Faculty Publication: Late Neanderthal short-term and specialized occupations

Bruce Hardy, Kenyon College Professor of Anthropology, along with several co-authors, has published the article “Late Neanderthal short-term and specialized occupations at the Abri du Maras (South-East France, level 4.1, MIS 3)” in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences Issue 13(3) released February 2021.  The entire article is available for viewing online.

(A) Spatial patterning of the lithic assemblage and RMU identified from Maras level 4.1 (Kernel density analysis); (B) Example of RMU in limestone; (C) Example of isolated pieces (tool kits) in quartzite; (D) Example of isolated pieces (tool kits) in flint; (E) Example of some of the identified RMUs in flint (Photos M.G. Chacón & A. Eixea)
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Level 4.1 from the Abri du Maras (Ardèche, France) is chronologically attributed to the beginning of MIS 3 and is one example of late Neanderthal occupations in the southeast of France. Previous work on the faunal and lithic remains suggests that this level records short-term hunting episodes of reindeer associated with fragmented lithic reduction sequences. During fieldwork, the high density of the material did not allow identification of clear spatial patterning of these activities. In order to try to decipher the palimpsest of these short-term occupations, we combined contextual micro-stratigraphic analysis with interdisciplinary and methodological approaches to obtain high-resolution intra-site spatial data. The former was performed by studying microfacies variability of occupation layers at meso to microscales. A combination of spatial techniques based on GIS and kernel density analysis along with faunal and lithic refitting was used and focused on the horizontal distribution of the whole archaeological assemblage. The results demonstrate that quantitative approaches, associated with the interdisciplinary empirical processing of data, are suitable and adequate methods for describing the spatio-temporal formation of the archaeological assemblage. This integrated approach allowed us to identify a temporal succession of occupational events marked by distinctive anthropic imprints in the host matrix in well-preserved activity areas. The analysis of their spatial patterns reveals differential treatment of lithic and faunal remains. We describe the possible organization of the settlement patterns dynamics of these specialized short-term occupations.

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