, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 25-97
Date: 26 Apr 2011

The British Late Middle Palaeolithic: An Interpretative Synthesis of Neanderthal Occupation at the Northwestern Edge of the Pleistocene World

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Abstract

The British Middle Palaeolithic is divided into two discrete periods of occupation: the Early Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 9–7, ~330–180 ka BP) and the Late Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 3, ~59–36 ka BP), separated by a long hiatus. Owing to the relative poverty of the record and historical difficulties in dating and correlating archaeological sites, the British Late Middle Palaeolithic has, until recently, received scant attention, and has largely been regarded as the poor man of Europe, especially by British archaeologists. Indeed, there has been more discussion of the absence of humans from Britain than of what they did when they were present. We aim here to redress that situation. Following from recent considerations of the Early Middle Palaeolithic (White et al. in J. Quat. Sci. 21:525–542, 2006; Scott, Becoming Neanderthal, Oxbow, Oxford, 2010), we offer an interpretative synthesis of the British Late Middle Palaeolithic, situating ‘British’ Neanderthals in their chronological, environmental and landscape contexts. We discuss the character of the British record, and offer an account of Neanderthal behaviour, settlement systems and technological practices at the northwestern edge of their known Upper Pleistocene range. We also examine the relationship of the enigmatic Early Upper Palaeolithic leafpoint assemblages to Neanderthals.