Material Culture

Side scraper Unifacial point Levallois point

Side scraper Unifacial point Levallois point

Bifacial point

Figure 8.5 ► Typical Mousterian (Mode III) stone artifacts. From Schick and Toth (1993), p. 290.

Bifacial point

Figure 8.5 ► Typical Mousterian (Mode III) stone artifacts. From Schick and Toth (1993), p. 290.

It must be stressed, however, that the Mousterian technology is not associated only with Neanderthals; some of the earliest representatives of H. sapiens have also been found with a Mousterian assemblage, such as Jebel Qafzeh in Israel, while conversely some Neanderthals are found with more advanced toolkits quite like those usually associated with modern H. sapiens (Cro-Magnon), such as a Chatelperronian toolkit associated with the St. Cesaire Neanderthal in France (see Bar-Yosef, 2000; Mellars, 2000; Pilbeam & Bar-Yosef, 2000).

The Mousterian complex is basically a stone core technology, though it was so carefully fashioned that a number of single blows would detach a ready-made series of finished tools to a predefined pattern in a diversity of forms, including various blade techniques. Unlike their predecessors, the Neanderthals fashioned separate tools for specific purposes, as opposed to multipurpose tools. These tools were retouched to provide a continuous cutting edge around the edges of the artifact. The most commonly recognized lithic artifact is the small, triangular Levallois point, which may have been hafted to a spear (see Tattersall & Schwartz, 2000). Evidence of this has been found in spears and spear shafts, whose ends appear to have originally held some form of stone spearhead point, and, as discussed earlier, spears with a fire-hardened point have also been excavated, associated with mammoths. It has been demonstrated that at least six clearly separate stages, all requiring considerable planning abilities from the initial stages of the flaking sequences, are required to produce this technology, suggestive of considerable planning abilities (see Mellars, 1996).

Depending on the availability of raw materials, tools were often resharp-ened and reused, resulting in numerous forms and sizes as part of this process (Marks & Volkman, 1983; Stringer & Gamble, 1993). Studies of the cutting edges of Mousterian tools (associated with polished edges) have shown that some form of woodworking was being done, possibly mostly the fashioning of spear shafts (Tattersall & Schwartz, 2000). There is little evidence, however, for the use of nonlithic tools within their toolkit, for there is little or no strong evidence for tools made of bone that can be directly attributed to Neanderthals. Thus, unlike their predecessors, H. heidelbergensis and H. steinheimensis, the Neanderthals, for whatever reason, appear to have ceased using bone as a raw material for tool manufacture.

There is little convincing archeological evidence for symbolic behavior, meaning the production of decorative or artistic items. Much of the suggested evidence that Neanderthals produced such artifacts has been based on what were interpreted as holes intentionally bored within shells or pieces of bone. Most of these bore-holes, however, are now considered to be simply the results of natural damage, caused by chemical erosion of the bones or by carnivore activity (Mellars, 1989; see also Davidson & Noble, 1989, 1993; Cameron, 1993b; Stringer & Gamble, 1993). The presence of ochre and other coloring agents within Neanderthal living sites, however, is not disputed and suggests that pigments were applied to the body or other items, such as clothing and wooden artifacts. Indeed, there is evidence that pigments were applied to stone tools and pieces of bone (see Mellars, 1996); this suggests that symbolic art may not be the exclusive domain of H. sapiens.

Neanderthals have also long been associated with a "cave bear cult." This was originally suggested as a result of excavations of the Drachenloch Cave in the Swiss Alps between 1917 and 1923. It was said that Neanderthals collected and placed a large number of cave bear skulls and long bones on natural shelves of rock or slabs of rock piled up to make artificial shelves within the cave (see Jordan, 1999; Tattersall, 1999). While no Neanderthal remains were found in the cave, Mousterian artifacts were discovered. Most today agree, however, that the evidence form Drachenloch, far from being proof of a cave bear cult, is rather the result of shoddy excavation supervision. The slabs were the result of single large blocks that fell from the cave ceiling and later split along bedding planes by frost action. The accumulation of cave bear remains appears to have been a result of a long-term occupation of the cave by cave bears over hundreds if not thousands of years and thus represents the natural remains of the bears' den, with individuals dying in the cave and their remains being shuffled around by later bear occupants as they formed their own sleeping areas within the cave (see Tattersall, 1999).

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