Chronology of the Grotte du Renne (France) and implications for the context of ornaments and human remains within the Châtelperronian

Thomas Higham, Roger Jacobi, Michéle Julien, Francine David, Laura Basell, Rachel Wood, William Davies, Christopher Bronk Ramsey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    140 Citations (Scopus)


    There is extensive debate concerning the cognitive and behavioral adaptation of Neanderthals, especially in the period when the earliest anatomically modern humans dispersed into Western Europe, around 35,000–40,000 B.P. The site of the Grotte du Renne (at Arcy-sur-Cure) is of great importance because it provides the most persuasive evidence for behavioral complexity among Neanderthals. A range of ornaments and tools usually associated with modern human industries, such as the Aurignacian, were excavated from three of the Châtelperronian levels at the site, along with Neanderthal fossil remains (mainly teeth). This extremely rare occurrence has been taken to suggest that Neanderthals were the creators of these items. Whether Neanderthals independently achieved this level of behavioral complexity and whether this was culturally transmitted or mimicked via incoming modern humans has been contentious. At the heart of this discussion lies an assumption regarding the integrity of the excavated remains. One means of testing this is by radiocarbon dating; however, until recently, our ability to generate both accurate and precise results for this period has been compromised. A series of 31 accelerator mass spectrometry ultra?ltered dates on bones, antlers, artifacts, and teeth from six key archaeological levels shows an unexpected degree of variation. This suggests that some mixing of material may have occurred, which implies a more complex depositional history at the site and makes it dif?cult to be con?dent about the association of artifacts with human remains in the Châtelperronian levels.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20234-20239
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    Issue number47
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2010


    • Aurignacian
    • radiocarbon dating
    • ultrafiltration
    • Neandertal
    • Mousterian


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    • Time for the Palaeolithic

      Tom Higham (Organiser), Laura Basell (Organiser), Rachel Woods (Organiser) & Katerina Douka (Organiser)

      14 Apr 201116 Apr 2011

      Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


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