Excavations conducted over 50 years ago demonstrated that the site of Combe-Capelle bas, located in the Dordogne region of Southwest France, contained rich, stratified archaeological materials which are termed "Mousterian" and date to the early part of the most recent glaciation. A reconnaissance conducted by Dr. Dibble in 1987 confirms that the site contains both lithic and faunal remains as well as the debris from stone tool making. Building on this past work, Dr. Dibble and his colleagues will conduct three seasons of excavation at Combe-Capelle bas and analyze the materials recovered. All material will be plotted in three dimensional space and an attempt made through thermoluminesence dating to establish an absolute chronology. The goal of the research is to gain greater understanding of the Mousterian culture and how it changed over time. Archaeologists have, on the basis of tool types, defined a number of Mousterian variants which have been accorded separate names. However, it is unclear what these different types actually reflect. Some archaeologists have argued that all represent a single culture and the differences are the results of distinct sets of activities. Others have argued that each variant is in fact produced by a separate "tribe". To answer this question requires carefully excavated, large stratigraphically secure samples which are subjected to detailed typological analysis. This is what Dr. Dibble and his colleagues plan. The broader goal of this research is to understand how humans developed and how modern humans are unique. The Mousterians were the immediate predecessors to ourselves. Through a better understanding of their behavioral adaptations we can gain a better understanding of how we are distinct.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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University of Pennsylvania
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