Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2024

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Tony Krus

Second Advisor

Saige Kelmelis

Third Advisor

Zoli Filotas


Neanderthal, Châtelperronian, Radiocarbon Dating, Depopulation

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology


Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) inhabited Eurasia approximately 350,000 years ago before experiencing population decline and disappearing from the archaeological record around 40,000 years ago (Yaworsky et al. 1). Radiocarbon dating has played a major role in establishing the timing of the last Neanderthals by both dating their skeletal remains and animal bones associated with their material culture. Widely discussed in the context of the last Neanderthals are the Châtelperronian stratigraphic layers as they possibly contain the last of Neanderthal material culture in regions of France and Spain. Whether the Châtelperronian should be attributed to Neanderthals or Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) is the subject of intense debate; however, many generally accept that this cultural layer should be attributed to the Neanderthals (Hublin et al. 18747-18748). What exactly caused the decline and disappearance of the Neanderthals is also widely debated. Radiocarbon dating methods have been used to both directly date the most recent Neanderthal remains as well as animal bones associated with the Châtelperronian. The radiocarbon dating of these samples has allowed for the approximate timing of both the end of the Châtelperronian and the last Neanderthals. If the Neanderthal-Châtelperronian association is correct, the end of the Châtelperronian should be closely temporally related to the last directly dated Neanderthals in France and Spain. The purpose of this study was to assess the Neanderthal-Châtelperronian association and apply relevant findings to a greater discussion about radiocarbon dating and Neanderthal decline. Twenty-six radiocarbon measurements gathered from European Neanderthal remains as well as 58 measurements from animal bones located in Châtelperronian layers at the sites Grotte du Renne, La Ferrassie, Les Cottes, La Quina Aval, La Guelga, and Labeko Koba were compiled into OxCal. The Difference() command was used to establish the temporal relationship between the last European Neanderthals and the end of the Châtelperronian. For the sites that contained both dated Neanderthal remains and Châtelperronian associated bones, it was found that the Châtelperronian both predates and postdates the Neanderthal remains. It was also discovered that Châtelperronian and direct Neanderthal radiocarbon measurements support the end of the Neanderthals’ occupation occurring approximately 40,000 years ago within Spain and France. These findings generally support the Neanderthal-Châtelperronian association as they demonstrate a close temporal relationship between the last Neanderthals and the Châtelperronian. An important implication of this study is that radiocarbon data alone is unable to definitively resolve the question of which hominins occupied the Châtelperronian or why the Neanderthals declined. For the time being, the debate on who is responsible for the Châtelperronian and what caused the Neanderthal decline will continue.



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