Menez-Dregan I is a Lower Palaeolithic site situated at Plouhinec, Finistère, in Brittany. The site is located in the Audierne bay, at the westernmost tip of Brittany, and has been undergoing excavation since 1991. It is an ancient marine cave whose roof has gradually collapsed and thus partly protected the site from erosion. In the current state of research, the stratigraphy within Menez-Dregan displays an alternating sequence of pre-Neanderthal occupation layers and marine deposits, likely between 500 and 300 000 years.

The fauna has not been preserved due to the acidic environment, leaving only the lithic industry show the living style of the human groups who settled at this place and mastered fire lighting/control very early (465 000 years ago) using it regularly on the site.

The lithic assemblage found on the site has been attributed to the Colombanian techno-typological facies by J.‑L. Monnier. This Lower Palaeolithic facies is contemporary with the Acheulian but differs from it as the heavy-duty tools are mostly cobble tools (choppers). The raw materials are directly collected from the site itself or from the surrounding pebble beaches; right from this stage of collection, two different operating chains are clearly distinct. The flint pebbles/cobbles are especially used for the “Clactonian-dominant” method of flake production (wide striking platforms seldom facetted, prominent bulbs and open angled ventral faces), sometimes on anvil and never Levallois. The small tool kit mainly includes denticulates and notches with a few scrapers. The heavy-duty tools mostly comprised of various types of choppers are shaped on larger cobbles of sandstone or microgranite, selected for their rather flat, often elongated shape and for their homogenous nature.

The paleoenvironmental data indicates that during the prehistoric occupation of the site of Menez-Dregan the sea level was much lower than at present and the shoreline was probably between 5 and 10 km further from the site. Therefore, the deposit would have stood on top of a high promontory and opened out into a vast landscape, providing strategic shelter for pre-Neanderethal populations who had a clear view of the plain below, and who could scavenge or hunt big herbivores.

The numerous marine transgressions and regressions exposed rich landscapes that are crucial to understand the palaeolithic occupation of Northwestern Europe. A lot of islands would have been joined to the continent, such as the isle of Groix in Morbihan for example, where the same type of Lower Palaeolithic lithic assemblage can be found, or the Western English Channel during Middle Palaeolithic, where a lithic assemblage comparable with some sites of the northern coast of Brittany can be found at La Cotte de Saint Brélade, in Jersey. 



Menez Dregan location 


The site


Structured hearth in layer 5c 



Retouched light-duty tools and core from layer 5 



Heavy-duty tools from layer 4