A collection of Neanderthal artifacts

Ancient Fontmaure

Remnants of Neanderthal culture in West Central France

Artifacts

THE ARTIFACTS  - SANDSTONE

 

Hammerstones I have but a few. These hard percussion instruments were used to obtain flakes: primary flakes and Levallois flakes to be used as tools.

 

The resulting cores were left as debris or reused as hammerstones or rabots or scrapers. Many scrapers of different size and form were made, depending on the diverse raw materials (hides, wood, bone, ivory) to process.  Concerning the so called Upper Paleolithic Types A. Debénath and H.L. Dibble in 1994 state, that “Certain tool forms that are characteristic of later Upper Paleolithic industries actually begin to appear with the Acheulean and Mousterian”. These types are represented here with endscrapers and borers.

Compared to the Mousterian biface types of Fontmaure there are far fewer sandstone ones.  Cleavers, both bifacial and unifacial chisels, are rare at Fontmaure, which seems to be a case for Europe as a whole.

 

Bowls, more or less knapped hollow stones, are not mentioned in archaeological literature about Fontmaure.

 

At the end of Part One I have included Paleolithic Sculptures: the first inhabitants of this extraordinary site obviously used their imagination to make lithic creations of man and animal, the first European portable art.

 

THE ARTIFACTS  - JASPER &FLINT

 

The Mousterians of Fontmaure have extensively used multicoloured jasper, the so called “jaspe de Fontmaure”.  Besides this local lithic material, fine quality flint was used also, probably imported from Le Grand Pressigny, ca 40 kilometres to the East of Fontmaure. With a wealth of natural resources, this Middle Paleolithic community developed its culture, creating tools and sculptures, as did their Paleolithic predecessors.

 

The collection presented on this website aims at giving an extra insight into the artistic abilities of this ancient people, producing a “creative explosion” of their own in Europe and the Near East.

 

Nearly two decades after the exhibition and publication “A Tolerated Past” (2000), research has revealed that Neanderthals were capable of making animal and anthropomorphic sculptures.

 

ARTIFACTS

As mentioned  before, hammerstones are quite rare at Fontmaure, made of jasper, flint and quartzite.  Cores showing the use of different techniques of producing flakes are represented here.  Some of them are made into hammers, rabots, borers or, perhaps, projectiles; also Levallois flakes, Levallois points and naturally backed knives. Mousterian points (probably used as spearheads) are few.

 

In contrast, more than a few scrapers and scraper types exist, undoubtedly used for various purposes. The sheer quantity and quality of some Upper Paleolithic Types is amazing, especially the borers.

 

Finding its origin in the Acheulean, notched and denticulated types continue to be made in the more diverse Mousterian.  The chapter on miscellaneous tools has been extended: beside the rabots (rare in Paleolithic Europe) stemmed artifacts developed, though sparsely. Even pebble tools continued to be made until the end of the Middle Paleolithic.

 

Compared to Acheulean bifaces, Mousterian types belong to a different category. Their use as a tool is less certain, despite being well developed as i.a. knives. The multicoloured bifaces of Fontmaure seem to have been created for other purposes as well, maybe as items of exchange or status.  A depot of bifaces piled up against a subterranean wall of stones was found (personal communication by Mr. Tedde Toet, in 2000).

 

A special group of small bifaces are the so called Micro-Mousterian bifaces.  I am, however, not fully certain as to the use of these artifacts.  Can they be categorized as belonging to the same complex as the microliths (tiny tools) of Fontmaure.

 

Some microlith cores have been included as evidence against this prehistoric riddle.

 

A special group of artifacts not mentioned by Dr. L. Pradel consists of a small quantity of crescent, triangular shaped knives.