This flint Laurel Leaf biface is from the Volgu Cache, discovered in 1874 in central France. It dates to the Upper Palaeolithic, Middle Solutrean period, ca. 24,000-25,000 BP. This model was made from an epoxy cast of the original artefact.
The artefact in this model is the largest of the known bifaces from the Volgu Cache.
The biface is on display in the Musée Vivant Denon, Salon-sur-Saone, France.
The Volgu Cache was discovered in 1874 in Saône-et-Loire in central France near the confluence of the Loire and Arroux rivers. Workers discovered the cache while digging a canal. Twelve bifaces were reported to have been cached on edge and side-by-side, and buried about 1 metre deep. Several bifaces disappeared before authorities were summoned, and as many as 17 (perhaps more) may have been in the cache. Fifteen bifaces are known, with 13 in the Musée Vivant Denon, one in the Musée d’Archeologie Nationale, and one in the British Museum. Two artefacts in private collections may be from the Volga cache, but another sold in 1897 to the Musée Guimet d’Histoire Naturelle de Lyon proved to be a Mesoamerican biface. Another outstanding Solutrean laurel leaf biface, from the cave site of Grotte du Placard and not part of the Volgu Cache, is also curated at the Musée d’Archeologie Nationale.
The artefacts in the Volga Cache are referred to as ‘Type J’ bifaces. The bifaces range between 23-34 cm long, and are enlarged ‘prestige’ versions of smaller functional bifaces in the Solutrean toolkit that measure less than 15 cm long. The Volgu bifaces are exceptionally thin—they range from 6-12 mm thick—and are considered among the finest examples of biface thinning world-wide. Large Laurel Leaf bifaces are restricted to central France where suitably large and high-quality Turonian Flint was available for their manufacture.
Analysis of Type J biface reduction debris at the quarry site of Maîtreux, France, indicates that the bifaces were made on flat flint nodules using an ‘overshot’ technique in the early stages of manufacture. Overshot flaking involves striking bifacial thinning flakes that travel completely across the biface and remove part of the far edge. This is a rapid and efficient method for flattening and thinning a biface, and for correcting flintknapping errors such as hinge or step terminations. Overshot flaking was widely practiced in biface manufacture world-wide, including in North America Clovis technologies, Arabian Neolithic technologies, and Holocene point-making in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Later stages of reduction involved striking the biface thinning flakes to the centre or slightly beyond the centre of the biface.