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. 2010 Nov 23;107(47):20234-9.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007963107. Epub 2010 Oct 18.

Chronology of the Grotte Du Renne (France) and Implications for the Context of Ornaments and Human Remains Within the Châtelperronian

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Chronology of the Grotte Du Renne (France) and Implications for the Context of Ornaments and Human Remains Within the Châtelperronian

Thomas Higham et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
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Abstract

There is extensive debate concerning the cognitive and behavioral adaptation of Neanderthals, especially in the period when the earliest anatomically modern humans dispersed into Western Europe, around 35,000-40,000 B.P. The site of the Grotte du Renne (at Arcy-sur-Cure) is of great importance because it provides the most persuasive evidence for behavioral complexity among Neanderthals. A range of ornaments and tools usually associated with modern human industries, such as the Aurignacian, were excavated from three of the Châtelperronian levels at the site, along with Neanderthal fossil remains (mainly teeth). This extremely rare occurrence has been taken to suggest that Neanderthals were the creators of these items. Whether Neanderthals independently achieved this level of behavioral complexity and whether this was culturally transmitted or mimicked via incoming modern humans has been contentious. At the heart of this discussion lies an assumption regarding the integrity of the excavated remains. One means of testing this is by radiocarbon dating; however, until recently, our ability to generate both accurate and precise results for this period has been compromised. A series of 31 accelerator mass spectrometry ultrafiltered dates on bones, antlers, artifacts, and teeth from six key archaeological levels shows an unexpected degree of variation. This suggests that some mixing of material may have occurred, which implies a more complex depositional history at the site and makes it difficult to be confident about the association of artifacts with human remains in the Châtelperronian levels.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The remains of some of the personal ornaments, awls, pierced animal teeth, and ivory pendants that have been excavated from the Châtelperronian levels at this site. Xa/c B9 no. 3657 (A); XII A12 sn, dated OxA-21594: 37 ± 1 kaBP (B); Xb2 W9 sn, dated OxA-21592: 36,200 ± 1,100 B.P. (C); Xa Z12 no. 1421, dated OxA-21557: 38,100 ± 1,300 B.P. (D); Xb1 Z11 no. 720, dated OxA-21590: 21,150 ± 160 B.P. (E); Xa Y11 no. 5102 (fox canine with groove) (F); Xb Z14 no. 96 (perforated fox canine) (G); Xa/c A/Z11 (bovid incisor with groove) (H); Xa A11 no. 3805 (marmot incisor with groove) (I); Xa Z13 sn (perforated reindeer phalange) (J); and Xb Y13 no. 3899 (Rhynchonella sp. fossil with groove) (K). [Image courtesy of M. Vanhaeren (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Nanterre, France).]
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Bayesian model for the radiocarbon dates obtained at the Grotte du Renne sequence. This model was generated using OxCal 4.1 (24) and the INTCAL09 calibration curve (21). The model is built based on the known stratigraphic sequence for the site, and the data are divided into phases. There are a large number of outliers in the Châtelperronian levels (Table S4). Lighter shaded distributions are calibrated radiocarbon likelihoods, whereas darker outline distributions are posterior probabilities after modeling the sequence. The outlier posterior and prior probabilities are given in brackets next to the OxA- and OxA-X numbers. The data are compared with the North GReenland Icecore Project (NGRIP) δ18O climate record (31, 32).

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