Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 1005–1015 | Cite as

Testing the Roc de Marsal Neandertal “Burial” with Geoarchaeology

  • Paul GoldbergEmail author
  • Vera Aldeias
  • Harold Dibble
  • Shannon McPherron
  • Dennis Sandgathe
  • Alain Turq
Original Paper


The question of intentional Neanderthal interment continues to be debated in paleoanthropology. Among the criteria that can be used to investigate the intentionality of a burial, many of them rely on geoarchaeological data that speak to the context of the human remains. In this paper, we revisit the original attribution of the Roc de Marsal Neandertal infant as an intentional burial by evaluating the sedimentary context, pit structure, and taphonomical aspects of the remains and their integration with data from the most recent excavations at the site. From a geoarchaeological point of view, no clear anthropogenic ritual signature was found. On the contrary, all the available evidence points towards natural formation processes associated with the initial deposition and subsequent burial of the Roc de Marsal Neandertal infant.


European Neanderthals Paleoanthropology Roc de Marsal Neandertal Taphonomy Neanderthal Burials Geoarchaeology 



We have made note in the text of this article that Isabelle Couchoud (2001, 2003) was the first to suggest that the context of the Roc de Marsal child was possibly a natural phenomenon. This should have been made clear in an earlier publication (Sandgathe et al. 2011) that also dealt with the question of the context of this particular Neanderthal skeleton. Excavations at Roc de Marsal had the financial support of the US National Science Foundation (grants no. 0917739 and 0551927), the Leakey Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, the Service Régional de l'Archéologie, and the Conseil Général de la Dordogne.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Goldberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Vera Aldeias
    • 3
  • Harold Dibble
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Shannon McPherron
    • 3
  • Dennis Sandgathe
    • 6
    • 7
  • Alain Turq
    • 8
  1. 1.Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human EvolutionMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.Department of Anthropology, 3260 South StreetUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  6. 6.Department of ArchaeologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  7. 7.University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  8. 8.Musée National de Préhistoire, 24620 Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (Dordogne), PACEA, UMR 5199Université de Bordeaux, CNRSTalence cedexFrance

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