Neanderthal technological variability: A wide-ranging geographical perspective on the final Middle Palaeolithic

Francesca Romagnoli, Victor Chabai, Brad Gravina, David Hérisson, Erella Hovers, Marie Hélène Moncel, Marco Peresani, Thorsten Uthmeier, Laurence Bourguignon, M. Gema Chacón, Kevin Di Modica, Jean Philippe Faivre, Kseniya Kolobova, Ariel Malinsky-Buller, Petr Neruda, Joseba Rios Garaizar, Marcel Weiss, Andrzej Wiśniewski, Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This chapter presents the first collective synthesis of Late Middle Palaeolithic lithic technology (MIS 4-3, ≈ 70-40ka) from the Altai mountains to the Atlantic coast of Western Europe and the Mediterranean regions of Europe and the Levant. As early as the first half of the 20th century, archaeological debates focused on characterising and interpreting Mousterian techno-typological variability. In recent decades, new data concerning several specific aspects of this question have modified our understanding of Neanderthal technology in terms of lithic economy. This chapter presents the main characteristics of Late Middle Palaeolithic lithic technologies, raw material management, tool forms, and artefact transport patterns. This extensive overview reveals that it is still largely unclear whether spatio-temporal trends in the mosaic of reduction strategies exist, at least during MIS 4-3. Furthermore, disparities in available data from the different geographical areas currently preclude exhaustive interregional comparisons and introduce biases for identifying which variables reflect local adaptations or potentially more general trends. Currently, the degree to which lithic assemblage variability, including retouched stone tools, results from adaptations to different factors remains difficult to reliably assess. These factors include environmental constraints and the influence of local contexts, including the characteristics and accessibility of raw materials and the duration of site occupation. Stone tools assemblages may equally reflect specific traditions of certain Neanderthal populations or groups and communities of practice. Differences in assemblage composition and tool types most likely result from the combined influences of these aspects in association with subsistence strategies and other ecological factors, as well as social structure and other cognitive and behavioural features. Finally, the possibility that the specific dynamics between different Neanderthal populations and between Neanderthals and other human groups affecting aspects of technology cannot be ruled out.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationUpdating Neanderthals
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Behavioural Complexity in the Late Middle Palaeolithic
Number of pages43
ISBN (Electronic)9780128214282
ISBN (Print)9780128214299
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Culture
  • Curation
  • Knapping
  • Late Middle Palaeolithic
  • Lithic technology
  • Mobility strategy
  • Raw material
  • Recycling
  • Retouched tool
  • Transported toolkit


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