Château Percin, Seilh, Haute-Garonne, France

Château Percin lies on a terrace of the Garonne, north of Toulouse. Although Neolithic settlement on the site had been recognised since the mid 20th century, a double-ditched enclosure of the southern Chasséen culture was recognised and explored only in the course of evaluation and subsequent excavation in 2006–2008, led by Fabrice Pons of Inrap.

Chateau Percin 09_sm

Palm prints on a ball of earth from the rampart, subsequently burnt in the conflagration. © Inrap, O. Dayrens

The inner ditch was backed by a palisade and rampart, of which at least 35 m were burnt down and collapsed or backfilled into the ditch. This fired and preserved what had originally been unfired, deliberately shaped, blocks of earth. Some retained smoothed surfaces, as well as impressions of the hands that had formed them, of textiles, and of the timber substructure of the rampart. The impressions, the morphology of the fired lumps, and the character of the charred timbers collapsed into the ditch point to a block-built wall with a timber substructure which included hurdling as well as more substantial woodwork. Further impressions suggest that the rampart may have been surmounted by pairs of cattle horns. No such material was present in the outer ditch, which seems to have been cut a short time after the destruction of the first circuit.

The inner ditch (fossé 4) under excavation. © Inrap, S. Puech

The inner ditch (fossé 4) under excavation. © Inrap, S. Puech

Inside and outside the enclosure were numerous structures à galets chauffés — rectangular or circular features interpreted as cooking hearths, with abundant charcoal on their bases preserved beneath the fire-altered pebbles which they had served to heat. These probably reflect a longer period of activity on the site than the enclosure, several having early Chasséen pottery in their infill in contrast to the predominantly late Chasséen pottery of both ditches.

Local Partners: Fabrice Pons, Muriel Gandelin, Philippe Poirier and Hélène Martin (Inrap) and Jean Vaquer (Directeur de Recherche, CNRS)
UK Team: Frances Healy, Alex Bayliss, and Alasdair Whittle