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The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia, as well as with the Neanderthals in Europe. The Mousterian largely defines the latter part of the Middle Paleolithic, the middle of the West Eurasian Old Stone Age. It lasted roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP. If its predecessor, known as Levallois or "Levallois-Mousterian" is included, the range is extended to as early as c. 300,000–200,000 BP.
|Geographical range||Africa and Eurasia|
|Dates||c. 160,000 – 40,000 BP |
|Type site||Le Moustier|
|Major sites||Creswell Crags, Lynford Quarry, Arcy-sur-Cure, Vindija Cave, Atapuerca Mountains, Zafarraya, Gorham's Cave, Devil's Tower, Haua Fteah, Jebel Irhoud|
|Preceded by||Acheulean, Micoquien, Clactonian|
|Followed by||Châtelperronian, Emiran, Aterian|
The culture was named after the type site of Le Moustier, three superimposed rock shelters in the Dordogne region of France. Similar flintwork has been found all over unglaciated Europe and also the Near East and North Africa. Handaxes, racloirs and points constitute the industry; sometimes a Levallois technique or another prepared-core technique was employed in making the flint flakes.
The European Mousterian is the product of Neanderthals. It existed roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP. Some assemblages, namely those from Pech de l'Aze, include exceptionally small points prepared using the Levallois technique among other prepared core types, causing some researchers to suggest that these flakes take advantage of greater grip strength possessed by Neanderthals.
In North Africa and the Near East, Mousterian tools were produced by anatomically modern humans. In the Levant, for example, assemblages produced by Neanderthals are indistinguishable from those made by Qafzeh type modern humans. The Mousterian industry in North Africa is estimated to be 315,000 years old.
Possible variants are Denticulate, Charentian (Ferrassie & Quina) named after the Charente region, Typical and the Acheulean Tradition (MTA) - Type-A and Type-B. The industry continued alongside the new Châtelperronian industry during the 45,000-40,000 BP period.
- Mousterian artifacts have been found in Haua Fteah in Cyrenaica and other sites in Northwest Africa.
- Contained within a cave in the Syria region, along with a Neanderthaloid skeleton.
- Located in the Haibak valley of Afghanistan.
- Zagros and Central Iran
- The archaeological site of Atapuerca, Spain, contains Mousterian objects.
- Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar contains Mousterian objects.
- Uzbekistan has sites of Mousterian culture, including Teshik-Tash.
- Turkmenistan also has Mousterian relics.
- Siberia has many sites with Mousterian style implements, eg Denisova Cave.
- Israel is one of the places where remains of both Neandertals and Homo sapiens sapiens have been found in association with Mousterian artifacts.
- Lynford Quarry near near Mundford, Norfolk, England has yielded Mousterian tools
Range of Homo neanderthalensis. Mousterian industries have been found outside this range (e.g., Jordan, Saudi Arabia).
- Neanderthals: Bone technique redrafts prehistory : Nature News & Comment "From the Black Sea to the Atlantic coast of France, these [Mousterian] artefacts and Neanderthal remains disappear from European sites at roughly the same time, 39,000–41,000 years ago, Higham’s team conclude. The data challenge arguments that Neanderthals endured in refuges in the southern Iberian Peninsula until as recently as 28,000 years ago"
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