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Subdivisions of the Quaternary period
System Series Stage Age (Ma)
Quaternary Holocene 0–0.0117
Pleistocene Tarantian (Upper) 0.0117–0.126
Ionian (Middle) 0.126–0.781
Calabrian (Lower) 0.781–1.806
Gelasian (Lower) 1.806–2.588
Neogene Pliocene Piacenzian older
In Europe and North America, the Holocene is subdivided into Preboreal, Boreal, Atlantic, Subboreal and Subatlantic stages of the Blytt-Sernander time scale. There are many regional subdivisions for the Upper or Late Pleistocene, usually these represent locally recognized cold (glacial) and warm (interglacial) periods. The last glacial period ends with the cold Younger Dryas substage.

Châtelperronian was the earliest industry of the Upper Palaeolithic in central and south western France, extending also into Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France.

It appears to have been derived from the earlier, Neanderthal, Mousterian industry as it made use of Levallois cores and represents the period when Neanderthals and modern humans occupied Europe together. It lasted from between c. 35,000 and c. 29,000 BP. The industry produced denticulate, or toothed, stone tools and also a distinctive flint knife with a single cutting edge and a blunt, curved back. It may also have produced jewellery which has been used to support theories regarding the sophistication of the Neanderthals. The use of ivory at Châtelperronian sites tends to be more frequent than that of the later Aurignacian[1], while antler tools appear to be absent.

It was superseded by the Aurignacian industry around 29,000 BP. In spite of being archaeologically associated with Neanderthal people, some suspect Châtelperronian to be at the origins of the very similar Gravettian culture. Traditionally (French school) both cultures have been classified together under the name Périgordian, being Early Perigordian equivalent to Châtelperronian and all the other phases corresponding to Gravettian.[2] [3][4]


Lithic production and associations

Châtelperronian stone tools

Large thick flakes/small blocks were used for cores, and were prepared with a crest over a long smooth surface. Using one or two striking points, long thin blades were detached. Direct percussion with a soft hammer was likely used for accuracy. Thicker blades made in this process were often converted into side scrapers, burins were often created in the same manner from debitage as well.

The quality of tools produced is uncharacteristic of the earlier Mousterian industries that are associated with Neanderthals, this industry is more "modern" than other industries in the Middle Paleolithic. However, the manner of production is a solid continuation of the Mousterian, the ivory adornments found in association seem to be a more clear connection to Aurignacian peoples[1], who are often argued to be the earliest introduction of H. sapiens sapiens into Europe. The technological refinement of the Châtelperronian and neighboring Uluzzian in Central-Southern Italy is often argued to be the product of cultural influence from H. sapiens sapiens that lived nearby, but these predate both the Aurignacian and the earliest presence of H. sapiens sapiens in Europe.

Dispute over disruption of the site

João Zilhão and colleagues argue that the findings are complicated by disturbance of the site in the 19th century, and conclude that the apparent pattern of Aurignacian/Châtelperronian inter-stratification is an artifact of disturbance.[5][6] Paul Mellars and colleagues have criticized Zilhão et al.'s analysis, and argue that the original excavation by Delporte was not affected by disturbance.[7]

In popular culture

Author Jared Diamond argues in his 1991 non-fiction book, The Third Chimpanzee, that Châtelperron may represent a community of Neanderthals who had to some extent adopted the culture of the modern Homo sapiens that had established themselves in the surrounding area, which would account for the signs of a hybrid culture found at the site. Diamond compares these hypothetical Neanderthal hold-outs to more recent Native Americans in North and South America who adopted European technologies such as firearms or domestication of horses in order to survive in an environment dominated by technologically more-advanced competitors. [8]

The most recent of Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, The Shelters of Stone, 2002, is set in this region of modern day France, during this period.

See also


  1. ^ a b d'Errico, F.D., Zilhao, J., Julien, M., Baffier, D. and Pelerin, J. 1998. Neanderthal Acculturation in Western Europe? A Critical Review of the Evidence and it's Interpretation. Current Anthropology Supplement to 39: S1-S44
  2. ^ F. Jordá Cerdá et al., Historia de España 1. Prehistoria. Gredos ed. 1986. ISBN 84-249-1015-X
  3. ^ X. Peñalver, Euskal Herria en la Prehistoria. Orain ed. 1996. ISBN 84-89077-58-4
  4. ^ M.H. Alimen and M.J. Steve, Prehistoria. Siglo XXI ed. 1970. ISBN 84-323-0118-3
  5. ^ Zilhão, João; Francesco d’Errico, Jean-Guillaume Bordes, Arnaud Lenoble, Jean-Pierre Texier, and Jean-Philippe Rigaud (2006). "Analysis of Aurignacian interstratification at the Châtelperronian-type site and implications for the behavioral modernity of Neandertals". PNAS 103 (33): 12643-12648.  
  6. ^ Zilhão, João; et al. (2008). "Like Hobbes’ Chimney Birds". PaleoAnthropology: 65−67.  
  7. ^ Mellars, Paul; Brad Gravina, and Christopher Bronk Ramsey (2007). "Confirmation of Neanderthal/modern human interstratification at the Chatelperronian type-site". PNAS 104 (9): 3657-3662.  
  8. ^ F. Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal Harper Perennial. 2006. ISBN 978-0060845506

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