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A French Perspective on Barnham

Simon Lewis talks to Dr Anne-Lyse Ravon to find out more about her first experience of digging at Barnham.

SL: Anne-Lyse, thanks for taking a few minutes to answer some questions. Please can you tell us a little about your research expertise.
AR: I am a specialist in Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic lithic industries in Western Europe, but particularly in north-western France, where I direct excavations at the Lower Palaeolithic site of Menez-Dregan.

SL: This is your first time taking part in the Barnham excavations, what were your first impressions of the site?
AR: Barnham is a huge site, with different areas to correlate. The geological context is very different from what I am used to in Brittany: I usually work on coastal sites.

Anne-Lyse points discusses new finds with the excavation team
(Credit: Simon Lewis)

SL: What have you been working on for the last two weeks?
AR: I have mainly been working in Area I. Our first job there was to expose the surface of the cobble layer excavated in the 1990s, and then to excavate a palaeosol. This palaeosol preserved a lot of charcoal and burnt flint, which is particularly interesting for me.

SL: Has it been successful?
AR: Yes, very successful: at the end of the 2 weeks, the excavation of the palaeosol is finished, and we recorded numerous charcoal fragments, which is quite rare for this site.

SL: What have you enjoyed most, and least, about being part of the Barnham team?
AR: What I enjoyed the most: identifying charcoal and heated surfaces, because this is something that is very familiar to me, since we have a lot of charcoal and hearths in Menez-Dregan. What I enjoyed the least: the heavy rain during the night which caused a bit of the section to collapse before we arrived on site, and we had to work in the mud that morning.

SL: How does Barnham compare with excavating in France?
AR: Same techniques and methods, same recording systems, the only difference would be that in France, we provide all the equipment for the dig, including trowels: here everyone comes with their own trowel!

SL: This is your last day on site, where are you heading for next?
AR: Directly to Brittany: I’m heading to Menez-Dregan on Monday, where we are going to excavate for 8 weeks, up to the end of August.

SL: Thanks Anne-Lyse, and good luck with the field work at Menez-Dregan.