused on theory and interpretation. In France, Demoule and his colleagues have been unusually sensitive to the New Archaeology and its use of new technological methods. One member of the team, Anick Coudart, has explored some of the limits to the exchanges between the Anglo-Saxon and French traditions, noting that the New Archaeologists had ultimately very little influence in France.22 She sees the explanation for this in the significant cultural differences between the two traditions. For example, the French emphasize coherence between the observed phenomena and their reasoning. When the results of an analysis seem incoherent, the French will only very rarely doubt their deductive reasoning. Instead they will wonder whether the phenomena they have observed are not unrepresentative (rather than irrational), or whether their experiments have been badly conducted. Thus, in order to strengthen and affirm the abstract vision on which, unconsciously, their social, intellectual, and political identity is based, French scholars will perpetually revise and review their observations.23

Faced with a similarly confusing situation, Coudart argues, Anglo-Saxons would tend rather to question the concepts deployed in their reasoning.

The Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic period constitutes, along with the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, a fundamental rupture in human history. First employed by the Marxist archaeologist Gordon Childe in the 1930s, the term Neolithic revolution has entered popular archaeological culture.24 The precise nature of this revolution, however, is a matter of dispute.

Different types of agriculture had been explored during the Upper Paleolithic period (from 35,000–10,000 BCE), but only in the Neolithic period does one see the systematic practice of agriculture. At the same time, human beings began to domesticate animals, starting with wolves. These first domestications appeared at about the same time as our Neolithic ancestors appeared, at roughly 10,000 BCE, in what are now known as England, Japan, Turkey, and Syria. Not all domestication of animals was for the same reason, of course. Neolithic people living in what are now England and Japan both domesticated the wolf “as a hunting aid and for protection,” an arrangement that lasted “for thousands of years of hunting, fishing and gathering.”25 In the Middle East, on the other hand, domesticated species were more varied and often primarily used for food: first the sheep and goat, later the boar and aurochs.

Wherever it was established, the new Neolithic way of life, based on animal domestication and husbandry, had the same effect: an increase in the size and number of communities, and the number of villages they occupied. New territories were thus needed, and groups of humans followed new trajectories through the world. Two main migrations moved from east to west across Europe, both passing through the Balkan peninsula around 6,500 BCE. The first, Cardial Pottery culture, skirted the coast of the Mediterranean and arrived in the south of France and Spain around 6,000–5,500 BCE. The second, Linear Pottery culture, followed the Danube basin and settled in the north of France.26

The steadily rising population, combined with social tensions and conflicts arising from growing social inequalities, meant that Neolithic humans began to settle in places previously ignored. They began to encroach on the highlands. Hills and mountain slopes are less suitable for agriculture than flat alluvial plains, but they are more convenient for dominating an enemy coming up from those very plains. Wetlands and lake edges also began to be occupied more systematically. Excavations of the Chalain and Clairvaux lakes, in the Jura area, have revealed the presence of high, protective fences surrounding late Neolithic sites in roughly 3,000 BCE. This can be explained, of course, by the search for unoccupied territories to better manage population growth, but also by a more urgent need for protection and isolation.27

The invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals, the appearance of the first fields, the first villages, the first settlements, and the emergence of social inequalities and even warfare: the list leaves little doubt as to the importance of this revolution in human history.

Curiously, in popular French archaeological culture, the Neolithic millennia are often skipped.28 Even the curricula of primary and secondary schools, produced by the Ministry of Education, tend to pass quickly over this period. For Demoule, the reasons for this are mainly ideological: “the deafening silences,” he insists, are not innocent.29

Really? What could be problematic about the Neolithic period?

The Neolithic period was marked by a series of unprecedented technical innovations, including the development of metallurgy and polished stone and jadeite axes. These innovations provide a convenient frame of reference for socioeconomic, symbolic, and political changes. Prehistoric millennia have been divided into three ages, named after material techniques: stone, bronze, and iron. For Demoule, this division misrepresents the fundamental event that runs through the second half of the Neolithic period, namely, the emergence of a vertical social order, the development of the first societies with chiefdoms, and the rise of widespread violence.30

That the Neolithic period, with its inequalities of wealth and power as well as its violence, is hardly known to most non-archaeologists is not surprising. After all, every society constructs myths to conceal its inglorious origins.31

A New Social Order

While the Neolithic period embodied a technological and economic revolution, it was also a revolution in thought, and while technical innovations provide a convenient clock marking off ages, it is not at all clear what their relationship was to the development of a social order. The null hypothesis, which Demoule favors, is that once a new social order was in place, “the Bronze Age and the Iron Age did nothing but perpetuate it, without a rupture other than the technical invention of bronze and then of iron.”32

Demoule generally refuses to say whether a revolution in thought in fact led to a change in the social order. Yet the idea is rather appealing. We see the development of agriculture, of animal domestication and husbandry, and of metallurgy. But must not another change have preceded them? Some archaeologists have suggested that that change was the advent of a particularly developed religious and symbolic mentality. In this view, the Neolithic revolution of materials and techniques was preceded, if not caused, by a symbolic revolution. Jacques Cauvin is thus persuaded of the importance of the emerging deities in Neolithic life, those represented through art, mainly as statues and figurines.33 If the Neolithics became good potters and carpenters, so the conjecture runs, it may have been because of their need properly to represent their deities. A statue of a god is due a level of respect denied to a drinking bowl. Female terracotta statuettes, with wide hips and exaggerated breasts, have been found in the ritual enclosure ditches of Maizy, in the Aisne valley (circa 4,200 BCE). These may anticipate the goddesses of fertility and agriculture in Greek mythology.

For Demoule, these hypotheses are bold but difficult to prove, and in considering them, Demoule is never far from suggesting that no matter how they are expressed, they are too simple to shed much light—or any light at all. The great Neolithic revolution of human prehistory required a new religion—true enough, but it also required a set of technological innovations, and a change in the climate. Materialists tend to place the emphasis on material factors. The Neolithic was, above all, an economic revolution. It was simply more profitable to practice agriculture and husbandry than not to. For others, the technological revolution lay at the heart of social changes, by allowing for the production of new weapons, such as bronze axes. Thus the rise of bronze metallurgy explains the increase in Neolithic violence.

Demoule is in favor of every factor without ever being partial to any one of them. The Neolithic way of life required economic and technological changes, environmental good luck, and a symbolic system adequate to the depiction of the various Neolithic deities.

The claim that the symbolic system came first may just reflect intergenerational rivalry among archaeologists.

[It] is true that the hypothesis was in the air. After the economic and environmental models of the 1960s and 1970s, the arrival of postmodernism … in the 1980s focused on these ideological factors, in a way that was sometimes interesting, and often excessive.34

After many decades of Marxist mumbo jumbo, it may simply have been necessary to find another angle.

Even so, the priority assigned by some archaeologist to a Neolithic mental revolution remains to be proved. Demoule is far from forgetting what the Marxist anthropologist Maurice Godelier called the manipulation of the imaginary. Most early metallurgical productions were of no practical use. For example, several tombs of the Neolithic necropolis of Varna (Bulgaria, 4,500BCE) contain very long flint blades and gold ornaments. These blades are too long to be used without being broken, and bear no trace of wear. But they were not easy to make; one had to exert on the flint block a pressure of four hundred kilograms per square centimeter, “which assumes the creation of specific levering machines which have not yet been completely reproduced.”35 Gold was of no use in daily life. Both flint knives and gold ornaments were pure luxury articles. And they were evidently made for the first chiefs in Europe, whose wealth was so excessive that a portion of it had to be sent along with its owner into the afterlife.

Godelier found that among the Baruya in New Guinea, when it came to their personal interests, some men were inevitably able to constrain the will and enlist the power of other men.36 How was it possible for Neolithic chiefs to manipulate the imaginary in such a way that men would craft utterly useless items in the service of a rich and powerful minority? For Demoule, these powerful men,

were able to constrain or convince members of the community to make enormous, even disproportionate, efforts to produce things from which they could not derive any direct material benefit. They knew how to persuade them of advantages on the order of the symbolic, of the immaterial, likely associated with general benefits (the prosperity of the crops, the cosmic order, etc.), among which were some were less tangible (happiness in the afterlife, etc.).37

Unless we consider that Neolithic humans were completely irrational, tamely serving causes which offered them no direct material advantage, the most probable answer, in Demoule’s eyes, is that the damn fools were easily manipulated. The mental and ideological revolution completes and enables the technical revolution. Some had to convince others of their own prestige, or divine nature, and of the need to serve them, in order for technical inventiveness to be put to work. Social inequality was, in a way, a blessing in disguise.

Publications Guide

5000 avant J.-C. Archéologie rurale de la vallée de l’Aisne. Premières fermes, premiers champs. La vie quotidienne au Néolithique

(5,000BCE, The Rural Archaeology of the Aisne Valley. First farms, first fields. Daily Life in the Neolithic)

Association pour le Sauvetage Archéologique de la Vallée de l’Aisne (2014)38

Edited by an archaeologist close to the Trajectoires team, this work is both synthetic and exhaustive, and is without a doubt the best introduction to the work of the laboratory. It provides a fascinating account of forty years of excavations and research in the Aisne valley, a veritable goldmine for archaeologists studying the Neolithic period. The site was discovered by amateurs in the 1960s alongside gravel quarries, and its extraordinary richness was quickly recognized throughout Europe. In a way, Trajectoires was born out of these Neolithic excavations in the Aisne valley, from the first use of machines to remove topsoil by Soudský through to the scores of students who, every summer, make it their workshop. The excavation reports and other charts used by Allard are for the most part the products of members of the lab. They provide in particular detailed explanations of the size of the flint for arrows and of the sandstone for milling grain. There are also fine aerial photographs of the sites along the Aisne, maps, models of reconstructed Neolithic villages, instructive sketches… and images of Neolithic skeletons that have finally emerged from a seven-thousand-year-long night.

La Révolution néolithique en France

(The Neolithic Revolution in France)

Editions La Découverte (2007)39

Here, too, this edited volume is the fruit of the collaboration of the archaeologists of Trajectoires. It takes stock of four decades of research into the Neolithic period, from the first Mediterranean peasants of the early Neolithic period, throug the emergence of the first complex societies and the development of social tensions and conflicts, to the enormous changes of the third millennium: the development of iron metallurgy and the rise of the first states. Extending over a long time period, the volume also covers much spatial ground, from the Mediterranean coast to the Paris basin, and ultimately into the Jura of the late Neolithic period. Noteworthy is Demoule’s point of view on the origin of inequalities, where he considers Étienne de La Boétie’s concept of voluntary servitude (why do we serve tyrants who serve us not?) in the light of recent Neolithic discoveries. If this servitude was permitted in the Neolithic period by the first large manipulations of the imaginary, the millennia that separate us, alas, have not shown much progress.

La maison néolithique : métaphore matérielle, sociale et mentale des petites sociétés sédentaires

(The Neolithic House: Material, Social, and Mental Metaphor of Small Sedentary Societies)

CNRS Editions (2009)40

A variety of architectural choices cannot be reconciled with sustainability. This what Coudart demonstrates in this article: the less variation in architecture within a Neolithic village, and the more resistant to outside cultural influences, the longer-lived the particular architecture of the Neolithic house will be. By means of ethnoarchaeology, Coudart finds a similar pattern in Hopi houses in Arizona, Baruya houses in Papua New Guinea, and Linear Neolithic houses.

On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé

(We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past)

Robert Laffont (2009)41

This is a good popularizing treatment that manages to engage the reader without betraying a necessarily complex archaeological reality. Demoule reviews and corrects common assumptions about past millennia of history, in light of forty years of excavations carried out over the whole of French territory. Here too Demoule shows that the Neolithic period is astonishingly absent from educational curricula that are supposed to cover it. At the end of the work can be found a refreshing reflection on French identity. Here, as opposed to recent political outbursts on the subject, Demoule mocks the origin myth of Clovis. France, he argues, has no origin, but is the result of waves of interbreeding since prehistoric times, which is not the least important lesson to be learned from archaeology.

Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident

(But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West)

Seuil (2014)42

The result of several decades of research and trial and error, this archaeological investigation into the Indo-Europeans is an intellectual testament. The calm and incisive tone of the author ​​almost manages to hide the sound and fury of the intellectual passions and hatreds that mark the work, of from the case of Dumézil in the 1980s (his work was based on a priori ideologies and he himself would be linked to the French far right) to the controversies of the New Right which, by an amazing reversal of values, is now presented as “left” without further comment. Constructed like a detective story, the book shows us what archaeology can reveal about the Indo-Europeans and their languages. Beyond the always justified erudition of its author, the book is exciting because it captures the originality of Demoule’s approach. Rather than, like the hedgehog, endlessly pursuing the same goal of linking the various ethno-linguistic branches to an Indo-European original home, Demoule prefers the multiple tracks of the fox: let us follow each branch to the end and we will see new buds flower. The result is that there is no one (Indo-European) explanation for the origin of Indo-European languages, but rather a multiplicity of possible alternatives. This explanation is probably too modest and certainly not very spectacular, but it is also, as Demoule tells us, more in line with the archaeological findings. This, for an archaeologist, is no small matter.

  1. Alain Schnapp, “Histoire de l’archéologie et l’archéologie dans l’histoire (History of Archaeology and Archaeology in History),” in Alain Schnapp et al., eds., Guide des méthodes de l’archéologie (The Guide to Archaeological Methods), (Paris: La Découverte, 2009), 35. 
  2. Jean-Claude Gardin, ed., Archéologie et calculateurs : problèmes sémiologiques et informatiques (Archaeology and Computers: Semiological and Computing Problems) (Paris: CNRS, 1970). 
  3. Jean-Claude Gardin, Une archéologie théorique (Theoretical Archaeology) (Paris: Hachette, 1979). 
  4. Jean-Claude Gardin, Une archéologie théorique (Theoretical Archaeology) (Paris: Hachette, 1979), 275. 
  5. Jean-Paul Demoule, personal communication. 
  6. Jean-Paul Demoule, “Théories et interprétations en archeologie (Theories and Interpretations in Archaeology),” in Alain Schnapp et al., eds., Guide des méthodes de l’archéologie (The Guide to Archaeological Methods), (Paris: La Découverte, 2009), 210. 
  7. Preventive excavations are different from planned excavations. About 90 percent of excavations in France today are preventive. They are carried out before any new construction, in order to prevent the irreversible destruction of any remains that have been identified. Planned excavations take place on sites where archaeological remains have been found, and are independent of any future construction. The archaeologists have time to work and produce a report that can take account of any discoveries. 
  8. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 217. 
  9. Alfred Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (London: Gollancz, 1936). 
  10. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014). 
  11. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 353. 
  12. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 376. 
  13. Georges Dumézil, “La préhistoire des flamines majeurs (The Prehistory of Flamines Maiores,” Revue de l’histoire des religions CVIII (1938): 188–220. 
  14. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 494. 
  15. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 494. 
  16. These wheat mills have become a symbol of the Neolithic period because growing grains was well developed then, as described in Pierre Allard, 5000 ans avant J.C. Archéologie rurale de la vallée de l’Aisne. Premières fermes, premiers champs. La vie quotidienne au Néolithique (5,000 BC, The Rural Archaeology of the Aisne Valley. First farms, first fields. Daily life in the Neolithic) (Soissons: Association pour le Sauvetage Archéologique de la Vallée de l’Aisne, 2014). 
  17. See Pierre Allard, 5000 ans avant J.C. Archéologie rurale de la vallée de l’Aisne. Premières fermes, premiers champs. La vie quotidienne au Néolithique (5000BC, The Rural Archaeology of the Aisne Valley. First farms, first fields. Daily Life in the Neolithic) (Soissons: Association pour le Sauvetage Archéologique de la Vallée de l’Aisne, 2014), 78–79. See also Laurence Manolakakis, Les industries lithiques énéolithiques de Bulgarie (The Lithic Industries in Bulgaria During the Eneolithic) (Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH, 2005). 
  18. See in particular the work of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, especially, Michel Foucault, L’Archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge) (Paris: Gallimard, 1969). 
  19. Jean-Paul Demoule, “Théories et interprétations en archéologie (Theories and Interpretations in Archaeology),” in Alain Schnappet al., eds., Guide des méthodes de l’archéologie (The Guide to Archaeological Methods), (Paris: La Découverte, 2009), 222. 
  20. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 175. 
  21. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens ? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Seuil, 2014), 173. 
  22. Anick Coudart, “Is Post-Processualism Bound to Happen Everywhere? The French Case,” Antiquity 73 (1999): 161–67. 
  23. Anick Coudart, “Is Post-Processualism Bound to Happen Everywhere? The French Case,” Antiquity 73 (1999): 161–67. 
  24. Childe, however, made a distinction between an economy of predators, or food gatherers, that supposedly existed before the Neolithic period, and an economy of food producers that existed after the invention of agriculture and livestock breeding. It was a naïvely optimistic view, rather reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution for which Childe’s England proudly bore the torch. Today, of course, we have inherited some of its less pleasant consequences. Far from being the long awaited engine of progress and civilization, as Demoule puts it, “[we] know today that this ‘industry’ is nothing by a ‘predation’ on a massive scale, the consequences of which are neither known nor, even less, mastered.” Jean-Paul Demoule, “Introduction,” in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique dans le monde (The World Neolithic Revolution) (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2009), 10. 
  25. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 56. 
  26. Pierre Allard, 5000 avant J.C. Archéologie rurale de la vallée de l’Aisne. Premières fermes, premiers champs. La vie quotidienne au Néolithique (5000BC, The Rural Archaeology of the Aisne Valley. First farms, first fields. Daily Life in the Neolithic) (Soissons: Association pour le Sauvetage Archéologique de la vallée de l’Aisne, 2014), 10. 
  27. See in particular François Giligny et al., “La séquence Néolithique final des lacs de Clairvaux et de Chalain (Jura). Essai sur l’évolution culturelle (The Final Neolithic Sequence of the Lakes of Clairvaux and Chalain (Jura). An Essay on Cultural Evolution),” in Chronologies néolithiques. De 6000 à 2000 avant notre ère dans le bassin rhodanien (Chronology Neolithic. From 6,000–2,000 BCE in the Rhone Basin), ed. Jean-Louis Voruz (Ambérieu-en-Bugey: Edition Société Préhistorique Rhodanienne, 1995), 313–46. 
  28. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 50. 
  29. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 54. 
  30. See Jean-Paul Demoule, “L’origine des inégalités (The Origin of Inequalities),” in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique en France (The Neolithic Revolution in France) (Paris: La Découverte, 2007). 
  31. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 59. 
  32. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012), 74. 
  33. See Jacques Cauvin, Naissance des divinités, naissance de l’agriculture (Birth Gods and the Origins of Agriculture) (Paris: CNRS Editions, 1994). 
  34. Jean-Paul Demoule, “Introduction,” in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique dans le monde (The World Neolithic Revolution) (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2009), 13. 
  35. Jean-Paul Demoule, “Naissance des inégalités et prémisses de l’etat,” in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique dans le monde (The World Neolithic Revolution) (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2009). 
  36. Maurice Godelier, La production des grands hommes: pouvoir et domination masculine chez les Baruya de Nouvelle-Guinée (The Making of Great Men: Male Domination and Power Among the New Guinea Baruya) (Paris: Fayard, 1982). 
  37. Jean-Paul Demoule, “L’origine des inégalités (The Origin of Inequalities),” in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique en France (The Neolithic Revolution in France) (Paris: La Découverte, 2007), 83-84. 
  38. Pierre Allard, 5000 avant J.-C. Archéologie rurale de la vallée de l’Aisne. Premières fermes, premiers champs. La vie quotidienne au Néolithique (5000BC, The Rural Archaeology of the Aisne Valley. First farms, first fields. Daily Life in the Neolithic) (Soissons: Association pour le Sauvetage Archéologique de la vallée de l’Aisne, 2014). 
  39. Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique en France (The Neolithic Revolution in France) (Paris: Editions La Découverte, 2007). 
  40. Anick Coudart, “La maison néolithique : métaphore matérielle, sociale et mentale des petites sociétés sédentaires (The Neolithic House: Material, Social, and Mental Metaphor of Small Sedentary Societies)”, in Jean-Paul Demoule, ed., La révolution néolithique dans le monde (The World Neolithic Revolution) (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2009), 215–35. 
  41. Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France. Comment l’archéologie raconte notre passé (We Found the History of France: How Archaeology Recounts our Past) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012). 
  42. Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-européens? Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident (But Where Have the Indo-Europeans Gone? The Origin Myth of the West) (Paris: Le Seuil, 2014).