The site called Alle, Noir Bois is located in the Ajoie region (Canton of Jura, Switzerland), a few kilometers to the North of the Jura mountain range. Systematic test trenching, inspired by the proposed construction of the A16 motorway and the connected relocation of the regional railroad track, led to the site's discovery in 1990. The excavation, which continued without interruption from the spring of 1991 to the summer of 1993, was organized by the Section d'Archeologie de l'Office du patrimoine historique.

A total area of 24'600 m2 was excavated in one piece; bell beaker remains have been reported from some 8000 m2. Mousterian, magdalenian, late Iron Age, roman and early medieval assemblages were also discovered; they will be the subject of future monographs.

The bell beaker occupation, apparently the remains of a settlement, was the object of a pluridisciplinary approach, concentrated mostly on the artefacts. The beaker age deposits have been considerably disturbed, rendering the description of house plans impossible, although a few features have survived. Attempts to reconstruct the natural environment are limited to the results from the sedimentological analysis, the acidic nature of the soil not having permitted the conservation of pollen, plant remains or microfauna.

A small portion of the bell beaker occupation, called surface A, was somewhat better preserved. Here, two contiguous dumps, consisting of considerable quantities of potsherds and flints, could be identified. The beaker horizon was marked by pedological phenomena and formed part of a locally stratified sequence of brown holocene silts, deposited by colluviation. Surface A was particularly well preserved due to its topographical situation within a slight depression, which prevented erosion and limited disturbance by later occupations. The discovery of artefacts related to cereal production, in particular flint tools with sickle gloss, as well as of cattle remains, underlines the agricultural character of the beaker settlement.

A considerable number of pottery vessels could be reconstructed. While individuals with comb impressed decorations are present, the majority is made up of a variety of common forms, most often with sinuous profiles and flat bases. The lithic industry consists of a number of flint tool types, with splintered pieces, arrowheads, scrapers and denticulates with fine bifacial retouch forming the dominant classes. The latter two types are often associated with use wear.

For the most part, local raw material sources were used in the production of pottery and stone tools. Some exotic flint nodules seem to have been carried onto the site and worked into tools. A small number of pottery vessels, predominantly among the decorated examples, seem also to be of foreign origin. The clay from which they are made can be localised within a sub- regional context, from areas principally to the North and East of Alle, whence the imported flint material also derives.

The technological analysis has shown that both the decorated and the common pottery was produced in the same manner. This also seems to be true of the imported vessels, although some differences in temper composition were evident. Flint tool manufacture seems to have been opportunistic in character; although technical mastery was considerable, blank standardisation was apparently unimportant.

Pottery typology as well as two radiocarbon dates permit us to situate the assemblage chronologically and culturally. The dates place the settlement at Alle, Noir Bois, between 2430 and 2140 cal.-BC. Both in France and in Switzerland known beaker settlements in which decorated pottery is associated with plain ware and flint tools date from this period. The Alle pottery can be placed within a late phase of the bell beaker culture, marked by a regionalization of ornamental motifs; it seems to fit well into already existing typological schemes of beaker development. The decorated pottery in particular can be assigned to a known regional group, localised in an area covering the department of Haut-Rhin in France and the southern Rhine valley in Germany. This regional group has clear typological affinities with the beaker assemblages of Eastern Europe. The plain pottery is similar to that found over an area exceeding that covered by this regional group, as has already been observed by other investigators.

The pottery discovered at Alle is typologically distinct from that associated with other regional late neolithic groups, although these are but little older. The same situation has been observed in several regions of France. This would seem to support the hypothesis that the bell beaker group, dating to the second half of the third millennium BC, represents a distinct archaeological culture.

Translation: Robert Fellner