Neanderthal Behaviour and Stone Tool Function at the Middle Palaeolithic Site of la Quina, France

By Hardy, Bruce L. | Antiquity, September 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Neanderthal Behaviour and Stone Tool Function at the Middle Palaeolithic Site of la Quina, France

Hardy, Bruce L., Antiquity


Despite the volume of literature devoted to the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transition, the fate of the Neanderthals, and the rise of modern humans, the behaviour of Neanderthals and modern humans on either side of this transition is still not fully understood. Neanderthals have been variously portrayed as outcompeted and replaced by modern humans (Brauer & Stringer 1997; Stringer 1992; Stringer & Andrews 1988; Stringer & Gamble 1993; Tartersall 1998), acculturating with modern humans (d'Errico et al. 1998), or interbreeding with modern humans (Brace 1995, 1997; Wolpoff 1992, 1997; Wolpoff & Caspari 1997; Clark 2002). These arguments rely on a combination of archaeological and paleontological information that is interpreted differently by different authors. Reconstructions of Neanderthal behaviour range from obligate scavenging (Binford 1981, 1984, 1985) to mixed scavenging and hunting (Stiner 1991, 1994; Stiner & Kuhn 1992; Conard & Prindiville 2000) to hunting (Chase 1989; Berger & Trinkaus 1995; Burke 2000; Shea 1993; Vaquero et al. 2001; Grayson & Delpech 2002). The large quantities of animal bones typical of many Middle Paleolithic sites attest to the inclusion of meat in the diet and this has contributed to a focus on flesh-eating in discussions of Neanderthal subsistence (Madella et al. 2002). Neanderthal postcranial robusticity has been attributed to high activity levels, possibly in the pursuit and capture of large prey animals (Berger & Trinkaus 1995). Furthermore, stable isotope analyses of bones suggest that Neanderthals occupied a high trophic level, with the majority of their protein coming from meat sources, at least in western Europe (Bocherens et al. 1999; Richards et al. 2000).

The evidence for a high incidence of meat-eating among Neanderthals, however, may be at least partly an artefact of preservation; faunal remains are much more common than floral remains at Middle Paleolithic sites. Furthermore, Neanderthals occupied a wide geographic range from the Middle East to western Europe for more than 100 000 years. Efforts to generalise about Neanderthal diet may mask local subsistence adaptations (Clark 2002). When plant remains do survive, they are generally microscopic rather than macroscopic (Mason et al. 1994). Plant microremains have been detected in sediments and on stone tools (Anderson-Gerfaud 1990; Hardy et al. 2001; Hardy & Kay 1998; Madella et al. 2002; Mason et al. 1994), and point to the microscopic examination of stone tools and sediments as an avenue of research that may provide evidence of otherwise invisible behaviours (Mason et al. 1994; Hardy et al. 2001).

Stone tools provide a potentially valuable source of behavioural information, particularly when subjected to functional analysis. Functional studies of Middle Paleolithic tools, involving both use-wear and residue analyses, have demonstrated that tools were used for a variety of different tasks, including exploitation of animal, plant and avian resources, as well as hafting of a variety of different tool types (Beyries 1988a, 1988b, 1988c; Beyries & Walter 1996; Anderson 1980; Anderson-Gerfaud 1981, 1986, 1990; Shea 1988, 1989, 1993, 1998; Boeda et al. 1996; Boeda et al. 1998; Plisson & Beyries 1998; Hardy 1994, 1998; Hardy & Garufi 1998; Hardy & Kay 1998; Hardy et al. 2001; Shea 1988, 1989, 1998; Texier et al. 1998). This varied use of tools suggests that Neanderthals were broad-based foragers who were capable of exploiting a wide range of resources rather than focusing solely on the acquisition of large mammals as some researchers have suggested. In an attempt to better understand Neanderthal adaptations to local environments, microscopic use-wear and residue analyses were applied to a sample of 300 stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic site of La Quina, France.

The site at La Quina

La Quina is located in the Charente region of south-western France, approximately 5 km from the village of Villebois-Lavalette (Figure 1).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Neanderthal Behaviour and Stone Tool Function at the Middle Palaeolithic Site of la Quina, France


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?