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Lartet, Edouard

LARTET, EDOUARD (1801-1871), French archaeologist, was born in 1801 near Castelnau-Barbarens, department of Gers, France, where his family had lived for more than five hundred years. He was educated for the law at Auch and Toulouse, but having private means elected to devote himself to science. The then recent work of Cuvier on fossil mammalia encouraged Lartet in excavations which led in 1834 to his first discovery of fossil remains in the neighbourhood of Auch. Thenceforward he devoted his whole time to a systematic examination of the French caves, his first publication on the subject being The Antiquity of Man in Western Europe (1860), followed in 1861 by New Researches on the Coexistence of Man and of the Great Fossil Mammifers characteristic of the Last Geological Period. In this paper he made public the results of his discoveries in the cave of Aurignac, where evidence existed of the contemporaneous existence of man and extinct mammals. In his work in the Perigord district Lartet had the aid of Henry Christy (q.v.). The first account of their joint researches appeared in a paper descriptive of the Dordogne caves and contents, published in Revue archeologique (1864). The important discoveries in the Madeleine cave and elsewhere were published by Lartet and Christy under the title Reliquiae Aquitanicae, the first part appearing in 1865. Christy died before the completion of the work, but Lartet continued it until his breakdown in health in 1870. The most modest and one of the most illustrious of the founders of modern palaeontology, Lartet's work had previously been publicly recognized by his nomination as an officer of the Legion of Honour; and in 1848 he had had the offer of a political post. In 1857 he had been elected a foreign member of the Geological Society of London, and a few weeks before his death he had been made professor of palaeontology at the museum of the Jardin des Plantes. He died at Seissan in January 1871.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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