Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences Mousterian: A Middle Stone Age Technology That May Be Outmoded Share Flipboard Email Print V. Mourre Social Sciences Archaeology Basics Ancient Civilizations Excavations History of Animal and Plant Domestication Psychology Sociology Economics Ergonomics Maritime By K. Kris Hirst Archaeology Expert M.A., Anthropology, University of Iowa B.Ed., Illinois State University K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science. our editorial process Twitter Twitter K. Kris Hirst Updated August 09, 2019 The Mousterian industry is the name archaeologists have given to an ancient Middle Stone Age method of making stone tools. The Mousterian is associated with our hominid relatives the Neanderthals in Europe and Asia and both Early Modern Human and Neanderthals in Africa. Mousterian stone tools were in use between about 200,000 years ago, until roughly 30,000 years ago, after the Acheulean industry, and about the same time as the Fauresmith tradition in South Africa. Stone Tools of the Mousterian The Mousterian stone tool production type is considered a technological step forward consisting of a transition from Lower Paleolithic hand-held Acheulean hand axes to hafted tools. Hafted tools are stone points or blades mounted on wooden shafts and wielded as spears or perhaps bow and arrow. A typical Mousterian stone tool assemblage is primarily defined as a flake-based tool kit made using the Levallois technique, rather than later blade-based tools. In traditional archaeological terminology, "flakes" are variously shaped thin stone sheets knapped off a core, while "blades" are flakes which are at least twice as long as their widths. The Mousterian Toolkit Part of the Mousterian assemblage is made up of Levallois tools such as points and cores. The tool kit varies from place to place and from time to time but in general, includes the following tools: Mousterian point/convergent scraper: short, broad triangular projectile points struck from prepared coresLevallois flakes with retouch: sub-oval, subquadrangular, triangular, or leaf-shaped flakes struck from cores, which may have been retouched, that is to say, a series of small purposeful flakes have been removed from the flake to create an edge which is either sharp for cutting or blunted to make it safe to holdLevallois blades: elongated oval or rectangular blanks removed from cores with basal preparation and correction of the core convexityLevallois cores: include two types, pebble and bipolar. Pebble cores are clasts or angular rock fragments from which a series of flakes have been detached by percussion; bipolar cores are those created by placing the clast on a hard surface and striking it from above with a hard percussor History The Mousterian tool kit was identified in the 20th century to solve chronostratigraphic problems in western European Middle Paleolithic stone tool assemblages. Middle Stone Age tools were first intensively mapped in the Levant where British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod identified the Levantine facies at the site of Mugharet et-Tabün or Tabun Cave in what is today Israel. The traditional Levantine process is defined below: Tabun D or Phase 1 Levantine (270 to 170 thousand years ago [ka]), laminar blanks from Levallois and non-Levallois unipolar and bi-polar cores, higher frequency of retouched piecesTabun C or Phase 2 Levantine (170 to 90 ka) oval or rectangular blanks from cores, Mousterian points, side scrapers, notches, and denticulatesTabun B or Phase 3 Levantine (90 to 48 ka), blanks from Levallois cores, Mousterian points, thin flakes and blades Since Garrod's day, the Mousterian has been used as a point of departure to compare stone tools from Africa and southwest Asia. Recent Critiques However, United States archaeologist John Shea has suggested that the Mousterian category may have outlived its usefulness and may even be getting in the way of the ability for scholars to effectively study human behaviors. The Mousterian lithic technology was defined as a single entity in the early 20th century, and although during the first half of that century a range of scholars tried to subdivide it, they were largely unsuccessful. Shea (2014) points out that different regions have different percentages of the different tool types and the categories are not based on what scholars are interested in learning. Scholars would like to know, after all, what was the tool making strategy for different groups, and that is not readily available from the Mousterian technology in the way it is currently defined. Shea proposes that moving away from the traditional categories would open up paleolithic archaeology and enable it to address the central issues in paleoanthropology. A Few Mousterian Sites Levant Israel: Qafzeh, Skhul, Kebara, Hayonim, Tabun, Emeireh, Amud, Zuttiyeh, El-WadJordan: 'Ain DiflaSyria: El Kowm North Africa Morocco: Rhafas Cave, Dar es Soltan Central Asia Turkey: Kalatepe DeresiAfghanistan: Darra-i-KurUzbekistan: Teschik-Tasch Europe Gibraltar: Gorhams CaveFrance: Abric Romani, St. Cesaire, Grotte du NoistierSpain: L'Arbreda CaveSiberia: Denisova CaveUkraine: Moldova SitesCroatia: Vindija Cave Selected Sources Bar-Yosef O. 2008. ASIA, WEST: Palaeolithic Cultures. In: Pearsall DM, editor. Encyclopedia of Archaeology. New York: Academic Press. p 865-875.Close AE, and Minichillo T. 2007. Archaeological Records: Global Expansion 300,000-8000 years ago, Africa. In: Elias SA, editor. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science. Oxford: Elsevier. p 99-107.Culley EV, Popescu G, and Clark GA. 2013. An analysis of the compositional integrity of the Levantine Mousterian facies. Quaternary International 300:213-233.Petraglia MD, and Dennell R. 2007. Archaeological Records: Global Expansion 300,000-8000 years ago, Asia. In: Elias SA, editor. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science. Oxford: Elsevier. p 107-118.Shea JJ. 2013. Lithic Modes A–I: A New Framework for Describing Global-Scale Variation in Stone Tool Technology Illustrated with Evidence from the East Mediterranean Levant. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20(1):151-186.Shea JJ. 2014. Sink the Mousterian? Named stone tool industries (NASTIES) as obstacles to investigating hominin evolutionary relationships in the Later Middle Paleolithic Levant. Quaternary International 350:169-179.