MTA-B or not to be? Recycled bifaces and shifting hunting strategies at Le Moustier and their implication for the late Middle Palaeolithic in southwestern France
Gravina et al
Explaining late Middle Palaeolithic industrial variability remains a topic of great interest for researchers focusing on aspects of Neanderthal behavioural complexity and the so-called Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic ‘transition.’ Several sites in southwestern France figure prominently in these discussions, including the eponymous site of Le Moustier (Dordogne, France), one of the ‘key’ sequences used in larger anthropological models. Here we present a re-assessment of this important site based on a technological and taphonomic re-evaluation of previously studied collections combined with an analysis of unpublished archaeological material, which includes both lithic and faunal components. Our study produces a very different interpretation of the 'classic' Le Moustier sequence, challenging previous cultural attributions in a way that significantly impacts current debates surrounding the proposed Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) – Châtelperronian affiliation. This new interpretation highlights independent changes in lithic technology and subsistence strategies that were previously undetected as well as a novel aspect of Neanderthal raw material use. Finally, we discuss how this new vision has important ramifications for broader issues connected to the definition of late Mousterian techno-complexes, such as the MTA, and the identification of relationships between technology, subsistence, and mobility strategies.