Neanderthals and volcanic rocks. Opportunistic behaviour or optimized management?

Carmen SANTAGATA, Marie-Hélène MONCEL & Jean-Paul RAYNAL

en Comptes Rendus Palevol 16 (4) - Pages 474-487

Published on 31 July 2017

The use of volcanic rocks by Neanderthals is frequently considered to be opportunistic, especially when good-quality stones were rare in the site neighbourhood. An analysis of the lithic series made of volcanic rocks discovered in the Middle Palaeolithic sites of Payre and Sainte-Anne I, located in the south part and at the southeastern margin of the Massif Central of France and dated back to MIS 7 up until the end of MIS 5, illustrates the capacity of Neanderthals to manage these raw materials and enables us to compare the strategies used in two different mineral environments. Shaping and flaking reduction sequences coexist in both sites in varying proportions, depending on the available rocks in the surroundings. At Payre, artefacts made of volcanic rocks are rarer in surroundings rich in flint while at Sainte-Anne I, the different series comprise a large quantity of artefacts made of different basalts and trachy-phonolites in an environment relatively poor in flint. Most of the reduction processes took place in situ. Activities outside the sites only appear to have concerned the shaping of some heavy-duty tools and some large flakes. It is likely that volcanic rocks were considered by Neanderthals as a geo-resource, either major or lesser in importance, to provide large flakes and both heavy-duty and light-duty tools, besides flint quartz and other rocks.


Volcanic rocks, Core technologies, Shaping, Early Middle Palaeolithic, France

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