Eric THIRAULT - EPUISE - Echanges néolithiques : les haches alpines,(préf. Alain Gallay), 2004, 468 p., 148 fig., 42 tabl., 50 pl. (ISBN: 2-907303-80-5)
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This study addresses the question of the production and distribution of Neolithic polished axe blades in the western Alpine region between the high lands of North Italy and the Rhone basin. In this wide-ranging investigation the axes of the Neolithic period are considered, for the first time, as more than just tools. The approach integrates all aspects of the study: identification of the material, technology, morphological characteristics, and contextual analysis. The results suggest that, in the course of three millennia, a strong social structure, best described as a system of exchange, gradually developed over several hundred kilometres of the most mountainous areas of Europe. The central role taken by Alpine eclogite, sourced from deposits in the Apennines, Piedmont and the Valle d'Aosta, arose towards the end of the Early Neolithic. The distribution network expanded markedly during the Middle Neolithic with the appearance of production sites a long way from the sources in the French pre-Alpine region.
How integral the mechanism of exchange was to these early manufacturing societies is underlined by the high value placed on one of the tools produced - very long axe blades, too long for use, which were sometimes placed in structured deposits. The proposed interpretation establishes an exchange dynamic as the principal force behind the spread of goods, balanced by the status accorded to the objects.