Middle Paleolithic

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The Middle Paleolithic (from Greek παλαιός ( palaios ) "old" and λίθος ( lithos ) "stone") is the middle section of the Paleolithic in Europe, which began about 300,000-200,000 years ago with the use of the Levallois technique and about 40,000 years ago with the immigration of the Cro-Magnon man and the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic ( Aurignacia ). In Europe, the Middle Paleolithic is associated with the Neanderthal (depending on the author, the late Homo heidelbergensis is also asserted). In Africa and the Middle East, this period roughly corresponds to the Middle Stone Age . Anatomically modern people lived there around 150,000 before today (see Archaic Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens idaltu ), and in the Middle East since around 90,000 before today.

According to a terminology that is outdated today, the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic was equated with the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene (approx. 130,000 years before today).

Research history

Artifacts from the Middle Paleolithic were discovered as early as the 19th century, but were not recognized as such for a long time. The stone artifacts by Jacques Boucher de Perthes , which had been collected by Abbeville since 1839 , were not generally accepted by science until around 1860. In Germany as early as 1843/44 the Balver Cave and the Bear Cave on the Hohlenstein , the latter excavated by Oscar Fraas from 1860, provided largely neglected Middle Paleolithic stone artifacts, as the interest was initially paleontological finds. In France, too, the excavation work began by the paleontologist Édouard Armand Lartet in 1860, who set up a structure based on paleontological key fossils . The first division of the Middle Paleolithic on the basis of type localities, however, was made by Gabriel de Mortillet in 1869 and later (1881) divided by him into " Chelléen " and " Moustérien ". In 1889, G. d'Adult du Mesnil added the intermediate stage of the Acheuléen to this subdivision . A year earlier, Marcellin Boule assigned the phases to a certain climatic period depending on the remains of fauna, according to which the Chelléen should be placed in a warm phase, the Acheuléen in a transitional phase and the Moustérien in a cold phase.

The first division of the Middle Paleolithic for Central Europe was made in 1903 by Moriz Hoernes , but he dropped it again in 1909, as Hugo Obermaier had published his work “The stone tools of the French Old Paleolithic” a year earlier. He recognized that there was a difference in the “quality” of the Acheulean artifacts, and therefore divided this phase into an old and a young acheulee. The latter stage was expanded by a regional subgroup of the “stage of La Micoque ”. In the period that followed, this model was expanded to include various subgroups, resulting in a confusing structure with different names that are subjectively dependent on individual researchers. Robert Rudolf Schmidt , for example, made such a subdivision of the Moustérie into a “primitive” and a “La Quina-Moustérien” on the basis of the excavations at the Sirgenstein .

Since the 1920s, the geologist Fritz Wiegers in particular attempted to correlate the archaeological "cultural structure" with the climatic history of the Pleistocene . In the 1930s, Henri Breuil and Oswald Menghin set up an abundance of group names and subdivisions based on newly discovered sites.

After the Second World War, the works of François Bordes and Gerhard Bosinski were of outstanding importance. Many group names such as "Levalloisien" were dropped, and the Moustérien was finally divided into several subgroups after examining all the finds.

Archaeological cultures and tools

Stone tools

With regard to stone tools, the Middle Paleolithic is characterized by cuts and points made with the Levallois technique and the frequent occurrence of scrapers. The Levallois technique is specially designed for tee production. In Europe there are the archaeological cultures of the Moustérien (based on the Le Moustier site ) and the Micoquien (based on the La Micoque site in the Dordogne department ). Instead of micoquia , the term wedge knife groups is preferred in Germany today because of the wedge knives typical of that time . At the end of the Middle Paleolithic there is the leaf tip group (also known as Szeletia ).

More tools

In the Middle Paleolithic, tools and weapons that were partly or wholly made of organic materials, such as lances made of wood (with stone tips), also became increasingly popular. Such tips are, according to Bosinski, an invention of the Neanderthals; the lances were later perfected through the use of antler points instead of stone points. The lances were used to hunt large game (elephants, bison, bears, rabbits, foxes), which was revealed by analyzing the remains of the hunting prey found. The use of wooden push lances can be seen in the lance of Lehringen ; stone chips, but no stone lance tips, have been proven here. The open pit Königsaue discovered (Saxony-Anhalt) resin lump ( birch pitch ) could have been used as Schäftungsmittel to reductions of flint stone tools to fix in wooden handle shafts. Other materials, such as bone, ivory, and antler, were used less often, as is believed due to the lack of evidence.

In the later stages, so-called “transitional industries” develop in Europe between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic , such as Châtelperronia , Uluzzia and Bohunicia , which bear the hallmarks of both stone tool- making traditions.

More finds

In the Middle Paleolithic, burials were carried out, which can be interpreted as an expression of a belief in the afterlife in the Neanderthals. Sites that support this interpretation include the Kebara Cave , Shanidar or La Chapelle-aux-Saints . The dead were always buried in a crouched position and mostly facing east-west. The results of La Ferrassie also confirm this theory. There are six graves with east-west orientation. Next to the deceased, who were all found in a sideways stool position , mounds and pits were positioned that contained animal bones. Among these graves, the children's grave is an extraordinary find: One of the dead children was covered by three scrapers. In general, the number of children's graves is high in the Middle Paleolithic.

Other cults that have been associated with this archaeological culture are the bear cult , which has now been refuted, and also controversial evidence of cannibalism (finds on Monte Circeo or in the half-cave of Krapina ). Evidence of the Neanderthal's ability to speak was dated to the Middle Paleolithic at least 60,000 years ago based on the anatomy of a hyoid bone of a buried person in the Kebara Cave (Israel), which has recently been confirmed by genetic studies. This refuted the skepticism that language ability could be clearly defined on the basis of anatomical features.

Climate history

Climatically, the Middle Paleolithic extends from the late section of the Riss or Saale Ice Age through the Eeminterglacial up to and including the lower sections of the Würm or Weichsel Ice Age . However, the temporal distribution of the classical Neanderthal man only takes up the first part of this last ice age (i.e. from around 80,000 to 40,000 years ago).

In the climatic conditions that prevailed during the Middle Paleolithic, people often used caves or rock protection roofs ( abrises ) as shelter. Mostly entrance areas or cave forecourts were inhabited here, as the actual interior of the caves was uninhabitable due to the moisture. Therefore, one rarely finds any remains of settlement there.

In many caves and abrises, however, there are traces of installations, most of which are huts attached to the rock face (examples: Grotte du Lazaret near Nice or the cave of Combe Grenal in the Dordogne ), where post holes have been found that allow such installation occupy.

See also


  • NJ Conard (Ed.): Settlement dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age. Tübingen 2001.
  • Dunia Beck: The Middle Paleolithic of the Hohlenstein - barn and bear cave - in the Lone Valley . Bonn 1999. ISBN 3-7749-2967-X
  • Gerhard Bosinski : The Middle Paleolithic finds in western Central Europe. Cologne 1967.
  • Gerhard Bosinski : The Middle Palaeolithic: Stone processing - stone tool forms and groups of forms - processing of wood, bones and antlers - jewelry. In: E.-B. Krause (Ed.): The Neanderthals. Fire in the ice. 250,000 years of European history. Gelsenkirchen 1999, pp. 74-104.
  • S. Gaudzinski: Wisentjäger von Wallertheim. On the taphonomy of a Middle Paleolithic field site in Rheinhessen. In: RGZM 39, 1992, pp. 160-220.
  • S. Gaudzinski: Bones and bone tools from the Middle Paleolithic site in Salzgitter-Lebenstedt . In: RGZM 45, 1998, pp. 245-423.
  • Francis B. Harrold: The view from across the Pyrenees: changing perspectives in the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in spanish prehistory . In: Espacio, Tiempo y Forma; Prehistoria y Arqueología 13 (2002) pp. 79-87.
  • Jean-Louis Heim: Les enfantes neandertaliens de la ferrassie. Paris 1982.
  • C. Reid Ferring: The middle Paleolithic of Algarve . In: III Congresso de Arqueologia Peninsular 2: Paleolítico da Península Ibérica (1999). 271-276.
  • W. Roebroeks, C. Gamble: The Middle Paleolithic occupation of Europe. Leiden 1999.
  • A. Ronen (Ed.): The Transition from Lower to Middle Paleolithic and the Origin of Modern Man. Oxford 1982.
  • Jan Tomsky: The Middle Paleolithic in the Middle East . Wiesbaden 1991. ISBN 3-88226-215-X
  • Eberhard Wagner: The Middle Palaeolithic of the Great Grotto at Blaubeuren (Alb-Danube district) . Stuttgart 1983.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard Bosinski : The Transition Lower / Middle Paleolithic in Northwestern Germany. In: A. Ronen (Ed.): The transition from lower to middle Paleolithic and the origin of modern man. British Archaeological Reports 151 (International Series), 1982, pp. 165-175.
  2. Bosinski 1967, p. 2
  3. Bosinski 1967, p. 4
  4. Bosinski 1967, p. 5
  5. Bosinski 1967, pp. 5-9
  6. Bosinski 1967, p. 11
  7. Bosinski 1967, p. 20
  8. Gerhard Bosinski: The Neanderthal man and his time . Rheinland-Verlag Köln, Bonn 1985, p. 56
  9. ^ O. Jöris: On the chronostratigraphic position of the late Middle Paleolithic groups of wedge knives. The attempt to delimit a Middle Paleolithic group of forms and their European context in terms of cultural geography. 84th Ber. Roman-German. Come on 2004
  10. Bosinski 1985, p. 29
  11. Bosinski 1967, p. 87
  12. Heim 1982, pp. 7-8
  13. Bosinski 1967, p. 87
  14. Jörg Orschiedt : The Krapina case - new results on the question of cannibalism in Neanderthals. In: Quaternary. 55, 2008, pp. 63-81.
  15. Johannes Krause et al: The derived FOXP2 variant of modern humans was shared with Neandertals. In: Current Biology , Vol. 17, No. 21, 2007, pp. 1908-1912. doi : 10.1016 / j.cub.2007.10.008
  16. M. Inman, Neandertals Had Same "Language Gene" as Modern Humans. In: National Geographic News , October 18, 2007
  17. ^ Lieberman P .: On the Speech of Neanderthal Man. In: Linguistic Inquiry 2, 1971, pp. 203-222
  18. Bosinski 1985, p. 12
  19. Bosinski 1985, p. 37