Yes-There are traditions and “culture” in Neanderthals-Victoria!


The open- air site of Champlost “Le Dessous de Bailly” is located in the Yonne department of Burgundy. The site is situated in a valley, on the bank of the Créanton- Brumance river and dated by TL to late MIS4/early MIS 3. Local flint was used for the production of stone tools.  Flakes were mainly created by the Levallois technique. The lithic ensemble (from the surface and programmed excavations) comprises many simple scrapers but there is also a small, but characteristic bifacial component with classic MTA-handaxes, like the one shown here (11 cm long), and backed and Leaf-shaped bifacial tools, which are usually not known from the late middle Paleolithic of  France but from the “Keilmesser Gruppen” (KMG) of  Middle-East Europe. In K. Ruebens view the Champlost ensemble can be best interpreted as the mix of two Neanderthal “traditions” in the contact zone between the  MTA and KMG interaction sphere:

“The MTA and KMG can be seen as two distinct cultural traditions, reflecting different lines of learned behavior, as expressed by different ways of making bifacial tools. The sporadic spread of KMG elements across Western Europe is indicative of Neanderthal population dynamics and the MBT is interpreted as the results of MTA- KMG interactions in an overlap zone where foreign influences were more easily absorbed. Finally, the distinct presence and absence of certain bifacial tool types in specific regions allow arguing for the presence of a collective cultural capacity among Neanderthals”.


Figure 2 shows Leaf-shaped artifacts from a KMG (Middle European Micoquian)  open air site in S/W-Germany. The largest artifact is about 4 cm long.

Ruebens approach may be provocative for some archeologists who think that they have still to deconstruct old myths in Paleolithic research and always scent the resurrection of “culture historical” approaches. Such people would not even recognize the obvious and fundamental different conceptional choices, Neanderthals made, when they produced for millennia ensembles  with cordiform MTA-bifaces in France, Keilmesser in Middle-East Europe and a Levallois-Mousterian without bifaces in the Middle East. While such scientists would happily agree, that AMHs had certain traditions in tool making (the Aurignacian; Gravettian etc.) they deny that such choices could have been part of the  repertoire of Neanderthals.

Of course, 34 years after “Ancient Men and Modern Myths” nobody will be  ignorant about  dynamic relationships of stone tool production and constraints imposed by: (1) lithic raw material economy, (2) differential access to lithic raw materials, (3) economizing behavior, (4) mechanical & physical properties of stone, (5) individual knowledge of alternative core and tool reduction strategies, (6) functional needs, (7) “expedient” and “curated” technologies, (8) faunal exploitation patterns, (9) intensity of reduction, (10) anticipated tasks, (11) intensity of utilisation, (12) longevity of occupation, (13) cave sites versus open-air sites, (14) recycling of tools, (15) hafting, (16) risk-reducing strategies, (17) cumulative effects of site revisits (palimpsests), (18) group size, (19) group composition, (20) mobility patterns, (21) low- and high-energy investment forager strategies, (22) climato-environmental change, (23) biology, (24) “ethnicity”, (25) social systems, (26) social density, (27) social position, (28) gender, (29) age, (30) physical abilities, (31) skill, (32) the training of children as future flint knappers (production of “unusable” blanks), (33) health status, (34) seasonality, (35) human (36) post-depositional factors and (37) a variety of other factors, which could influence everything people do.

But -to exclude a priori  the possibility that Hominins before H.sapiens built “cultures” with traditions that would determine the shape of typical stone tools is deeply unscientific and would neglect the very nature of humans. While our evidence of the strength of regional cultural traditions is strong for AHMs, it would be quite surprising if it basically had not been true for highly evolved earlier / contemporaneous humans.


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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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3 Responses to Yes-There are traditions and “culture” in Neanderthals-Victoria!

  1. Marnie says:


  2. Ritta says:

    Recently a number of MP industries with bifacial tools are reported from Near East such Jebel Faya in UAE (Armitage et al 2011) and Qaleh Bozi in Iran (Biglari et al 2009)

    Armitage, Simon; Sabah A. Jasim; Anthony E. Marks; Adrian G. Parker; Vitaly I. Usik; Hans-Peter Uerpmann (2011). “The Southern Route “Out of Africa”: Evidence for an Early Expansion of Modern Humans into Arabia”. Science 331 (6016): 453–456.

    Biglari F, M. Javeri, M. Mashkour, Y. Yazdi, S. Shidrang, M. Tengberg, and K. Taheri and J. Darvish 2009. Test excavations at the Middle Paleolithic sites of Qaleh Bozi, Southwest of Central Iran, A preliminary report, In: M. Otte, F. Biglari, and J. Jaubert (eds), Iran Palaeolithic. pp. 29–38, Proceedings of the XV World Congress UISPP, Lisbonne, Vol. 28, BAR International Series 1968.

  3. Katzman says:

    Thanks for the comment- just new and free on the internet: The Mousterian with bifacial retouch in Europe: The fundamental historical error by Marcel Otte- maybe a littel bit polemic and to much adhering to a cultural historical approach but very readable…

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