The name ‘Azilian’ is firmly linked to that of Edward Piette, the principal excavator of the site on the left bank of the river Arize in the tunnel-cave of the Mas d'Azil (Ariège), in the French Pyrenees (see Bahn 1979). From 1887 onward this site yielded hundreds of painted and engraved pebbles (Piette 1896, 1903). Their decoration shows little variation, and consists largely of groups of dots and transverse marks; however, there are more complex signs such as longitudinal marks, lines of chevrons, grecques, crosses, perpendicular marks and ovals, while some pebble-faces are completely painted over. These little stones constitute almost the only evidence of artistic activity at the very end of the Upper Palaeolithic, and they span a period from c. 9000 to c. 7500 BC.
Twenty-eight sites in France, five in Spain, three in Italy and one in Switzerland have yielded a total of 1951 worked pebbles, but the Mas d'Azil accounts for no less than about 1427 of these. The figure is approximate because it is very difficult to reach an exact total: there have been losses, and infiltrations of fakes, and the ensemble is scattered in at least 16 museums and private collections.