Grotte La Faucille, Sclayn, Belgium
‘Grotte de la Faucille’ is a cave located in the valley of the Fond des Vaux, in Sclayn (municipality of Andenne, Prov. of Namur, BE). The site was discovered May 11, 1999, and dated to the early 3rd-millennium cal BC, corresponding to the transition from the late to the final Neolithic. The first three systematic excavation seasons (in 1999, 2016, and 2017) at the cave produced skeletal and dental remains of at least 12 individuals and a number of bone and lithic artefacts. The excavation season in 2021 yielded more skeletal and dental human remains and archaeological artefacts which are currently examined and results will be published in the near future.
The excavation and analyses of the Neolithic Neolithic ossuary of Grotte de La Faucille have the potential to significantly expand our understanding of the mortuary behaviours, or variation in behaviours, of the Belgian Neolithic and contribute further to the lively debate on the spread of the Neolithic.
Discovery and initial assessment 1999
The cave, ‘Grotte de la Faucille’ was discovered May 11, 1999. In August 1999 an initial assessment of surface deposits led to the discovery of fragmented human and animal bones as well as some archaeological evidence attributable to the FinalNeolithic. Radiocarbon dating of a human bone confirmed this, with a result of 4266 ± 40 14C BP (OxA-10584; 2 sigma: 3011-2702 cal BC; Toussaint, 2002).
Excavation Campaigns 2015, 2016 & 2017
The first three systematic excavation seasons at Grotte de La Faucille produced skeletal and dental remains of multiple individuals and a number of bone and lithic artefacts. The excavated material is clearly reworked and the individuals are mostly spread on the slope outside the site. At the end of the 2017 season, complete adult long bones were visible at the entrance of the site and were further excavated in April 2021.
Excavation campaign 2021
At the end of the 2017 season, complete adult long bones were visible at the entrance of the site and the continuation of the excavation in 2021 aimed to identify if these human remains, contained in a denser sedimentological unit are in situ or not. The excavation season in April 2021 yielded more skeletal and dental human remains and archaeological artefacts which are currently being examined. The reports on the excavation of the 2021 campaign will be published in the near future.
The campaigns in 1999 & 2015-2017 have yielded relatively few artefacts. There are several flint fragments with sickle gloss, a tanged point consistent with those found in Late Neolithic/early Final Neolithic industries, and a further four flint flakes, without any intentional retouches.
Two small pottery fragments were recovered in 2016. Three organic artefacts were found: a well-preserved bone awl, a pierced carnivore tooth and a bone artefact of unknown function.
The excavations in 1999, 2015, 2016 and 2017 yielded human skeletal and dental remains, from six adults and six children. The skeletal remains are fragmentary, commingled, and some elements of the skeleton are underrepresented in the finds. With a minimum number of individuals of 12, Grotte de la Faucille is one of the largest Neolithic ossuaries recently excavated in Belgium.
Prof. Dr. Joel Irish
Liverpool John Moores University
Prof. Isabelle De Groote
Dr. Hans Vandendriessche
IJk van Hattum
Prof. Philippe Crombé
Elliot Van Maldegem
Dr. Stéphane Pirson
Agence Wallonne du Patrimoine
Dr. Kévin Di Modica
Dr. Dominique Bonjean