Gabriel de Mortillet


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(1821–98) [Bi]

French prehistorian best known for his work on the classification of Palaeolithic material. A pupil of Edouard Lartet (1801–73), he took the criteria of classification used in palaeontology and applied them to archaeological materials, especially tool types. He extended the geological system of periods and epochs into the recent past, characterizing each by a series of archaeological ‘type‐fossils’ and naming them after a ‘type‐site’. In 1864 he founded one of the earliest archaeological journals, entitled Matériaux pour l'histoire positive et philosophique de l'homme. By 1869 his scheme for European prehistory was fairly well elaborated and included the Thenasian (for the now obsolete Eolithic), Chellean, Mousterian, Solutrean, Aurignacian, Magdalenian, and Robenhausian. Many of these remain in use as cultural‐historical labels for bodies of material, but, whereas de Mortillet saw each as a block of time, they are now seen as geographically as well as chronologically defined entities.


G. Junghans, 1987, G. de Mortillet (1821–1898): eine Biographie: Materiellen zur Darstellung seiner Ideen und Beitrage zur Erforschung von Ursprung und Geschichte des Menschen. Bonn: Habelt

Subjects: Archaeology.

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