Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1007–1037

Neanderthal Use of Callista chione Shells as Raw Material for Retouched Tools in South-east Italy: Analysis of Grotta del Cavallo Layer L Assemblage with a New Methodology


DOI: 10.1007/s10816-014-9215-x

Cite this article as:
Romagnoli, F., Martini, F. & Sarti, L. J Archaeol Method Theory (2015) 22: 1007. doi:10.1007/s10816-014-9215-x


Neanderthal retouched tools made of marine shells have been reported in several sites in southern peninsular Europe. They are an adaptation to the coastal marine environment. Most important are the non-lithic tools that mark Mediterranean technical behaviour. Tool production is related to human needs, available resources, technical and social knowledge and innovation. The wide diffusion of shell tools makes them interesting items for investigating the variability of technology and contact among Neanderthal groups. Although these tools were first identified in the last 1950s, they still have not been considered in sufficient detail. In particular, this technology is handicapped by the lack of detailed description and references for technological analysis. This research proposes an original method aimed at reconstructing the process of production and use of these tools. It was conceived for future comparisons, both between shell tool assemblages and between lithic and shell tools, creating a common vocabulary and a set of analytical principles borrowed from lithic analysis, with which to think systematically beyond single cases. The analytical method is organised in five parts: taxonomy, morphometrical analysis, technical analysis of the retouched cutting edge, taphonomy and experimental archaeology. Thereafter, we present data on the shell tools of Grotta del Cavallo, coming from a recent excavation in layer L. It is the first detailed case study of Neanderthal non-lithic artefacts, applied to an assemblage with a significant number of well-preserved elements and with a certain stratigraphic context, and represents a constructive framework for the knowledge of the local adaptation to this raw material and of variability of Neanderthal technical behaviour.


Middle Palaeolithic Marine molluscs Callista chione Technical behaviour Raw material Italy 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Romagnoli
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fabio Martini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lucia Sarti
    • 3
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Storia, Archeologia, Geografia, Arte e Spettacolo, Cattedra di PaletnologiaUniversità degli Studi di FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Museo Fiorentino di Preistoria ‘Paolo Graziosi’FlorenceItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche e dei Beni Culturali, PreistoriaUniversità degli Studi di SienaSienaItaly

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