Full Name: Boucher de Perthes, Jacques
- Jacques Boucher De Crèvecoeur de Perthes
Date Born: 1788
Date Died: 1868
Place Born: Rethel, Grand Est, France
Place Died: Abbeville, Hauts-de-France, France
Home Country/ies: France
Subject Area(s): ancient, Antique, the, Christianity, pre-Christian, and prehistoric
Historian of pre-Christian art; developed the idea that prehistoric objects could be measured by periods of geologic time in which they were imbedded. Boucher de Perthes was appointed the director of the customhouse at Abbeville in 1825. Like many educated people in the nineteenth century, his hobby was archaeology. He spent his spare time digging in the nearby Somme valley. By 1837, his discoveries included flint hand axes and other tools lodged in the bones of mammals known to be extinct. Boucher de Perthes concluded that the geographic stratum where the artifacts were deposited was the Pleistocene Epoch (or Ice Age, an era more than 10,000 years ago). Boucher de Perthes assumed initially that the tools could be no earlier than the Biblical age of Flood or 4004 B.C. However, the gravel sediment in which the objects had been found indicated that objects had to have been much older. He concluded that the implements were the work of an “Antediluvian Man.” In 1838 he presented these conclusions to the scientific society of Abbeville, who rejected them as inconsistent with religious doctrine. His monograph on primitive toolmaking Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes, beginning in1847 was likewise ignored. Others, particularly Marcel Jerôme Rigollot in nearly St. Acheul in 1853, discovered similar prehistoric implements. When Charles Darwin published his Origin of the Species in 1859 Boucher de Perthes’ theories were finally vindicated. Other British scientists, including Charles Lyell, examined Boucher de Perthes’ excavated sites to confirm his hypothesis.
Antiquités celtiques et antédiluviennes : mémoire sur l’industrie primitive et les arts à leur origine. 3 vols. Paris: Treuttel et Wurtz, Derache, Dumoulin, V. Didron, 1847-64.
Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 491; “Jacques Boucher de Perthes.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004.
- Jacques Boucher de Perthes [collated], Institut national d’histoire de l’art. https://www.inha.fr/fr/ressources/publications/publications-numeriques/dictionnaire-critique-des-historiens-de-l-art/both-de-tauzia-pierre-paul-vicomte.html.
Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen