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Hutson J.M.,Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution
Quaternary International | Year: 2016

Open-air and interior sites are not prominently featured among models of Middle Stone Age (MSA) subsistence behavior in southern Africa. Thus, the current view of MSA subsistence reflects adaptations interpreted predominantly from coastal rockshelter locations. An attempt to address this gap is presented here with the analysis of the faunal assemblages from Bundu Farm and Pniel 6, two early MSA open-air sites located well within the interior of southern Africa in the Northern Cape, South Africa. Zooarchaeological and taphonomic signatures of the Bundu Farm assemblage suggest some primary access to animal carcasses, while the same measures imply secondary scavenging by early MSA hominins at Pniel 6. A number of other open-air interior sites include similarly ambiguous evidence for the role of hunting and/or scavenging in hominin subsistence during the MSA. Due to the lack of archaeological surveys directed at finding open-air sites and several taphonomic factors that disproportionately obscure indications of hominin behavior in open-air settings, the archaeological records between open-air interior sites and coastal rockshelter sites are fundamentally incomparable. From an ecological perspective, MSA subsistence was a product of behavioral adaptations to environmental factors and resource availability, the influences of which were likely different between interior and coastal ecosystems. Much like historical hunter-gathers of the region, MSA hominins inhabiting the more marginal environments within the southern African interior may have relied more heavily on gathered plant foods rather than hunting for subsistence. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.

Ruebens K.,Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution | Wragg Sykes R.M.,University of Bordeaux 1
Quaternary International | Year: 2015

Recent broad-scale comparative studies of Neanderthal lithic assemblages have contrasted previous views of the Middle Palaeolithic as a period of stasis. Throughout the Middle Palaeolithic, ca. 300,000-35,000 years ago, typo-technological changes can be observed in the Neanderthal behavioural repertoire, including trends that are restricted in time and/or space. Such spatio-temporal diversity seems especially apparent in the late Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 5e-3; ca. 125-35ka BP) and is widely, though not exclusively, expressed through differing bifacial tool types. An often-quoted example is the restricted distribution of bout coupé or flat-butted cordate handaxes in MIS-3 Britain. This paper provides a broader contextualisation of this bout coupé phenomenon; first, in relation to the general reoccurrence of handaxes in late Middle Palaeolithic Western Europe, including comparisons with the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA); and second, as a case study to explore behavioural implications of such spatio-temporal variation. Different explanatory factors for the observed patterns are investigated together with potential links to Neanderthal population dynamics. It is concluded that bout coupés represent a genuinely distinct biface form, which was sometimes maintained through the stages of use, and is most parsimoniously explained by regionalised socio-cultural behaviour, implying specific lines of cultural transmission among late Neanderthal groups. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.

Ruebens K.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Ruebens K.,Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution
Quaternary International | Year: 2014

Despite a rich archaeological record, northwest Europe (Belgium, the Netherlands, western, northern and eastern France) is often not included in detailed debates on Middle Palaeolithic lithic variability. This is, in part, related to a lack of contextual information for some assemblages, but also to a scarcity of widely accessible publications, especially in relation to early 20th century excavations. However, it is clear that across Europe, including in this northwest region, the late Middle Palaeolithic (here MIS 5d-3, ~115-35ka) is characterised by an increase in the use of bifacial technologies, and this paper provides a wider, integrative perspective on late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tool variability in northwest Europe.Primary data from seven key assemblages (Oosthoven, Grotte du Docteur, Sint-Geertruid, Saint-Just en Chaussée, Saint-Julien de la Liègue, Bois-du-Rocher and Champlost) is integrated with published data from an additional 45 assemblages, allowing for an extensive assessment of the characteristics of these biface-rich assemblages. Results suggest a large amount of typo-technological variability, as expressed through the varying nature of several technological attributes (raw material, blank type, cortex remnant, cross section and edge angles), as well as through the presence of different bifacial tool concepts and bifacial tool types.The limited chronostratigraphic information available suggests the presence of bifacial tools in northwest Europe throughout the warm phases of both MIS 5 and MIS 3. Furthermore, a detailed regional overview identifies common ground within many of these northwest European late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages. Rather than a series of region-specific entities, this research proposes that a larger-scale distinction can be made between assemblages dominated by classic handaxes, and assemblages characterised by the generalised application of bifacial retouch. The latter contain a wider variety of bifacial tools and it is, therefore, suggested to group these assemblages under the overarching label of 'Mousterian with Bifacial Tools' (MBT). Detailed studies of new, well-contextualised assemblages are needed to fully unravel the causal factors and behavioural intricacies underlying this bifacial tool variability and the MBT entity. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.

Smith G.M.,Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

The recurrent presence at Middle Palaeolithic sites of megafaunal remains, such as mammoth, elephant and rhinoceros, together with isotope analyses signalling meat as a prominent protein source, have been used to argue that these species played a central role in Neanderthal diet. Key to this model are the bone heap horizons from La Cotte de St Brelade (Jersey), which were previously interpreted as game drive debris resulting from systematic Neanderthal hunting. However, this hypothesis has never been rigorously tested, neither at a site-scale, incorporating taphonomic and contextual data, nor at a wider European scale. First, this paper provides a contextual reassessment of the faunal remains from La Cotte to fully understand Neanderthal behaviour at the site. Second, a comparative database of 30 well-published Middle Palaeolithic sites with megafauna permits a data-driven, broader spatial (European) and diachronic assessment of the role of megafauna in Neanderthal subsistence behaviour. Results suggest initial Neanderthal occupation at La Cotte was intensive although through time site visits became more infrequent, as highlighted by a reduction in cultural debris concurrent with a rise in carnivore presence. While mammoths, just as other large mammals and occasionally carnivores, were clearly butchered at this locality, their acquisition and role in Neanderthal diet remains ambiguous. Broader comparisons across Western Europe indicate a main focus on a range of large herbivores, with only a minor, opportunistic, role for megafauna. Whilst stable isotope analysis suggests that Neanderthal diet was meat-oriented, zooarchaeological data do not support the inference that megafauna were the major contributor of meat. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Moreau L.,Archaeological Research Center and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution | Odar B.,Regentova 2 | Higham T.,University of Oxford | Pirkmajer D.,Pokrajinskij muzej Celje | Turk P.,Narodni Muzej Slovenije
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

The Palaeolithic of southern Central Europe has a long history of archaeological research. Particularly, the presence of numerous osseous projectile points in many early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) assemblages in this region has attracted the attention of the international research community. However, the scarcity of properly identified and well-dated Aurignacian contexts represents an obstacle for investigation of the nature and timing of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition. In this context, the question of whether Neandertals made Aurignacian osseous projectile points, either on their own or as a consequence of cultural interaction with anatomically modern humans (AMH), still remains an open issue. Here we reassess the EUP record of Slovenia by evaluating the Aurignacian character of the assemblages from Potočka zijalka, Mokriška jama and Divje babe I in the light of their suggested roots in the local Mousterian. We provide a comprehensive description of the lithic industry from Potočka zijalka, which represents one of the rare EUP assemblages of southern Central Europe with a representative number of lithic artefacts to be analysed from the perspective of lithic technology and raw material economy. Our re-analysis of the Slovenian assemblages is backed by a series of 11 new ultrafiltered collagen 14C dates obtained directly on associated osseous projectile points from the studied assemblages. The Aurignacian of Potočka zijalka underlines the remarkable consistency of the Early Aurignacian with low typo-technological variability across Europe, resulting from a marked dependence on transported toolkits and raw material conservation. The new radiocarbon determinations for the Aurignacian of Slovenia appear to post-date the 34-32ka BP (thousands of years before present) threshold for the last Neandertals in the region. Although not falsified, the hypothesis of Aurignacian bone tools in southern Central Europe as a product of late Neandertals is not supported by our re-examination of the EUP record of Slovenia. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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