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Geographical distribution of Mousterian sites
Geographical range Afro-Eurasia
Period Middle Paleolithic
Dates 600,000 BP and 40,000 BP[1]
Type site Le Moustier
Major sites Creswell Crags, Lynford Quarry, Arcy-sur-Cure, Vindija Cave, Atapuerca Mountains, Zafarraya, Gorham's Cave, Devil's Tower
Preceded by Micoquien, Clactonian
Followed by Châtelperronian, Emireh culture, Aterian

Mousterian is a name given by archaeologists to a style of predominantly flint tools (or industry) associated primarily with Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age.

A reconstruction of the head of the Shanidar 1 fossil, a Homo neanderthalensis male who lived circa 70000 BCE discovered in the mid-20th century at the Mousterian archaeological site Shanidar Cave
The Paleolithic

Pliocene (before Homo)

Lower Paleolithic (c. 3.3 Ma – 300 ka)

Oldowan (2.6–1.7 Ma)
Riwat (1.9–0.045 Ma)
Soanian (0.5–0.13 Ma)
Acheulean (1.8–0.1 Ma)
Clactonian (0.3–0.2 Ma)

Middle Paleolithic (300–45 ka)

Mousterian (600–40 ka)
Micoquien (130–70 ka)
Aterian (82 ka)

Upper Paleolithic (40–10 ka)

Baradostian (36 ka)
Châtelperronian (41–39 ka)
Aurignacian (38–29 ka)
Gravettian (29–22 ka)
Solutrean (22–17 ka)
Magdalenian (17–12 ka)
Hamburg (14–11 ka)
Federmesser (14–13 ka)
Ahrensburg (12–11 ka)
Swiderian (11–8 ka)
Stone Age
According to the Toba catastrophe theory, the global human population sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals circa 70000 BCE[2][3] It is estimated that the total Homo neanderthalensis population across Afro-Eurasia numbered at around 70,000 at its peak before the arrival of Homo sapiens[4]
Levallois points
Proximal Phalanges
mtDNA-based simulation of the species Homo sapiens in Europe starting 1600 generations ago. Homo neanderthalensis range in light grey.[5]


The culture was named after the type site of Le Moustier, a rock shelter in the Dordogne region of France.[6] Similar flintwork has been found all over unglaciated Europe and also the Near East and North Africa. Handaxes, racloirs and points constitute the industry; sometimes a Levallois technique or another prepared-core technique was employed in making the flint flakes.[7]


Mousterian tools that have been found in Europe were made by Neanderthals and date from between 600,000 BP and 40,000 BP[1] Some assemblages, namely those from Pech de l’Aze, are exceptionally small Levallois and other prepared core types, causing some researchers to suggest that these flakes take advantage of greater grip strength possessed by Neanderthal physiology.[8] In North Africa and the Near East, Mouseterian tools were also produced by anatomically modern humans. In the Levant, for example, assemblages produced by Neanderthals are indistinguishable from those made by Qafzeh type modern humans.[9] It may be an example of acculturation of modern humans by Neanderthals because the culture after 130,000 years reached the Levant from Europe (the first Mousterian industry appears there 200,000 BP) and the modern Qafzeh type humans appear in the Levant another 100,000 years later.

Possible variants are Denticulate, Charentian (Ferrassie & Quina) named after the Charente region,[10] Typical and the Acheulean Tradition (MTA) - Type-A and Type-B.[11] The Industry continued alongside the new Châtelperronian industry during the 45,000-40,000 BP period.[12]


  • Mousterian artifacts have been located in sites in Northwest Africa.[13]
  • Siberia has many sites with Mousterian style implements.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1]
  2. ^ Ambrose 1998; Rampino & Ambrose 2000,[citation not found] pp. 71, 80.
  3. ^ "Science & Nature - Horizon - Supervolcanoes". Retrieved 2015-03-28. 
  4. ^ O'Neill, Dennis. "Evolution of Modern Humans: Neanderthals", Palomar College, June 10, 2011, accessed August 21, 2011.
  5. ^ Currat, Mathias; Excoffier, Laurent (2004). "Modern Humans Did Not Admix with Neanderthals during Their Range Expansion into Europe". PLoS Biology 2 (12): e421. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020421. PMC 532389. PMID 15562317. 
  6. ^ William A. Haviland; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (24 February 2009). The Essence of Anthropology. Cengage Learning. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-495-59981-4. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Mark Aldenderfer; Alfred J. Andrea; Kevin McGeough; William E. Mierse; Carolyn Neel (29 April 2010). World History Encyclopedia. Abc-Clio. p. 330. ISBN 978-1-85109-929-0. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Dibble, Harold L.; McPherron, Shannon P. (October 2006). "The Missing Mousterian". Current Anthropology 47 (5): 777–803. doi:10.1086/506282. 
  9. ^ Shea, J. J., 2003: Neandertals [sic], competition and the origin of modern human behaviour in the Levant, Evolutionary Anthropology, 12:173-187.
  10. ^ Andrew Lock, Charles R. Peters - Handbook of human symbolic evolution - 906 pages Oxford science publications Wiley-Blackwell, 1999 ISBN 0-631-21690-1 RETRIEVED 2012-01-06
  11. ^ University of Oslo P.O. Box 1072 - Blindern-0316 Oslo-Norway email : / - Universitetet i Oslo. Retrieved 2012-01-06
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e f Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN 0-395-13592-3. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
600,000 years before present — 40,000 years before present
Succeeded by