Mutzig and the Middle Paleolithic of the Alsace



This is one of the very few bifacial artifacts found near a Mousterian site at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France).

The Middle Palaeolithic along the Upper Rhine is very poorly known, although it is relatively well documented in the adjacent French and German regions. The discovery of several open air Neanderthal camps (dated to late MIS5) at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France) offers a fresh look at the first prehistoric populations in this region.

Upper Pleistocene Paleontological material near Mutzig was first observed during railway operations in 1927. First discoveries of a Middle Paleolithic were communicated during the 1990ies, followed by rescue excavations at several localities. Up to now, nine sites attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic were discovered at the base of a cliff overlooking the Bruche Valley at Mutzig.

Since 2009, systematic excavations have been carried out by the Pôle d’Archéologie Interdépartemental Rhénan (PAIR), the Universities of Strasbourg, Basel, Cologne, and Lille and the Museum of Natural History of Paris. These field seasons confirm an excellent preservation of the archaeological record, placing the value of the site at a European level since abundant lithic and faunal assemblages, and perhaps spatial organization, have been detected.

Several multilayered sites with very similar lithic inventories and faunal remains have been excavated till now.  About 30 different raw materials that were used for artifact production have been identified. Neanderthals that inhabited the valley during the Middle Paleolithic period used volcanic and volcanogenic siliceous Paleozoic rocks, or slickenside and metamorphic rocks of the Vosgean sandstone.

At Mutzig the Discoidal technique was best adapted for the knapping of the raw material. Most important formal artifacts were scrapers, double convergent scrapers, choppers,  and naturally backed knifes.  The Levallois technique is attested, but was not widely used, maybe because not adequate for raw materials that were used.  Neanderthals in the Bruche valley hunted game mainly reindeer and horse, also Mammoth, buffalo, aurochs, saïga antelope, megaloceros (giant deer), stag, roe-deer, fox, and wolf.

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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