Paris 3000 years older than she looks

It must be all the smoking. Either that or the convenience of its riverbank location.

An area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone. The site, between the Paris ring road and the city’s helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river. Once the dig is complete, the site will be occupied by a plant for sorting and recycling the refuse generated by the two million Parisians of the 21st century.

“You could say that we’ve come full circle,” said Bénédicte Souffi, one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site. “Our ancestors were sorting rubbish from usable objects here in 7600BC. We are going to be doing much the same thing on a more elaborate scale. Maybe, there is a lesson there.”

No doubt. Someone should make a black and white movie about it characterized by a syncopated these-antithese of staccato emotional outbursts and existential ennui.

My sudden affinity for stale old French stereotypes aside, not only is this find cool because it tells us people have been puttering about Paris for 3000 years longer than we realized, but also because it’s the result of a government program of “preventive archaeology”, where building sites are investigated thoroughly by archaeologists before the builders start.

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