La Balme de Thuy
Prehistoric Rock Shelter

Located in a glacial valley in central Haute Savoie, the site known as la Balme (cave) de Thuy has sheltered humans for millenia, starting about ten thousand years b.p. (before present). The cave is really only a nook beneath an overhanging cliff, and offers little shelter from the elements. Digs conducted in recent years have yielded countless fragments of bone, charcoal, wood and other organic materials that have permitted accurate dating of the site by carbon-dating.

The site, which is located between Lake Annecy and Thônes at the foot of the Glières plateau, has been thoroughly studied, and the artefacts found have been carbon-dated.

The oldest artifacts (bone fragments) have been dated to the Azilien period, approximately 9820 B.P. (+/- 200); the most recent date back to the Bronze Age, 2700 B.P. (+/- 60). It appears that the site was almost constantly inhabited, except during the great glaciations (7000 B.P.), when the valley was buried under a thousand feet of ice, and no humans lived in the area.

There are a number of stone-age and Bronze Age sites in the region; polished stone tools from Neolithic times are occasionally found by gardeners and hikers. Such polished stones were believed, in centuries past, to have been formed by lightning striking the ground. Were one to place such a stone (pierre à foudre) under the doorway of a house at the time of its construction, the house would thereafter be safe from lightning, since, according to popular wisdom, lightning never strikes twice in the same place. . .

Page and images ©1996, 1999 by Robert F. Jeantet
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