Neanderthals in the Cold: Middle Paleolithic Sites from the Open-Cast Mine of Garzweiler, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany).


In the years 1999–2001, an area of approximately 150 ha was surveyed by continuous control of the loess walls of the open-cast lignite mine of Garzweiler near Cologne, Germany. A total of 46 Middle Paleolithic sites were located, most of them clustering in connection to small stream positions. Despite the importance of natural factors during the site formation processes, lithic artifacts and skeleton elements preserved well, suggesting high impact of human and non-human agents, followed by low to moderate post-depositional alteration of finds. Altogether, eight sites were dated to the first maximum of the last glaciation (MIS 4). They consist of small assemblages of lithics mainly produced ad hoc from raw nodules carried along during hunting and gathering activities, and low frequencies of faunal remains. Traces of human use are restricted to reindeer. Therefore, it is concluded that these sites represent scanty remnants of kill and butchering sites of this species, enriched by additional faunal remains of unknown agency. The local loess stratigraphy as well as a brief survey of the environmental data from contemporaneous sites in Central and Eastern Europe reveals conditions more moderate than previously expected. It is inferred that changing environments after the last Interglacial Complex (MIS 5) had less effect on the dynamics of Neanderthal populations than formerly hypothesized.


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