Trou de l’Abîme

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Trou de l’Abîme cave
La caverne de l'Abîme
Belgium relief location map.jpg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Location in Belgium
Alternative nameCouvin Cave
Locationnear Couvin, Province of Namur
Region Wallonia, Belgium
Coordinates 50°3′1″N4°29′51″E / 50.05028°N 4.49750°E / 50.05028; 4.49750 Coordinates: 50°3′1″N4°29′51″E / 50.05028°N 4.49750°E / 50.05028; 4.49750
Material limestone
Periods Palaeolithic
Associated withNeanderthals

Trou de l’Abîme also known as La caverne de l'Abîme and Couvin Cave is a karst cave located on the right bank of the Eau Noire river in the center of Couvin, Belgium, in Namur province. During various archaeological excavations of sediment deposits Mousterian artefacts and a Neanderthal molar were discovered. [1]

Karst Topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks

Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions. Subterranean drainage may limit surface water, with few to no rivers or lakes. However, in regions where the dissolved bedrock is covered or confined by one or more superimposed non-soluble rock strata, distinctive karst features may occur only at subsurface levels and be totally missing above ground.

Couvin Municipality in French Community, Belgium

Couvin is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Namur.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.



The site consists of a large two level cave with the entrance on the upper level of the western face of an Eifelian limestone cliff and a large terrace which forms a rock shelter of 50 m (160 ft) width and 5 m (16 ft) depth.

The Eifelian is one of two faunal stages in the Middle Devonian epoch. It lasted from 397.5 ± 2.7 million years ago to 391.8 ± 2.7 million years ago. It was preceded by the Emsian stage and followed by the Givetian stage.


Excavations of the cave entrance were first conducted in 1887 and 1902 but the evidence recovered from these is lost. There is lithic and paleontological material from a 1905 excavation but as these were found in reworked sediments from the earlier excavations the context has been lost. [2] [3]

In a series of excavations between 1984 and 1985 Palaeolithic stone artifacts and Pleistocene faunal remains were uncovered. Most of the lithic material is flint which had to be transported to the site from a mine at least 30 km (19 mi) away. [4] Associated with the material was a partial human molar. [3] At the time it was found scientists were unable to determine whether it was Homo sapiens or Neanderthal. A 2009 study was able to identify it as belonging to a Neanderthal child. The soil of the layer where the tooth was found has been estimated to be between 42,000 and 40,000 years old which the authors state "is consistent with both a recently obtained accelerator mass spectrometry dating result at 44,500 BP and the published conventional date." The AMS date is that of a horse tooth found in the same layer. [5]

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

<i>Homo sapiens</i> Species of mammal

In taxonomy, Homo sapiens is the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus.

Neanderthal Extinct species of the genus Homo

Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans in the genus Homo, who lived within Eurasia from circa 400,000 until 40,000 years ago.

The 1905 artifacts have been associated with a variety of prehistoric cultures, such as Solutrean, Mousterian, Proto-Solutrean and a transitional culture in between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. As of 2016 the assemblage from both the 1905 excavation and the 1980s excavations is considered to be Mousterian. [4] [5]

Solutrean archaeological culture

The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic of the Final Gravettian, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal.

Mousterian European Middle Paleolithic culture

The Mousterian is a techno-complex of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia, as well as with the Neanderthals in Europe. The Mousterian largely defines the latter part of the Middle Paleolithic, the middle of the West Eurasian Old Stone Age. It lasted roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP. If its predecessor, known as Levallois or "Levallois-Mousterian" is included, the range is extended to as early as c. 300,000–200,000 BP.

Upper Paleolithic Subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age

The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, according to some theories coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of agriculture.

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  1. "Neandertal Studies in Belgium: 2000–2005". PERIODICUM BIOLOGORUM. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  2. "The Human Condition - Robert G. Bednarik - Google Books". Google Books. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  3. 1 2 Stéphane Pirson, Damien Flas, Grégory Abrams, Dominique Bonjean, Mona Court-Picon, Kévin Di Modica, Christelle Draily, Freddy Damblon, Paul Haesaerts, Rebecca Miller, Hélène Rougier, Michel Toussaint, Patrick Semal, "Chronostratigraphic context of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition: Recent data from Belgium", Quaternary International 259:78-94 · May 2012, pp.78-94
  4. 1 2 Camille Daujeard, Grégory Abrams, Mietje Germonpré, Jeanne-Marie Le Pape, Alicia Wampach, Kevin Di Modica, Marie-Hélène Moncel "Neanderthal and animal karstic occupations from southern Belgium and south-eastern France: Regional or common features?", Quaternary International Available online 27 May 2016, doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.02.009.
  5. 1 2 Toussaint M, Olejniczak AJ, El Zaatari S, Cattelain P, Flas D, Letourneux C, Pirson S., "The Neandertal lower right deciduous second molar from Trou de l'Abîme at Couvin, Belgium", Journal of Human Evolution, 2010 Jan;58(1):56-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.09.006. [ dead link ]

Further reading