A large handaxe from Le Moustier

Denis Peyrony was the first, who recognized the interassemblage variablity of the Mousterian technocomplex during his excavations at  Le Moustier. He described two classes of Mousterian assembages: the Typical Mousterian and the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition(MTA). The former was characterized by the high frequencies of scrapers and the latter by the presence of hand-axes reminiscent of the earlier Acheulean.

Francois Bordes in collaboration with  Maurice Bourgon introduced simple statistical methods into the research of Middle Paleolithic industries in the late 1940ies. Basically he first developed a rigorous type-list.  This “liste typologique “explicitly used morphological and technological characteristics of the tools in the determination of type.
In addition he created a cumulative graphical method to display the characteristics of excavated ensembles. By calculating the relative percentages of different tool types within Mousterian assemblages, he finally developed a series of technological indices that could be used to characterize assemblages whithout  the use of “fossil directeurs”.
The (in)famous Bordes-Binford debate will not be told here again. In short Bordes emphasized the importance of cultural traditions, while Biford tried to explain variability in a functional way. Like many transatlantic scientific debates, this one was not free of  hysterical and polemic contributions. In turn the debate created a new sensibility of European researchers for neglected  theoretical and epistemological concepts of  Old World Paleolithic archaeology.

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