Mousterian (Neanderthal) Sites
Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were the dominant hominid inhabiting most of what is now Europe and western Asia. Remains have been found as far south as Iraq and as far north as Great Britain. Fossil skulls reveal the distinctively prominent brows and missing chins that set them apart from later humans. An exhibition of neanderthal skeletons at Les Eyzies, with many important skeletons brought together for the first time, included the Ferrassie, Kebara, Moustier, Roc de Marsal, Regourdou, Saint Césaire and Combe-Grenal original skeletons.
The original Neanderthal skeleton found in 1856 in the Neander Valley in Germany consisted of a skull cap, two femora, three bones from the right arm, two from the left arm, part of the left ilium, fragments of a scapula, and ribs. The workers who recovered this material originally thought it to be the remains of a bear. This discovery is now considered the beginning of paleoanthropology. These and other discoveries led to the idea these remains were from ancient Europeans who had played an important role in modern human origins. The bones of over 400 Neanderthals have been found since.
Roc de Marsal, a Neanderthal site in the Dordogne. The three year old child discovered in 1961 here was well preserved, and with a date of around 70 000 years BP it is one of the oldest burials of the Perigord.
A fossil marine shell, Aspa marginata, was discovered in a Mousterian layer of Fumane Cave, northern Italy, and was dated to 47 600 cal BP. Analysis shows that this fossil gastropod was collected by Neandertals, at a Miocene or Pliocene fossil outcrop, the closest of which is located more than one hundred kilometres from the site. The shell was smeared with a pure, finely ground, hematite powder, probably mixed with a liquid. It was perhaps perforated and used as a personal ornament before being discarded, lost or intentionally left at Fumane Cave, some 47 600 - 45 000 cal BP. The minimum age of the Fumane unit in which the Aspa marginata was found predates the oldest available dates for the arrival of anatomically modern humans (AMH) in Europe, thus supporting the hypothesis that deliberate transport and colouring of exotic objects, and perhaps their use as pendants, was a component of Neandertal cultures.
Combe-Capelle, a Neanderthal site in Southern France
Combe Grenal - a Neanderthal site in the Dordogne valley, France
La Ferrassie Neanderthal skeletons and Rock Shelter
La Quina is a Neanderthal site located in the Charente region of south-western France. The artisans of the La Quina Mousterian industry type (thick asymmetric tools transformed many times) had a particular way of life: they were hunters specializing in the hunt for Reindeer or Bison, and they moved following the herds. Their prey was generally transported, either all or in part, back to their base camps, caves or shelters.
The Neandertal skeleton from La Chapelle-aux-Saints
Le Moustier Neanderthal skeletons - Neanderthal man lived in these rock shelters overlooking the small town of Le Moustier in the Dordogne, and gave its name to a characteristic Neanderthal tool set and culture, the Mousterian. Le Moustier is on the right bank of the Vezere at its confluence with the Vimont valley. Village houses rise in tiers on the rocky steps of the limestone outcrops at the angle formed by the two valleys.
St Césaire Neanderthal Skeleton
Le Regourdou is one of the most important Neanderthal sites in France. Excavated by Georges Laplace and Eugene Bonifay, the bones of Le Regourdou 1 are the remains of a young Neanderthal adult, of undetermined sex, from the beginning of the last glaciation, about 90 000 years ago. The archeological site of Regourdou is located on the same hilltop as Lascaux, 800 metres from the famous caves.
The neanderthal skeleton from Kebara in Israel
Neandertal skeletons at Shanidar Cave in Iraq
Other Mousterian sites and artefacts
Models of Neandertals in Museums
Neanderthal Symbolism - this is a translation of an excellent article discussing artefacts from many Neanderthal sites