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Thermoluminescence dating of Le Moustier (Dordogne, France)

Abstract

The chronology of the Neanderthal cultures, commonly called Mousterian, which flourished between 100,000 and 40,000 yr ago, has not been well established. The lower rock-shelter of Le Moustier provides one of the most important stratigraphic sequences, incorporating ten main Mousterian layers originally identified by Peyrony1 and two early Upper Palaeolithic layers, the stratigraphy of which is mainly defined in terms of the regional climatic chronostratigraphy derived from the alpine glacial sequence1–4. A correlation has recently been proposed between the chronostratigraphy of Dordogne and the past 125,000 yr of the well-established stratigraphy based on oceanic oxygen isotope ratios5,6, but the lack of absolute datings of Mousterian settlements makes this correlation uncertain between 100,000 and 40,000 yr BP. We now report dates obtained by thermoluminescence measurements of 34 specimens of burnt flint recovered from the upper 3 m of the Mousterian deposits and from the superimposed Upper Palaeolithic layer. The dates, which range from 56,000 to 40,000 yr BP, allow us to correlate the cold sediment deposits of Le Moustier with cold intervals of the oxygen isotopic record of the Mediterranean Sea during isotopic stage 3.

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