The new bataille aurignacienne. A critical analysis of Chatelperronian and Aurignacian chronology.

J Zilhao, F d'Errico

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review


For the last ten years, the debate on modem human origins and Neandertal extinction in Europe has been based on the assumption that the earliest Aurignacian of northern Spain dates to ca. 40 000 years ago. This chronology has been used in support of the view that Neandertals went extinct without descent as a consequence of the biological and cultural superiority of moderns. The arrival of the latter would have triggered, through imitation or acculturation, the appearance of a new lithic technology, of ornaments, and of bone tools, among some late Neandertal groups, a phenomenon best exemplified by the Chatelperronian. We argue here that such an early dating of the Aurignacian is not supported by the evidence. It is based on samples of dubious cultural meaning, either because collected in palimpsests containing other archaeological components or because the definition of the artefact suites as Aurignacian is not warranted. Wherever sample context is archaeologically secure, the earliest occurrences of the Aurignacian date to no more than ca. 36 500 B.P. In accordance with the pattern of succession documented in tens of stratigraphic sequences from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Moravia, Bulgaria and Greece, these occurrences are later than the Chatelperronian and equivalent technocomplexes of central and eastern Europe. The appearance of the latter in the archaeological record is consistently dated by different methods to before ca. 38 000 B.P. Given the anatomical information on their makers provided by the human remains found at Saint-Cesaire and Grotte du Renne, the acculturation model is refuted: Neandertals had already accomplished their own Middle-to-tipper Paleolithic transition when the first Aurignacian modems arrived in Europe. (C) 2000 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)17-50
Number of pages34
JournalAlceste in Anthropologie et théâtre antique
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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