Old Stone Age

1860-1920

Local people had long been aware of the mass of horse bones above the village, some of it had been  was exploited and used as fertilizer before the Cros du Charnier was identified as a Paleolitic site. H. de Ferry, a geologist from Mâcon, found Paleolithic stone tools mixed with the bones in 1866, not long after the scientific community of the time had recognized Boucher de Perthes's claim of humankind's antiquity.
H. de Ferry

He began excavating there with a friend of his, A. Arcelin.

They were soon to appreciate the importance of a site so rich in faunal remains and artifacts.

Arcelin continued to direct excavations which, for the time, were controlled and well documented.

Adrien Arcelin

From the time of its discovery to the present, research at Solutré has paralleled the development of the field of Paleolithic Prehistory. G. de Mortillet chose Solutré as the type site of a Paleolithic culture characterized by large bifacially retouched blades, the Solutrean.

"Laurel leaf "points, finely retouched on both surfaces, were recovered at  the site of Laugerie in the Périgord and then at Solutré below the Magdalenian levels. They were identified in 1869 by Gabriel de Mortillet as the characteristic feature of a phase of the Paleolithic he named the SOLUTREAN.

drawings published by A. Arcelin in "Le Macônnais Préhistorique

 

The Abbé Henri Breuil excavated a trench in 1907 and used the results of his study of the site stratigraphy to redefine the sequence of Upper Paleolithic cultural traditions.

 

Large trench opened in 1896 by collectors in the section of the site known as Terre Sève in order to acquire artifacts.

General view of the 1907 excavations directed by H. Breuil and A. Arcelin

Breuil's drawing of the trench stratigraphy

Breuil clarified the sequence of archaeological layers represented at Solutré.  He attributed the horse magma to a cultural phase now called the Gravettian and demonstrated that it preceded the  layers containing laurel leaf points He also noted that the Solutreans were reindeer hunters.  The Solutrean, in turn, was under the more recent Magdalenian layer which contained an abundance of horse bones.

Excavations largely done by amateurs to procure collections of "laurel leaf" points continued until 1926 and contributed to the destruction of large sectors of the site.