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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Aug 15;103(33):12643-8. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

Analysis of Aurignacian interstratification at the Chatelperronian-type site and implications for the behavioral modernity of Neandertals.

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Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UU, United Kingdom.


The Châtelperronian is a Neandertal-associated archeological culture featuring ornaments and decorated bone tools. It is often suggested that such symbolic items do not imply that Neandertals had modern cognition and stand instead for influences received from coeval, nearby early modern humans represented by the Aurignacian culture, whose precocity would be proven by stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates. The Grotte des Fées at Châtelperron (France) is the remaining case of such a potential Châtelperronian-Aurignacian contemporaneity, but reanalysis shows that its stratification is poor and unclear, the bone assemblage is carnivore-accumulated, the putative interstratified Aurignacian lens in level B4 is made up for the most part of Châtelperronian material, the upper part of the sequence is entirely disturbed, and the few Aurignacian items in levels B4-5 represent isolated intrusions into otherwise in situ Châtelperronian deposits. As elsewhere in southwestern Europe, this evidence confirms that the Aurignacian postdates the Châtelperronian and that the latter's cultural innovations are better explained as the Neandertals' independent development of behavioral modernity.

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