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Mousterian Culture

Published Dec 23, 2007

The material record left by Neandertals between 250,000 and 35,000 years ago is known as the Mousterian culture, named after the site of Le Moustier in SW France, where it was first identified. The record for the Mousterian contrasts sharply with that of the modern humans who followed. While the Neandertals made a variety of tools in stone--some of them quite complicated--the lack of innovation over hundreds of thousands of years is surprising from a modern perspective. For example, not a single tool form existed 40,000 years ago that was not already present 150,000 years earlier. In the words of the great French prehistorian Fran├žois Bordes, "They made beautiful tools stupidly." He meant that there was an almost mechanical redundancy to Mousterian tools that may imply more programmed behavior than that of later people.

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