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Breuil, Henri

Breuil, Henri

WORKS BY BREUIL

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Henri Édouard Prosper Breuil, French archeologist devoted to the study of prehistory, was born in 1877 in the very small town of Mortain (Manche) in Normandy. He began his scientific career by helping his father collect butterflies and other insects. In 1878 his father, who was a magistrate, was transferred to Clermont (Oise), north of Paris. There the young Breuil made the acquaintance of Geoffroy d’Ault du Mesnil, who was working on the “diluvial deposits” in the Somme valley; Breuil visited the valley with him and later published many papers on it.

In 1895 Breuil began his studies at the ecclesiastical seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. One of his teachers was Abbé Guibert, who was interested in problems of human origins. At the seminary Breuil met Jean Bouyssonie, who in 1908 was one of the discoverers of the classic Neanderthal man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints. In 1897, having been ordained as an abbé, Breuil went with Bouyssonie to visit known sites of pre-historic habitation in southwest France. There he met one of the famous prehistorians of the time, Édouard Piette, whose magnificent collections, rich in paleolithic works of art, decided Breuil’s vocation. Although his first publication, in 1898, was about anomalies among insects, in his subsequent work he touched upon almost every aspect of pre-history, in more than 800 publications. The main part of Breuil’s activity, however, was devoted to Lower and Upper Paleolithic culture and cave art.

He first taught prehistory at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, from 1905 until 1910, beginning as Privatdozent and later becoming extraordinary professor. He then became professor of prehistoric ethnography at the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in Paris. In 1927–1928 he lectured at the Sorbonne and from 1929 to 1947 was professor at the Collège de France. In 1938 he was elected to the Académie des Inscription et Belles Lettres. During World War II he taught at the University of Lisbon and at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He died in 1961 at L’isle-Adam (Seine-et-Oise) near Paris.

Only half in jest was Breuil called the “pope of prehistory.” His influence on the development of prehistory was tremendous, not only in France but in the whole world. In his time he saw almost every important discovery or collection pertaining to his science; he had a phenomenal memory and wrote very detailed accounts of the things he saw and the men he met. He was always ready to put his inexhaustible supply of information at the disposal of colleagues and students. And he was always willing to discuss the validity of his theories, if new or anomalous facts were brought to his attention. His judgment in the choice of collaborators was not always good.

Lower Paleolithic. Like all long scientific careers, Breuil’s had a good and a bad side. He was, for example, the first to point out the presence of worked-bone implements in the Lower Paleolithic at Choukoutien; he adopted and developed the theory of Hugo Obermaier that the Acheulean hand-ax cultures had not penetrated into central Europe, where greater emphasis was put on flake tools. This idea was certainly profitable, and today the view that the Clactonian flake technique evolved parallel to the Acheulean is generally accepted, although Breuil’s definition of Clactonian, based only on the method of flaking flint, has been corrected by Hazzledine Warren.

On the other hand, Breuil certainly misled pre-history for a long time with the theory of the so-called Levalloisian culture. On the lowest terrace of the Somme River valley, rolled Levallois flakes were found associated with cold-climate fauna, without the presence of hand axes. Victor Commont, before World War i, had correctly dated this terrace as a Würm glacial deposit. Overlying these gravels, most of them deposited by solifluction, are fluvial sands, containing smaller, less rolled Levallois flakes. In these sands was found a unique molar of Elephas antiquus, on which Breuil based all his chronology. The layers that contained Elephas antiquus were dated as the last interglacial, and the solifluction deposits under them as the penultimate glacial. And as the layers contained only Levallois flakes, without hand axes, a sequence was posed in which Levalloisian culture was placed as early as Riss glacial times, existing independently of the Acheulean.

It is a tribute to the influence of Breuil that this theory, founded on so flimsy a base, was accepted for so long a time. This “chronology” of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in the north of France was the basis for the dating given by English scientists to human remains at Swanscombe. Even after discoveries in Africa in which Levallois flakes were commonly found as an integral part of Acheulean culture, no prehistorians questioned Breuil’s scheme. Of course, as Raymond Vaufrey had immediately pointed out, the single Elephas antiquus probably derived from an older deposit. It is now commonly accepted that this lowest terrace of the Somme is of Wurm age, as Commont had said, and that no Levalloisian culture existed that was independent of hand-ax traditions.

Upper Paleolithic. In Upper Paleolithic studies, where knowledge of Pleistocene geology is somewhat less necessary, Breuil’s work will remain fundamental for a long time; the mistakes he made in his work in Lower Paleolithic derived mainly from his lack of geological training.

As early as 1906, Breuil took a leading part in what is called “the Aurignacian battle.” The Aurignacian culture, discovered in 1860 by E. Lartet at Aurignac in southwestern France, had been either forgotten or placed chronologically with the Magdalenian, after the Solutrean. This sequence was established on the basis of the absence of bone tools in the Mousterian, of few or no bone tools (known at that date) in the Solutrean, and of an abundance of bone tools in both the Aurignacian and the Magdalenian cultures. It was the merit of Breuil to show, by uncontrovertible stratigraphical evidence, that the Aurignacian culture invariably occurred earlier than the Solutrean. In 1912, at the International Congress of Anthropology and Pre-history in Geneva, Breuil presented an article entitled “Les subdivisions du paléolithique supérieure et leur signification,” in which he established a classification of this period that was to remain unmodified until 1933, when Denis Peyrony demonstrated the independence of the Aurignacian and the Perigordian. Breuil’s 1912 paper is one to which any archeologist dealing with this period must still refer very frequently. Very few scientific works have been as durable as this one.

Breuil wrote many articles dealing with the Upper Paleolithic, including site reports and more general studies. His knowledge of paleolithic flint typology was excellent, enabling him to discriminate at a glance among thousands of implements. Although the typological analysis of flint implements has changed greatly since Breuil, the typology of bone tools rests mainly on his work.

Cave art . To the general public, Breuil is best known for his work on cave art. As early as 1901 he published, in collaboration with Louis Capitan, a first note on the newly discovered cave of Combarelles, near Les Eyzies (1901a, 1901b). Even when he was no longer in good health, toward the end of his life, he remained willing to crawl into any cave where prehistoric drawings were said to exist. He was familiar with all known prehistoric art, in France and elsewhere. Altogether, the time he spent in caves copying engravings or paintings would surely amount to several years.

Breuil developed a theory of two “cycles” of prehistoric art, a theory that is no longer accepted. The style of the first cycle, corresponding to the Aurignacian–Perigordian period, was presumably characterized by the “twisted perspective”: the body of the animal is drawn as seen from the side, while the hoofs and the horns or antlers are seen from the front. In the second style, belonging to the Magdalenian cycle, the animal is seen in absolute profile. This theory led Breuil to assign the Lascaux cave art to the Aurignacian–Perigordian cycle of the Upper Paleolithic. However, all the implements found in the cave seem to belong to the Magdalenian culture, and radiocarbon datings also seem to preclude anything earlier.

Breuil also studied cave paintings in northern Spain, which were allied to the culture of southern France, and the paintings on the walls of the rock shelters in southern Spain. These latter he believed to belong to yet another paleolithic culture, a view that is not shared by Spanish specialists, who see in them the work of much more recent men. Again, Breuil’s theory that South African rock paintings were native representations of Mediterranean “foreigners” has aroused much recent controversy.

Although many of Breuil’s theories are under severe attack, without these theories our knowledge of prehistoric art would be a mere collection of unrelated facts. The magnificent drawings he did in so many caves under difficult conditions will, of course, maintain their great value, and his publications will be, for a long time to come, the standard works for anyone interested in cave art.

Besides his work in his three main areas of interest, Breuil published some articles on neolithic and metal-age sites. He wrote numerous critical reviews. Although he was not a geologist, he immediately understood the importance of the phenomena of solifluction. Among his miscellaneous publications, there was one on the ways to poison foxes, two on the anomalies of tree leaves, and a famous book of drawings depicting the everyday life of prehistoric hunters, Beyond the Bounds of History (1949). He was one of the last men to try to encompass all the different aspects of prehistory.

FranÇois Bordes

[See alsoArcheology; Hunting and gathering.]

WORKS BY BREUIL

1901a Breuil, Henri; and Capitan, Louis. Une nouvelle grotte avec parois gravées à Iz’époque paléolithique. Académie des Sciences, Compte rendu 133:478–480.

1901b Breuil, Henri; and Capitan, Louis. Reproduction de dessins paléolithiques gravés sur les parois de la grotte des Combarelles (Dordogne). Académie des Sciences, Compte rendu 133:1038–1043.

1906 Cartailhac, Émile; and Breuil, Henri. La caverne d’Altamira à Santillane, près Santander (Espagne). Monaco: Imprimerie de Monaco.

1907 La question aurignacienne: Étude critique de stratigraphie comparée. Revue préhistorique 2:173–219.

1910 Capitan, Louis; Breuil, Henri; and Peyrony, Denis. La caverne de Font de Gaume aux Eyzies (Dordogne). Monaco: Imprimerie Chêne.

1913 Les subdivisions du paléolithique supérieur et leur signification. Volume 1, pages 165–238 in International Congress of Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology, Fourteenth, Geneva, 1912, Proceedings. Geneva: Kundig.

1924 Breuil, Henri; Capitan, Louis; and Peyrony, Denis. Les Combarelles aux Eyzies (Dordogne). Paris: Masson.

1931 Le feu et I’industrie lithique et osseuse à Choukoutien. Geological Society of China, Bulletin 2:147–154.

1931–1934 Breuil, Henry; and Koslowski, L. Études de stratigraphie paléolithique dans le nord de la France, la Belgique et I’Angleterre. Anthropologie 41:449–488; 42:27–46, 291–314; 44:249–290.

1932 Les industries à éclats du paléolithique ancien: I. Le Clactonien. Préhistoire 1:125–190.

1934a De I’importance de la solifluxion dans I’etude des terrains quaternaires de la France et des pays voisins. Revue de géographie physique et de géologic dynamique 7:269–331.

1934b L’évolution de I’art pariétal dans les cavernes et abris ornés de France. Pages 102–118 in Congrès préhistorique de France, Compte rendu de la 11éme session. Paris: Bureaux de la Société Préhistorique de France.

1939 Le vrai niveau de I’industrie abbevillienne de la Porte du Bois (Abbeville). Anthropologie 49:13–34.

1948 The White Lady of Brandberg, South West Africa: Her Companions and Her Guards. South African Archaeological Bulletin 3:2–11.

1949 Beyond the Bounds of History: Scenes From the Old Stone Age. London: Gawthorn.

1952a Four Hundred Centuries of Cave Art. Paris: Sapho.

1952b Quatre cent siécles d’art pariétal: Les cavernes ornées de I’Age du Renne. Paris: Sapho.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Broderick, Alan H. 1963 Father of Prehistory; the Abbé Henri Breuil: His Life and Times. New York: Morrow; London: Hutchinson. → Published in London as The Abbé Breuil: Prehistorian,

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Breuil, Henri Édouard Prosper

Breuil, Henri Édouard Prosper

(b. Mortain, Manche, France, 28 February 1877; d. L’lsle–Adam, Seine–et–Oise, France, 14 August 1961)

prehistory.

Breuil, the son of farmers, entered the Séminaire St.–Sulpice, Paris, in 1897 and was ordained a priest in 1900. From and early age he displayed a great interest in natural history, particularly geology and human paleontology. He was lecturer in prehistory and ethnography at the University of Fribourg from 1905 to 1910; professor of prehistoric ethnography at the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, Paris, from 1910; and professor of prehistory at the Collège de France from 1929 to 1947. He was elected a member of the Institute de France in 1938, was a gold medalist of the American Academy of Science and of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and was awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal and the Prestwich Medal for Geology. He was a member of nineteen foreign societies and academies and received honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Lisbon, and Fribourg.

Breuil did original research on the Paleolithic period in Europe, China, and South Africa, and was for years the doyen of Paleolithic studies. His first contact with this field was through Émile Cartailhac, professor of prehistoric archaeology at Toulouse, and he was present at the field meetings in the Dordogne in 1901 when Les Combarelles and Font de Gaume were discovered. He was also at La Mouthe when the authenticity of Paleolithic cave art was accepted. He journeyed to Altamira with Cartailhac the following year. From then on, one of his main contributions to the development of archaeology was his painstaking recording and analysis of Paleolithic cave art. He was closely associated with the discovery of Tue d’Audoubert in 1912 and Les Trois–Frères in 1916, and was the first archaeologist to visit and describe Lascaux in 1940.

Breuil’s other main contribution to prehistoric archaeology was his reclassification of Paleolithic industries, which began with his classic paper “Les subdivisions du palèolithique supèrieur et leur signification,” given at the Geneva Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences in 1912. He was not so successful when he strayed away from his Paleolithic studies to write about the art of the megalith builders of France and Iberia, and toward the end of his life he became involved in controversies about the interpretation of paintings in South Africa and the authenticity of those found at Rouffignac, France, in 1956.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Breuil’s writings include La caverne d’Altamira, à Santillane près Santander, written with Émile Cartailhac (Monaco, 1906), La caverne de Font-de-Gaume aux Evzies (Dordogne), written with L. Capitan and D. Peyrony (Monaco, 1910); Les Combarelles aux Eyzies (Dordogne), written with L. Capitan and D. Peyrony (Paris, 1924); Rock Paintings of Southern Andalusia, written with M. C. Burkitt and Montagu Pollock (Oxford, 1929); Les peintures rupestres schématiques de la péninsule ibérique, 4 vols. (Paris, 1933–1935); Beyond the Bounds of History (London, 1949); Les hommes de la pierre ancienne, written with R. Lantier (Paris, 1951); Quatre cents siècles d’art pariétal; les cavernes ornées de l’âge du renne (Montignac, 1952); and The White Lady of Brandberg, written with Mary Boyle and E.r. Scherz (London, 1955).

II. Secondary Literature. Hommage à l’abbè Henri Breuil pour son quatre-vingtième anniversaire (Paris, 1957) includes a complete bibliography of Brefuil’s writings. See also mary Boyle et al.,“Recollections of the Abbè Breuil”, in Antiquity, 12 (1963); A.H. Brodrick, The Abbè Breuil, Prehistorian (London, 1963); and N. Skrotzky, L’Abbè Breuil (Paris, 1964).

Glyn Daniel

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Henri Edouard Prosper Breuil

Henri Edouard Prosper Breuil

The French archeologist Henri Édouard Prosper Breuil (1877-1961) was a pioneer in the field of prehistoric archeology. He is especially known for his analysis of prehistoric cave paintings.

Henri Breuil was born on Feb. 28, 1877, at Mortain, Manche Department. After completing his theological studies, he was ordained a priest in 1900. He became professor of science at the seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Breuil's interest in Paleolithic art began with his study of Bronze Age sites near his hometown and in the region of Paris. He was an excellent draftsman and spent much time copying the remains of Paleolithic art in caverns. He reproduced them in color and related the style and color of the paintings to established periods of Paleolithic cultures for which generally accurate dating was possible. By this careful synchronology he gradually developed an analytic power which enabled him to classify authoritatively the Paleolithic cave paintings of France and Spain.

The earliest and perhaps most famous classification and reproduction by Breuil concerned the Altamira cave paintings. They had been discovered in 1868 but had been decried either as forgeries or as very late Roman crudities. Breuil showed that they were genuine Paleolithic art on the basis of his previous studies of Paleolithic paintings at Font-de-Gaume and Les Combarelles. His copies of the Altamira paintings were published by the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in 1908. In his analysis of the Altamira paintings, he assigned the hands, silhouettes, and tectiforms to the Aurignacian period. He estimated that the monochromes in semirelief belonged to the lower Magdalenian; the polychromes seemed to him to come from the upper Magdalenian period.

Breuil was lecturer in prehistory and ethnography at the University of Fribourg (1905-1910), professor of prehistoric ethnography at the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine (1910-1929), and professor of prehistoric art at the collège de France (1929-1947). He was made a member of the Institut de France in 1938. After World War II he spent close to six years traveling in Rhodesia, South Africa, and South-West Africa, examining thousands of rock shelters and copying the art.

Authorities acknowledged Breuil's archaeological modification of various periods of the early Paleolithic era as substantial and accurate. He not only developed a copying technique and a synchronology for dating the cave paintings but also contributed in large part to the technical vocabulary of the branch of paleontology dealing with primitive art. He refrained from any interpretive treatment of the painting, never drawing unwarranted conclusions concerning the religious ideas or the social mentality of the primitive painters. He died on Aug. 14, 1961, at L'Isle-Adam, Seine-et-Oise Department.

Further Reading

The only biography of Breuil in English is Alan Houghton Broderick, Father of Prehistory (1963). See also André Leroi-Gourhan, Treasures of Prehistoric Art (1967). □

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Breuil, Henri

Henri Breuil (äNrē´ brö´yə), known as Abbé Breuil (äbā´), 1877–1961, French archaeologist, paleontologist, and cleric. He taught at the Institut de paléontologie humaine, Paris, after 1910. During much of his lifetime, Breuil was considered the foremost authority on Paleolithic cave art. He copied and published hundreds of examples of rock carvings and paintings from Europe and Africa and advanced the first well-informed interpretations of the significance of prehistoric art. His principal work is Four Hundred Centuries of Cave Art (tr. 1952).

See biography by A. H. Brodrick (1963).

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Altamira

Altamira World heritage site of notable Palaeolithic art (c.14,000–9500 bc), including cave paintings and engravings, near Santander, n Spain. The roof of the lateral chamber is covered with paintings of animals, particularly bison, boldly executed in black, red, and violet. There are also eight engraved anthropomorphic figures. They were accepted as genuine in 1902.

http://www.turcantabria.com/Datos/HistoriaArte/Cuevas/Cuevas%20Altamira/altamira-i.htm

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Altamira

Altamira the site of a cave with Palaeolithic rock paintings, south of Santander in northern Spain, discovered in 1879. The paintings are realistic depictions of deer, wild boar, and especially bison; they are dated to the Upper Magdalenian period.

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Altamira

Altamira: see Paleolithic art.

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Altamira

AltamiraAltamira, chimera, clearer, Elvira, era, hearer, Hera, hetaera, interferer, lempira, lira, lire, Madeira, Megaera, monstera, rangatira, rearer, scorzonera, sera, shearer, smearer, sneerer, steerer, Thera, Utsire, Vera •acquirer, admirer, enquirer, firer, hirer, inquirer, requirer, wirer •devourer, flowerer, scourer •Angostura, Bonaventura, bravura, Bujumbura, caesura, camera obscura, coloratura, curer, Dürer, durra, Estremadura, figura, fioritura, Führer, insurer, Jura, juror, Madura, nomenklatura, procurer, sura, surah, tamboura, tempura, tourer •labourer (US laborer) • Canberra •Attenborough •Barbara, Scarborough •Marlborough • Farnborough •Deborah • rememberer •Gainsborough • Edinburgh •Aldeburgh • blubberer •Loughborough •lumberer, slumberer •Peterborough •Berbera, gerbera •manufacturer • capturer • lecturer •posturer • torturer • nurturer •philanderer • gerrymanderer •slanderer •renderer, tenderer •dodderer •squanderer, wanderer •borderer • launderer • flounderer •embroiderer • Kundera •blunderer, plunderer, thunderer, wonderer •murderer • amphora • pilferer •offerer • sufferer •staggerer, swaggerer •sniggerer •lingerer, malingerer •treasurer • usurer • injurer • conjuror •perjurer • lacquerer •Ankara, hankerer •bickerer, dickerer •tinkerer • conqueror • heuchera •cellarer • cholera •camera, stammerer •armourer (US armorer) •ephemera, remora •kumara • woomera • murmurer •Tanagra • genera • gunnera •Tampere, tamperer •Diaspora •emperor, Klemperer, tempera, temperer •caperer, paperer •whimperer • whisperer • opera •corpora • tessera • viscera • sorcerer •adventurer, venturer •batterer, chatterer, flatterer, natterer, scatterer, shatterer •banterer •barterer, charterer •plasterer • shelterer • pesterer •et cetera • caterer •titterer, twitterer •potterer, totterer •fosterer •slaughterer, waterer •falterer, palterer •saunterer • poulterer •bolsterer, upholsterer •loiterer • roisterer • fruiterer •flutterer, mutterer, splutterer, stutterer, utterer •adulterer • musterer • plethora •gatherer • ditherer • furtherer •favourer (US favorer), waverer •deliverer, shiverer •hoverer •manoeuvrer (US maneuverer) •discoverer, recoverer

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