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Late Neanderthal short-term and specialized occupations at the Abri du Maras (South-East France, level 4.1, MIS 3)

Abstract

Level 4.1 from the Abri du Maras (Ardèche, France) is chronologically attributed to the beginning of MIS 3 and is one example of late Neanderthal occupations in the southeast of France. Previous work on the faunal and lithic remains suggests that this level records short-term hunting episodes of reindeer associated with fragmented lithic reduction sequences. During fieldwork, the high density of the material did not allow identification of clear spatial patterning of these activities. In order to try to decipher the palimpsest of these short-term occupations, we combined contextual micro-stratigraphic analysis with interdisciplinary and methodological approaches to obtain high-resolution intra-site spatial data. The former was performed by studying microfacies variability of occupation layers at meso to microscales. A combination of spatial techniques based on GIS and kernel density analysis along with faunal and lithic refitting was used and focused on the horizontal distribution of the whole archaeological assemblage. The results demonstrate that quantitative approaches, associated with the interdisciplinary empirical processing of data, are suitable and adequate methods for describing the spatio-temporal formation of the archaeological assemblage. This integrated approach allowed us to identify a temporal succession of occupational events marked by distinctive anthropic imprints in the host matrix in well-preserved activity areas. The analysis of their spatial patterns reveals differential treatment of lithic and faunal remains. We describe the possible organization of the settlement patterns dynamics of these specialized short-term occupations.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the editors of this special issue of the Topical Collection on Settlement Patterns Dynamics of the Middle Palaeolithic and Middle Stone Age to include this manuscript. We would like to thank Dr Vincenzo Spagnolo and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments that improved the papers.

Funding

The excavations at the Abri du Maras are supported by the French Ministry of Culture, Service Régional de l’Archéologie Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne under the supervision of M-H. Moncel. MG Chacón, F. Rivals and E. Allué research is funded by the CERCA Programme/Generalitat de Catalunya, the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICINN) projects HAR2016-76760-C3-1-P and PID2019-103987GB-C31 and the Catalan Government Research Group 2017 SGR 836, and the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA) has received financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the “María de Maeztu” program for Units of Excellence (CEX2019-000945-M).

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M.-H.M., M.G.CH., D.V. and M-A.C. designed and conceptualized the paper, wrote the initial draft and prepared the figures, tables and supplementary information. Spatial analyses were made by M.G.CH. and D.V., for the lithic and faunal remains respectively. D.V. performed the faunal refits and M.G.CH. and A.E. the lithic ones. Zooarchaeology and taphonomy analysis of large mammals was carried out by C.D and D.V. Ungulate dental micro-wear was done by F.R. Fish remains were studied by P.B. Microstratigraphic analysis was made by M.-A.C. Geology was done by S.P. Lithics were studied by M.-H.M., M.G.CH. and A.E. B.H. did the micro-wear and residues analysis on lithics. Petrographic analysis of flint was done by P.F. E.A. made the charcoal analysis. R.G. performed the databases. Excavations were conducted by M.-H.M. All the authors have interpreted and discussed the data obtained and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marie-Hélène Moncel.

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Moncel, MH., Chacón, M.G., Vettese, D. et al. Late Neanderthal short-term and specialized occupations at the Abri du Maras (South-East France, level 4.1, MIS 3). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 45 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01285-5

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Keywords

  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Late Neanderthal
  • Abri du Maras
  • France
  • Fauna and lithic refits
  • Spatial pattern analysis
  • Short-term occupations