Burning, dumping, and site use during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic at Hohle Fels Cave, SW Germany
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2022, 14 (9), 178. 10.1007/s12520-022-01647-7
Dumped deposits are a valuable source of information for inferring past behaviour. They provide insights into site maintenance, social organization and settlement dynamics. Hohle Fels Cave in SW Germany offers a unique opportunity to investigate the importance of dumping and site maintenance during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of the Swabian Jura. In this paper, we analyse anthropogenic deposits at Hohle Fels employing micromorphology and fabric analysis in order to reconstruct their formation and understand the human behaviours behind their accumulation. Our study indicates that dumping residues from combustion features in the interior of Hohle Fels Cave has a long history extending back to Neanderthal occupation at the site during the Middle Palaeolithic. Despite some reworking via down-slope movement, most of the features demonstrate that the site’s inhabitants dumped burnt material, which was previously the fuel for domestic hearths, in specific locations within the cave. The intentionality of the action and the characteristics of the features provide important information for reconstructing the mode and spatial organization of occupations at the site. The combustion features from the Middle Palaeolithic allow us to reassess the hypothesis that Neanderthals’ use of the site was less intense and documented a lesser degree of spatial patterning than subsequent Upper Palaeolithic occupations. This research also provides insight for examining the regional variability of pyrotechnology and site maintenance during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic.