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Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

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Quaternary International
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/quaint

On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during

the Last Glacial in south-west France
Andrew C. Sorensen
Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Both environmental and cultural factors dictate how, when and where hunter-gatherers use re in the
Received 19 May 2016 landscape, as well as how well evidence for any one re will preserve in the archaeological record.
Received in revised form Variability in the production and preservation of anthropogenic re traces can potentially skew our
30 September 2016
perception of re use in the past. With this in mind, the research presented in this article weighs in on
Accepted 3 October 2016
the debate concerning Neandertal re use and re making, specically, the assertion that Neandertals
Available online xxx
were unable to produce re for themselves (Sandgathe et al., 2011a, 2011b). This hypothesis is based on
the inferred correlation between climatic deterioration, concurrent lowering of lightning-ignited re
frequencies, and reduced signals for re use in layers presumably deposited during the Lower Pleniglacial
Neandertals (Marine Isotope Stage 4) at the Middle Palaeolithic sites of Roc de Marsal and Pech de lAze IV (Aquitaine
Middle Palaeolithic Basin, southwestern France), the logic being that if Neandertals could produce re at will, re use signals
Last Glacial would remain largely consistent throughout the deposits despite there being limited access to natural
Lightning res in the landscape during this colder period. This review challenges these assertions at multiple scales
Fire regime by looking at regional lightning and re regime dynamics, comparing the re signals observed at Roc de
Marsal and Pech de lAze  IV to those of other sites nearby and around France, and exploring the various
environmental and cultural factors likely inuencing these signals. Ultimately, the data suggests that
estimated reductions in lightning frequencies and re regime during the Lower Pleniglacial (and colder
stadial periods, in general) were not adequate to severely limit Neandertal access to natural re, while
possible artefactual evidence for Neandertal re making challenges the assumption that they were at all
reliant on lightning-ignited re. Moreover, at the nearby Neandertal site of Combe Grenal, the majority of
the layers exhibiting evidence of re use have cold climatic signals, suggesting the re use trends
observed at Roc de Marsal and Pech de lAze  IV are potentially local expressions of changes in regional
site use patterns, possibly brought on by increased reliance on highly mobile, migratory reindeer prey
species and reductions in local woodfuel availability during cold periods. Other factors potentially
reducing the archaeological visibility of cold climate re use are discussed.
2016 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Lumley, 2006; Wrangham, 2009; Roebroeks and Villa, 2011a;

Sandgathe et al., 2011a; Ferna ndez Peris et al., 2012; Gowlett and
Fire has been integral to the human toolkit for a long time. Its Wrangham, 2013; Stahlschmidt et al., 2015).
uses are manifold and include providing heat for warmth, cooking Human interaction with re likely occurred in four stages: 1)
and tool manufacture, light for night time working and protection conceptualizing and understanding re (Pruetz and LaDuke, 2010;
from predators, smoke to reduce harassment by ying insects, and Parker et al., 2016), 2) passive use of re, 3) active control, i.e. the
ames to burn old bedding, manipulate the landscape or aid in collection, preservation, and transportation of re, and 4) articial
hunting (for an overview, see Clark and Harris, 1985). But just when production of re using stone percussion or wood friction (Frazer,
and how re entered the human technological repertoire is still 1930; Goudsblom, 1986). Determining what constitutes each
subject to intense debate (Goudsblom, 1986; James, 1989; de stage and how to recognise it archaeologically is central to the
debate and is often the main source of ambiguity when it comes to
the positioning of the onset of these stages chronologically (and
spatially). Further compounding the issue are the problems
E-mail address: a.c.sorensen@arch.leidenuniv.nl.

1040-6182/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
2 A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

inherent in differentiating anthropogenic re from natural re (e.g., comparing and contrasting archaeological signals for re use dur-
Bellomo, 1993; Gowlett et al., 2005; Mentzer, 2014), as well as our ing cold and warm climatic periods in SW France with shifts in
understanding of how various re residues and other evidences for modelled lightning re ignition frequencies and palaeore regimes,
re use are produced and preserved (Sergant et al., 2006; Mallol and to provide possible explanations for re signal variability be-
et al., 2007, 2010; Carrancho and Villalan, 2011; Courty et al., tween cold and warm occupation layers and between sites.
2012; Henry, 2012; Vallverd et al., 2012; Mallol et al., 2013;
Carrancho et al., 2016; Rhodes et al., 2016). 1.1. The environmentally determined Neandertal re use model
Neandertals were certainly knowledgeable about the properties
of re and not only used it passively for warmth and light, but Sandgathe et al. (2011b, 2011a) assert that if Neandertals were
actively as a tool for cooking food (e.g., Henry et al., 2011; Blasco dependent on natural, lightning-caused conagrations as their
et al., 2016), or for synthesizing birch bark tar adhesive for haft- primary source for domestic re, the prevalence of anthropogenic
ing (for an overview, see Wragg Sykes, 2015). This latter activity, re should be linked to prevailing climatic conditions. Thus,
while not only being complex (i.e., entailing many steps), appeared changes in the re use signal within MP archaeological sites should
early in the archaeological record, at least prior to Marine Isotope correspond to shifts in climate. The fundamental assertions of this
Stage (MIS) 6 at Campitello Quarry in Italy (Mazza et al., 2006; model (both implicit and explicit) are as follows (see also Table 1):
Modugno et al., 2006), and again in Germany at Ko nigsaue (Koller
et al., 2001; Grnberg, 2002) during the Last Glacial (MIS 5a). 1) Global and regional climate phenomena inuence lightning
Despite demonstrating some Neandertals had developed by at least frequency, with cooler climates resulting in reduced lightning
200,000 years ago a complex hafting technology for which frequencies (cf., Rakov and Uman, 2003).
controlled use of re was essential, these ndings are not proof- 2) Lightning frequency determines the regional and local re
positive evidence of re production, despite perhaps lending regime, dened as the pattern of frequency, season, type,
credence to the idea (Roebroeks and Villa, 2011b). severity and extent of res in a landscape (Bond and Keeley,
The case for articial re making (see Section 2.4.5.) is further 2005), meaning fewer lightning strikes would result in fewer
supported, however, by the recovery of Mousterian re making overall ignitions.
tools from multiple Middle Palaeolithic (MP) archaeological sites in 3) Shifts in re regime directly determined the frequency of
France dating to the Last Glacial (Rots et al., 2011; Sorensen et al., Neandertal access to re and should thus a) manifest similarly in
2014; Sorensen and Claud, 2016; Sorensen and Rots, 2014; Rots, contemporaneous layers at nearby archaeological sites, and b)
2015; Heyes et al., 2016), suggesting at least some Neandertal coincide with climatic shifts indicated by the faunal and oral
groups had developed the ability to produce re. records. In other words, archaeological layers with strong re
This paper focuses on the transition between active re use and signals should, as a rule, coincide with environmental proxies
re production. This act was arguably the rst true instance of that indicate warm conditions, while re-poor layers should
domestication by humans (Goudsblom, 1992), wherein all the coincide with cold climate environmental proxies.
benets conferred by re are instantly made available. Roebroeks 4) If Neandertals were capable of articially producing re at will,
and Villa (2011a) contend the increasing regularity with which then the archaeological signals for re use should be similar
re is observed in the MP suggests Neandertals (and their imme- throughout the glacial and interglacial cycledif not more pro-
diate predecessors) were habitual re users from 400 to 300 ka nounced when it is cold.
onwards in Europe and the Near East (see also Gowlett et al., 2005;
Shahack-Gross et al., 2014), and likely capable of producing re for Sandgathe et al. point specically to the apparent decrease in
themselves (Shimelmitz et al., 2014). Conversely, Sandgathe et al. re use during colder periods observed at the late MP sites of Roc de
(2011b, 2011a) suggests this trend of increasing re use through Marsal and Pech de lAze IV (Dordogne, France) as evidence for this
the MP is an artefact of taphonomy and does not reect the more model.
regular use of re by Neandertals, going so far as to suggest re was
not a xed component of the Neandertal toolkit. They cite the 1.2. Site descriptions and re evidence
sporadic nature of re use at European MP sites as evidence for
Neandertals being obligate re users (i.e., reliant on natural sources Roc de Marsal (hereafter, RdM) is a small south-facing cave
of re, predominately caused by lightning strikes), while anatom- situated about 80 m above a tributary valley of the Ve  ze
re River
ically modern humans (AMH), on the other hand, were the rst to (located 1.7 km to the north-west), approximately 1.5 km south-
kindle re articially (Sandgathe et al., 2011b). However, re- east of Campagne and 5 km south-west of Les Eyzies (Fig. 1). The
making tools are largely absent from the early Upper Palaeolithic site has yielded high numbers of int tools, cores and akes (more
(UP) record, as well (Sorensen et al., 2014), and archaeological ev- than 23,000 artefacts 2.5 cm), large numbers of faunal remains,
idence for re use by AMH during this period is also sporadic and numerous combustion features (Bordes and Lalle, 1962; Turq,
(Roebroeks and Villa, 2011b). Without evidence for re making, 1979; Sandgathe et al., 2007, 2008; Turq et al., 2008). With a total
could not any increase in the prevalence of re traces during the UP thickness between 1 and 2 m, the stratigraphic sequence at Roc de
also be interpreted as a relic of taphonomy? Moreover, these pre- Marsal is comprised of seven geological lithostratigraphic units
sumably re-wielding groups had no noticeable effect on re re- containing 13 archaeological layers (Fig. 2; for more detailed de-
gimes in SW France and Spain upon their arrival to the region scriptions of the stratigraphy, see Aldeias et al., 2012, and Goldberg
(Daniau et al., 2010a). Are we to presume then that the earliest et al., 2012).
AMH inhabitants of Europe were also obligate re users? If not,  IV (hereafter, Pech IV) is a south-facing collapsed
Pech de lAze
what factors might then account for the variation in re use signals cave situated approximately 50 m above a small, usually dry stream
between these two groups, as well as between conspecic groups valley that runs into the Ene a, a small tributary of the Dordogne
over time and space? River (1.7 km south of Pech IV), 5 km south-east of Sarlat-la-Cane da,
Using the observed trends for re use at Roc de Marsal and Pech and roughly 20 km east of Roc de Marsal (Fig. 1). Pech IV is one of a
de lAze IV as a point of departure (Sandgathe et al., 2011a), the goal series of four caves in the area bearing MP deposits (Bordes, 1972,
of the research discussed here is to test the strength of the concept 1975). Using revised lithostratigraphic designations, eight major
of obligate re use by Neandertals during the Last Glacial by stratigraphic layers (17 levels in total, including subdivisions) have

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 3

Table 1
Outline of the factors potentially inuencing archaeological re signals, including the primary arguments presented by Sandgathe et al. (2011a) and the counterarguments
discussed in the text and their associated section number.

Natural fire availability Site funcon/use Seasonality Fuel availability/type Taphonomy/Preservaon Sampling methods Excavaon extent Fire making
Sandgathe et al. (2011a) p. 235 - "Lightning frequency is directly p. 231 - "[T]he lithic and faunal data p. 231 - "As yet we cannot exclude p. 235 - "[E]ven during extreme cold p. 224 - "[S]trong arguments can be made to Fig. 6, - "[Artefact] counts are based on p. 229 - "Realis cally it is highly unlikely p. 235 - "European Neandertals did not
arguments related to temperature and suggest that the presence or the possibility that the other periods there were always show that preserva on was not a p. 227 objects greater than 2.5cm in that fires could have been know how to make fire."
humidity and drops significantly in absence of fires is not a reflec on of non-fire occupa ons were some trees around, though significant factor." length and the flint includes only constructed in these remaining
cold dry clima c condi ons (Rakov dierences in the site use. The most limited to summer months, likely restricted mainly to river proximal and complete pieces areas without resul ng in residues
and Uman 2003). Interes ngly, the parsimonious explana on in the but given the long temporal valleys." (flakes, tools, and cores)." (even if only burned lithics)
rela onship between climate and face of the ethnographic data and span of these deposits, it bleeding into the adjacent
lightning frequency matches what what we see at Pech IV and Roc de would seem unlikely that excavated areas."
the data show is the case during Marsal is that both sites served occupa ons took place only p. 235 - "[B]one can also be used as p. 224 - "Further evidence that the lack of 2011b - "We would argue that, if
the Mousterian, namely less fire in generally as base or residen al during warm months for many fuel." fires in the upper layers is not a Neandertals had the ability to
cold/dry periods and more during camps, and there is nothing to tens of millennia." result of preserva on comes from make fire at will, then evidence for
warm/humid ones." suggest that this func on changed indirect data that reflects the it should occur with much greater
significantly throughout their presence of fire even when more frequency in Middle Paleolithic
occupa onal histories." direct evidence of actual fire residues sites and occupa ons and
are missing." especially, those sites associated
with such cold stages."

p. 231 "[C]ondi ons during even the p. 227 - "At both sites, the percentage of
warm months of MIS 4 were burned objects, both lithic and fauna,
s ll far cooler than todays agrees very closely with the
and, again, modern hunter- frequency of more ephemeral, direct
gatherers in even substan ally fire residues (charcoal and ash)."
warmer environments s ll rely
on fire to warm themselves,
especially at night."

Counterarguments (this 2.1.1. - Lightning and fire igni on rates 2.4.1. - This assessment does not consider 2.4.1. - Increased spring/summer 2.4.2. - Trees likely not in the direct 2.4.3. - Notable amounts of fire proxies 2.4.4. - The minimum artefact size of 2.5 2.4.4. - This is probable, but it also 2.4.5. - Possible fire making tools have
paper) are very low in the Dordogne today poten al changes in site use seasonality at Pech IV in vicinity of upland sites like Pech present in layers without combus on cm for inclusion in the sample assumes 1) hearth features would been recovered from mul ple
despite prevailing warm and humid frequency or dura on caused by colder layers may reflect shi IV and RdM during colder features should be an argument for disregards the smaller artefact size have been preserved in the (cold) Middle Palaeololithic sites da ng
condi ons. increased mobility. in site use pa erns based on periods, so more eort would the influence of destruc ve post- classes where most fire aected upper layers, and 2) that no ceably to the Last Glacial.
seasonal local availability of be needed to collect wood from deposi onal processes, not against. If artefacts fall. higher amounts of fire proxies
migratory reindeer prey. valley bo oms, likely leading to taphonomic impacts were minimal, would have been produced.
increased fuel economiza on then intact combus on features (just
(i.e., smaller, more task-specific fewer of them) should be present in
fires of shorter dura on). all layers where fire proxies are
present. This is not the case.

2.1.2. - Marine microcharcoal 2.4.1. - Roof collapse and/or sedimentary 2.4.1. - Observing diachronic change 2.4.2. - Bones likely only used as 2.4.3. - Lower (hearth) layers at Pech IV 2.4.4. - Fine-grained site-wide sampling 2.4.5. - The ability to make fire at will
concentra ons, as a proxy for infilling may have caused changes in in seasonality not currently primary fuel source if heat is protected by rockfall, with resultant necessary to iden fy microcharcoal may have reduced the fire signal by
palaeofire regime, are only weakly how a site is used, aec ng fire use possible at RdM, though layer more important than caloric 'chemical buer' helping to preserve and highly fragmented bone. allowing for more economic, task-
to moderately lower during colder and hearth placement. 4 (Quina) gives a mixed signal. intake, or to clear bone debris ash. specific fires (i.e., there was no
stadial events compared to warmer from a site. need to maintain fires for long
interstadials. periods when fuel is in short
2.1.3. - If these were reduced, it probably 2.4.1. Strong spring/summer 2.4.2. - Bone is a weak producer of 2.4.3. - Evidence for cryoturba on in upper 2.4.4. - Micromorphology is helpful, but
wasnt enough to virtually seasonality can reduce the conduc ve heat, causing less layers and li le to none in lower sampling is limited; one cannot
eliminate archaeological fire use. frequency of site visits in a thermal impact on a substrate. layers. easily direct sampling to invisible
Disparity not great enough to year and can aect hearth hearth loca ons, so there is more
account for reduc on in fire placement (i.e., outside of the focus on overt hearth features.
proxies at RdM and Pech IV. cave/shelter).

2.2. - Strong evidence for cold stage 2.4.2. - Increased fragmenta on rate 2.4. - Fire proxies are not only about
fire use is present at a number of of burned bone generally preserva on, but also condi ons for
Neandertal sites in France da ng results in pieces falling below crea on: higher geogenic
to the Last Glacial, including the Sandgathe et al. minimum sedimenta on rates and reduced site
Combe Grenal. Conversely, there 2.5 cm sample size. use frequencies (perhaps indicated
are numerous instances of warm by lower artefact densi es), coupled
layers (at Combe Grenal and with reduced frequency, intensity
elsewhere) with very weak fire and dura on of fires, decreased the
signals. chances of incidental hea ng of
extant lithic and bone artefacts.

2.3. - Nega ve shi s in fire proxies can

be seen either well before the
onset of colder clima c condi ons
(Pech IV) or poten ally well a er

Fig. 1. Locations of archaeological sites discussed in the text.

been identied (Fig. 2; for a more detailed stratigraphic description, 2009; Aldeias et al., 2012). The reduction in re signals coincides
see Goldberg et al., 2012); of these, layers 3e8 are Pleistocene de- with 1) a reduced presence of temperate forest fauna species (e.g.,
posits containing abundant MP artefacts, faunal remains and re red deer, roe deer) and an increase in reindeer remains (the main
residues (McPherron and Dibble, 1999; Dibble et al., 2009; Turq faunal proxy indicating cold, dry and more open conditions) to
et al., 2011). between ~60 and 90% of the fossil bone assemblages in layer 4 at
Sandgathe et al. (2011a) point to the comparable stratigraphic Pech IV and layers 5e2 at RdM (Laquay, 1981; Guadelli, 1987;
succession of these two sites as evidence for their rough contem- Guerin et al., 2012; Morin et al., 2014; Hodgkins et al., 2016; Cas-
poraneity. Discrete hearth structures (some stacked) only appear in tel et al., in press), which the authors interpret as indicating the
the lowest occupation levels of the sites (layer 8 at Pech IV, and transition from MIS 5 (warmer) to MIS 4 (colder); and 2) a transi-
layers 9 and 7 at RdM), with only diffuse or no re residues (i.e., tion from Levallois-based lithic techno-complexes (Ante-Quina,
charcoal, ash) and reduced frequencies of re proxies (i.e., heated Discamps et al., 2011) to the Quina Mousterian in layer 4 at Pech IV
int, burned/charred bone) in the layers above (Fig. 2) (Dibble et al., and layers 4e2 at RdM (Turq et al., 2008, 2011; Goldberg et al.,

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-

A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

Fig. 2. Site proles for Roc de Marsal, Pech de lAze IV and Combe Grenal, with associated re proxies, reindeer data and Mousterian typological designations*. The reindeer curves represent the relative taxonomic abundance of
reindeer remains compared to the Number of Identied SPecimens (% NISP) of other ungulates recovered in each level (Laquay, 1981; Guadelli, 1987; Gue rin et al., 2012; Hodgkins, 2012; Hodgkins et al., 2016; Castel et al., in press; data
largely compiled by Morin et al., 2014). Layer designations, Mousterian industries and re proxy data for RdM and Pech IV are after Sandgathe et al. (2011a), while the reindeer curve for Pech IV is based on the older layer designations
(right) by Bordes (1975). The re use signals for Combe Grenal are based on observations by Bordes (1955, 1972) of strong (3) and weak re traces (2), while one (1) indicates layers where heated int or burned bone have been
observed (Vogel and Waterbolk, 1967; Bowman and Sieveking, 1983; Faivre, 2011); underlined layer numbers indicate the presence of re. The Combe Grenal prole and Mousterian industry designations are both after Bordes (1972).
The prole photo of Pech IV is after Goldberg et al. (2012). The prole photo of RdM is used with the permission of Alain Turq. *Mousterian typological designations are abbreviated as follows: A Anisipodian, D Denticulate,
FFerrassie, MTA Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition, Q Quina, T Typical.
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 5

2012). At Pech IV, the re signal remains weak into the uppermost periods, thus limiting the availability of natural re sources. If Ne-
MP layers (3e2), which contain Discoid lithic techno-complexes andertals were indeed obligate re users, this reduction in light-
assigned to the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition A/B typology. ningdand the assumed parallel reduction in re regimedmay
The authors assert that the observed re trends cannot be have limited Neandertal re use enough to account for the dispa-
explained by variable preservation of re traces due to taphonomic rate re signals encountered between the warm and cold occupa-
agencies, excavation extent or methods, site function or seasonality tion layers at RdM and Pech IV.
of site use. Discussing in detail all the complexities dictating re ignition
and propagation in any one location (Keeley et al., 2011) is beyond
1.3. Testing the model the purview of this article. Among the most important, however,
are vegetation/fuel type, which is largely determined by annual
A top-down approach is used to explore the assertions inherent rainfall and rainfall seasonality (Archibald et al., 2009; Woillez
to this environmentally determined Neandertal re use model, et al., 2014), fuel state (especially the moisture content of ne
wherein the following questions are addressed: fuels), the presence of a high pressure weather system, the amount
and positioning of rainfall during a storm event (Nash and Johnson,
1. To what degree did climatic shifts affect lightning ash fre- 1996; Latham and Williams, 2001), the percentage of tree cover/
quencies, and how might these changes in lightning frequency openness of the landscape (Uhl and Kauffman, 1990; Hennenberg
have inuenced natural re ignition frequency? et al., 2006), fuel connectivity (Archibald et al., 2012), and wind
2. How do these estimated shifts in re frequency compare in speed (see also: Kourtz and Todd, 1992; Wotton and Martell, 2005).
timing and magnitude to diachronic shifts in a) re regime in Lightning is, of course, integral to this process, but it is important to
south-west France, inferred from fossil marine microcharcoal point out that lightning frequency is only loosely correlated to re
concentrations from the Bay of Biscay, and b) re use signals ignition (Court, 1960; Komarek, 1964; Flannigan and Wotton, 1991;
observed at RdM and Pech IV? Latham and Williams, 2001; Minnich et al., 2009). In other words,
3. Do the patterns for cold and temperate re signals from these areas with higher lightning frequencies do not necessarily have
sites indeed capture the same climatic shift from MIS 5 to MIS 4, higher re ignition rates.
and how do these signals compare with other presumably So how different might re ignition rates have been during
contemporaneous archaeological sequences in the region? colder glacial conditions compared to the warm interglacial con-
4. What other factors (environmental and cultural) potentially ditions today? According to data compiled by NASA (Cecil et al.,
create disparities in the production and preservation of re 2014), the Aquitaine Basin today only receives on average 2e6
residues and re proxies between cold and warm periods, and lightning ashes km2 yr1, with the Dordogne receiving around 3
how might excavation and sampling methods (in general) skew (Fig. 3). While lightning causes most natural res (Stewart, 1956;
re signals? Komarek, 1965), not every strike results in an ignition. About 75%
of all lightning ashes are restricted to the clouds, meaning only
around 25% ever make contact with earth's surface (CIGRE WG
2. Results and discussion
C4.407, 2013). Ultimately, only around 1e4% of these cloud-to-
ground strikes ignite a re (Latham and Williams, 2001, and ref-
2.1. Lightning, ignition and changes in palaeore regime in SW
erences therein). This estimate is based largely on (sub)boreal for-
France during the Last Glacial
est environments and can perhaps serve as a mid-range estimate,
since re frequencies are often higher in steppic regions (Sannikov
2.1.1. Lightning and re ignition rates
and Goldammer, 1996) and lower in temperate deciduous forests
Sandgathe et al. (2011a) contend that lightning frequency, being
(Bond and Van Wilgen, 1996). Given these rates, one could expect
linked to temperature and humidity (cf., Williams, 1995; Rakov and
between 0.0075 and 0.03 res km2 yr1 in the Dordogne
Uman, 2003), would have been reduced during colder, drier stadial

Fig. 3. Global annual distribution of lightning, 1996e2014, from the combined observations of the NASA OTD (1995e2000) and LIS (1998e2014) instruments. Inset: Close-up of
France, star indicates location of the Dordogne, which receives on average 3 ashes km2 yr1. Global lightning Image obtained from ftp://ghrc.nsstc.nasa.gov/pub/lis/climatology/
HRFC/browse/HRFC_COM_FR_V2.3.2014.png, maintained by NASA EOSDIS Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC) DAAC, Huntsville, AL. 2015. Data for the image were provided
by the NASA EOSDIS GHRC DAAC. (For clarity, we refer readers to the color version of this gure on the web.)

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
6 A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

(Supplementary Table 1). To compare, historic re frequency data conditions and terrain, smoke plumes are potentially visible up to
from the Dordogne (1993e2013) closely align with the modelled 50 km away (Horvath, 1995). Using the average single day foraging
range at 0.00916e0.0526 res km2 yr1, with the inclusion of distance for modern hunter-gatherers of around 15 km (round-trip)
human-caused res skewing the data towards the high end of the (Binford, 2001), one could reasonably expect to encounter between
range (Data provided by the European Forest Fire Information 1.3 and 5.3 natural res yr1 (of any size) in the Dordogne today
System or EFFIS (http://efs.jrc.ec.europa.eu) of the European within this 176.7 km2 daily foraging area surrounding a site, and
Commission Joint Research Centre; San-Miguel-Ayanz et al., 2012). between 0.4 and 4.3 natural res yr1 under full glacial conditions.
Lightning frequency tends to rise by 12 5% for every 1  C in- If whole groups relocated near to active re sources (again,
crease in global mean annual temperature (GMAT) (Romps et al., assuming an average daily walking distance of 15 km), then they
2014), and likely drops by a similar percentage for every 1  C could expect between 5.3 and 21.2 res yr1 within this range
decrease (Romps, pers. comm. 2015). The modelled 3e6  C reduc- (706.86 km2) today, or 1.7e17.0 res yr1 during glacial periods.
tion in GMAT for the Last Glacial Maximum (MIS 2) (Annan and Logs left smouldering can potentially burn for days or weeks
Hargreaves, 2013, and references therein) provides a conservative (Minnich, 1987; Rabelo et al., 2004), while peat res (usually in
lower limit for the coldest stadial periods encountered during the boreal zones) can smoulder for months on end (Rein, 2009),
Last Glacial. This would potentially result in a 31.2 11.6% to meaning if the desire were great enough, any re within visible
51.3 16% drop in lightning frequency, causing between 0.002453 range could be reached within a few days and may still be
and 0.02412 res km2 yr1 in the Dordogne (Supplementary exploitable long after the aming re front has been extinguished.
Table 1). It is important to note here the overlap between the Using the 50 km maximum visibility radius, 75e300 res yr1
number of expected res in colder and warmer periods; it dem- could potentially be exploited under interglacial conditions, and
onstrates the potential (alluded to above) for there to be more res 24.5e241.2 res yr1 under glacial conditions. Indeed, on any given
during a cooler period despite reduced lightning strike frequencies day during the summer months within the boreal zone of Alaska
if favourable vegetation and climatic conditions increase ignition today, about 100 (natural) forest res will be burning (Farukh and
rates. Hayasaka, 2012), which if distributed evenly, would yield at least
Neandertals were not static beings waiting for the re to come one active re within this 50 km distance. Together, the mobile
to them, however (Gowlett, 2015). Depending on weather nature of Neandertal groups and their ability to transport and

Fig. 4. Microcharcoal data from deep-sea core MD04-2845 (Bay of Biscay) plotted by age (left), and box plots (right) comparing combined microcharcoal concentrations (CCnb) and
total microcharcoal surface areas (CCsurf) for warmer Greenland interstadial (GI) and cooler stadial (GS) periods. The dashed lines (red in the electronic version) denote median
microcharcoal values for the entire period displayed. Percentages correspond to the relative distance from median values for the highest and lowest data points for each metric.
Microcharcoal data are after Daniau et al. (2009).

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 7

conserve re could have helped, in part, to negate the modest median value of 11,299  104. The median CCnb values for GS and
differences in re ignition frequencies between climatic periods. GI (respectively) are 8333  104 and 9782  104 nb g1, or -5.5%
and 10.9% relative to the overall median. The median CCsurf
values for GS and GI are 11,216  104 and 11,332  104 mm2 g1,
2.1.2. Palaeore regime or 0.7% and 0.3% relative to the median. For CCnb, 41.2% of data
Microcharcoal data obtained from marine core MD04-2845 in points during GS are above are above the median, while 63.9% are
the Bay of Biscay has been shown to be a reliable proxy for above the median during GI (Fig. 5). For CCsurf values, 49.1% are
describing changes in biomass burning that reect shifts in re above the median for GS, and 51.8% are above the median for GI.
regime in SW France (Daniau et al., 2009, 2010b). This data is As expressed above, microcharcoal values for GI and GS are
expressed as the concentration of microcharcoal (CCnb number given both in terms of their relation to median CCnb and CCsurf
of microcharcoal per gram, nb g1) and as the total surface area of values for the whole period in question (Fig. 4), as well as the
the microcharcoal (CCsurf the sum of all surfaces of micro- percentage of data points per GI/GS that present values above or
charcoal in one sample per gram, mm2 g1). This latter measure below median CCnb and CCsurf values (Fig. 5). This latter measure
helps to correct for inated microcharcoal concentrations caused helps to gauge the relative amount of time re regimes were above
by increased fragmentation related to transport (Daniau et al., or below average within a given time slice, while largely negating
2009) or production, where higher intensity res tend to increase the effects of anomalously high or low data points within a series.
rates of fragmentation (Komarek et al., 1973; The ry-Parisot, 2001). For example, three of the ve lowest CCnb values and two of the
Determining the relative differences in re regime between these ve lowest CCsurf values occur during Heinrich Event 6 (H6), a
warmer and colder periods may provide a means to test the validity major cold snap during the Last Glacial. Nevertheless, median
of the Sandgathe et al. model, at least at the larger regional scale. microcharcoal values for this period are, perhaps surprisingly, just
To assess how re regimes uctuated during the portion of Last above the overall median (CCnb 0.25%, CCsurf 4.42%), while
Glacial likely represented at RdM and Pech IV, median micro- 55.5% of CCnb values and 75.8% of CCsurf values are above the
charcoal values spanning MIS 5c through mid-MIS 3(c. 105e32 ka) median. These values appear to run counter to the expectations of
were compared after further subdivision into warmer Greenland the Sandgathe et al. model.
interstadial (GI) and colder Greenland stadial (GS) periods (North Overall, the two microcharcoal metrics appear to be slightly at
Greenland Ice Core Project Members, 2004; Sanchez-Gon ~ i et al., odds, with CCnb values appearing moderately lower during GS
2008; Daniau et al., 2009; Svensson et al., 2008). compared to GI, while CCsurf values are nearly identical. As alluded
CCnb values vary between 218.4  104 and 1607  104 nb g1, or to previously, this difference may partially be related to increased
-75.2% and 82.2% (respectively) relative to the overall median charcoal fragmentation caused by higher intensity burning asso-
value of 8820  104 (Fig. 4). CCsurf values vary between 5069  104 ciated with forest res during warmer GI, thereby inating
and 20,137  104 mm2 g1, or 55.1% and 78.2% relative to the

Fig. 5. Microcharcoal data presented as the number of data points above or below median CCnb and CCsurf values (see Fig. 4) within Greenland interstadial (GI) and stadial (GS)
periods. Pie charts (left) compare combined GI and GS data for the entire period analysed, while the bar graph (right) provides a breakdown of the relative percentages of data
points above and below median values and the number of data points represented per GI and GS period.

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
8 A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

microcharcoal concentrations (CCnb) relative to those produced by fragments were observed in layer 17 (Faivre, 2011). Five other layers
lower intensity grass and brush res during GS. (60, 55, 50, 49 and 20) contained heated ints that were subjected
to TL analysis (Bowman and Sieveking, 1983). And layer 12 (E2)
2.1.3. Comparisons with archaeological re proxy data contained burned bone that was collected for radiocarbon dating
As it is argued below, treating the amount of re residues (Vogel and Waterbolk, 1967). Bordes (1975) also notes re-
observed within archaeological layers as another environmental reddened patches of limestone bedrock directly underlying layer
proxy is fraught with problems (see Section 2.4.3.). Nevertheless, 55. Despite the current lack of re proxy data from Combe Grenal
accepting momentarily the assumption that there is a direct rela- for quantitative comparison, the signal of re use does not at all
tionship between natural re prevalence, Neandertal re use and appear to conform to the Sandgathe et al. model: re traces occur
relative quantities of re proxies, re proxy data for RdM suggests regularly in the cold layers associated with elevated reindeer
there was roughly 23 times more res in layer 9 (containing the presence during MIS 4, with seven of the ten layers assigned to the
highest proportion of heated lithic artefacts at 30%) compared to Quina lithic techno-complex (Faivre et al., 2014) exhibiting evi-
layer 4 (the lowest at 1.3%), and at Pech IV, around 23.7 times more dence for re use.
res in layer 8 (21.3%) than layer 4 (0.9%, the average of levels 4A-C Other sites in France also exhibit strong re signals in layers
according to Turq et al., 2011). By contrast, the model outlined above assigned to cold periods. For example, layer 4 at Abris du Maras
in Section 2.1.1. suggests the annual number of lightning res could (near the conuence of the Arde che and Rho^ ne Rivers in south-east
be at most 13.25 times greater under interglacial conditions than France), exhibits combustion structures, high percentages of
under glacial conditions, assuming the most favourable and least burned bone, charcoal and heated ints, with a faunal assemblage
favourable conditions for ignition prevailed during these periods, comprised of ~85% reindeer (NISP) (Daujeard and Moncel, 2010;
respectively. While it is true that, compared to the median GS and GI Moncel et al., 2015). At La Quina (Charente, SW France), Bed 8 is
microcharcoal values, greater shifts between individual peaks and dominated by reindeer remains (~90%) and contains large amounts
troughs can be observed in Fig. 4, the highest CCnb value recorded is of burned bone (~95% < 2.5 cm) (Chase, 1989; as cited in Jelinek,
7.36 times greater than the lowest, while the highest CCsurf value is 2013).
only 3.97 times greater (Figs. 4 and 5). The lack of precision dating It should also be noted that the logic of the Sandgathe et al.
and the potential effects of time averaging in archaeological de- model could cut both ways: if anthropogenic re signals weaken
posits preclude accurate assignment of individual microcharcoal when it is colder, then they should become stronger when it is
data points to specic archaeological levels or occupations. Ulti- warmer. Yet, this is not always the case, as attested to by the near
mately, neither proxy, even at their extremes, suggests rates of re absence of observed re traces at any number of Last Interglacial
prevalence in the landscape were ever so low for long enough pe- (MIS 5e) and Early Glacial (MIS 5d-a) sites (see Dataset S1 in
riods to account for the drastic reductions in re signal at RdM and Roebroeks and Villa, 2011a,b for examples).
Pech IV, indicating other factors are more likely responsible. One is then left to wonder whether the reduced re signals
witnessed in the cold layers at RdM and Pech IV are indeed related
2.2. Archaeological signal for cold stage re use by Neandertals to reduced re in the environment, or instead to reduced use of re
by Neandertals for some other reason, taphonomy, or some com-
Evidence alluding to the presence of re on archaeological sites bination of these factors. Given the contradictory pattern observed
during the MIS 4 cold stage is common (see Roebroeks and Villa, at Combe Grenal, it is possible that the changes in re signals at
2011a), but Sandgathe et al. observe that the degree of burning RdM and Pech IV reect local phenomena and are not indicative of a
rarely approaches that seen in the levels of RdM and Pech IV region-wide pattern.
attributed to MIS 5, at least as far as preserved combustion features
are concerned. While the authors acknowledge that It is clear that 2.3. Contemporaneity: problems and implications for addressing
the evidence from these few sites cannot easily be applied to an re and environmental signals
entire region (Sandgathe et al., 2011a, p. 234), their conclusions
appear to do just that despite strong evidence for re use through The limitations of chronometric dating are rarely more frus-
the coldest periods of MIS 4/3 at the nearby site of Combe Grenal. trating than around transitional periods. The volatile nature of
A portion of the 13 m sequence at Combe Grenal (Domme) climatic uctuations during the Last Glacial and the implications
appears to be contemporaneous with RdM and Pech IV (Discamps these have on Neandertal lifeways makes this problem of dating
et al., 2011; Faivre et al., 2014; Morin et al., 2014), exhibiting particularly vexing, as interpretations of climatic signals are often
similar climatic and archaeological trends (for detailed descriptions heavily inuenced by newly acquired absolute dates. While the
of the stratigraphic sequence, see Bordes, 1972 and Mellars, 1996). primary concern of this paper is the relationship between envi-
However, despite being located very near Pech IV (6 km) and Roc de ronmental and corresponding re signals, (re)interpretation of
Marsal (22 km) (Fig. 1), the re signal there seems to run counter to climate signals based on chronometric data can potentially cause
what would be expected according to the Sandgathe et al. model. conicts with established models. The Sandgathe et al. model
In all, 127 small and 19 large hearths (foyers, in French) were hinges on the assertion that the similar environmental, cultural and
documented by Bordes in his excavation notebooks (Binford, 2007). re signals observed at RdM and Pech IV together indicate a degree
Just over one-third of the Combe Grenal layers (22 of 65) are pur- of contemporaneity, in this case, the assumed transition from (re-
ported to have traces of re use (Fig. 2), with three-quarters of these rich) MIS 5 to (re-poor) MIS 4. On its face, this seems reasonable;
in cold layers (in bold: 9, 12, 14,17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, however, chronometric redating of layers from RdM by Gue rin et al.
30, 38, 43, 49, 50, 52, 54, 55, 60), as indicated by greater relative (2012, in press) casts doubt on this interpretation by suggesting the
presence of reindeer (Guadelli, 1987; Laquay, 1981; Morin et al., re-rich lower layers 9e7 were deposited early to mid-MIS 4
2014) and/or reduced arboreal pollen (AP) (Bordes, 1972). There (70e65 ka). Moreover, these dates coincide with recent thermo-
are nine layers with strong traces (54, 52, 50, 43, 29, 27, 23, 20, 14), luminescence dates (Richter et al., 2013) and single-grain optically
as described by Bordes (1955, 1972) using terms like large, stimulated luminescence dates (Jacobs et al., 2016) acquired for
continuous, or lacking the qualiers scattered, small, layer 4C at Pech IV (68.5 6.6 ka and 71.8 6.7 ka, and 68.3 3.9
diffuse, ashy, or thin used to distinguish the nine layers with ka, respectively), a colder layer virtually devoid of re traces ac-
weak traces (38, 30, 28, 25, 24, 22, 21, 12, 9). Fifty-four heated int cording to the ndings of Sandgathe et al. (2011a). The incongruity

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 9

between the more temperate environmental signal present in these With regards to the production, preservation and recovery of
layers at RdM and the cold snap inferred from multiple climatic re residues and proxies, Sandgathe et al. (2011a) addresses many
proxies during this date range (i.e., GS 18e19; see Sanchez-Gon ~i of the possible explanations for why re signals appear weaker in
et al., 2008; Daniau et al., 2009) could suggest regional or local the upper levels of RdM and Pech IV, ultimately discounting site
factors (specically vegetation type and distribution) are more function, seasonality, fuel availability, taphonomic agencies, exca-
inuential on the prevalence of particular kinds of fauna, as well as vation extent and excavation methods. These options having been
the prevalence of re. Indeed, despite prevailing colder tempera- exhausted, the authors propose Neandertals lacking the ability to
tures, boreal forests appear to have expanded in the Aquitaine basin make re best explains the pattern. Below are some alternative
through mid-MIS 4 (Sanchez-Gon ~ i et al., 2008), providing a degree interpretations of the record that should provide insight into the
of continuity for more forest-adapted species while serving as problematic nature of inferring the relative degree of anthropogenic
sheltered wintering grounds for south-expanding reindeer, thus burning from re residues and re proxy data between sites and
creating the more composite faunal spectrum observed in the occupation layers.
lower layers at RdM and other sites in the region (Discamps et al.,
2011; Gue rin et al., 2012). Moreover, retention of the forests (i.e., 2.4.1. Site function and seasonality
abundant fuel resources) in this area would potentially allow for Sandgathe et al. question the notion that a change in primary
continuity of re use practices by Neandertals through the rst half site function at RdM or Pech IV to one that did not require re could
of MIS 4, prior to the onset of Heinrich Event 6. account for the lack of re traces in layers with cold climatic signals.
Ignoring chronometric dates for the moment, the climate and They reject this explanation based on roughly comparable carcass
re signals at RdM and Pech IV also show discrepancies when transport strategies, butchering activities and compositions of
comparing relative percentages of reindeer remains (Laquay, 1981; stone tool assemblages between re-rich and re-poor layers,
Guadelli, 1987; Gue rin et al., 2012; Morin et al., 2014; Hodgkins which to them suggests these sites remained base/residential
et al., 2016; Castel et al., in press) to re proxies (Sandgathe et al., camps throughout their use lives. This assessment, however, does
2011a,b). The earliest archaeological horizons at RdM (layers not take into consideration potential changes in site use frequency
9e6), which contain hearth structures (layers 9 and 7) and the or duration.
highest percentages of heated int (~30e13%, respectively; see As colder conditions forced reindeer southward in high
Fig. 2), already have faunal assemblages comprised of 10.6e33.2% numbers through MIS 4/3 (Discamps et al., 2011; Morin et al., 2014),
reindeer; whereas at Pech IVdhere, hearths are again only present Neandertal subsistence strategies shifted to accommodate this new
at the base of the sequence (layer 8)dre proxies drop steadily migratory prey by becoming increasingly more mobile (Niven et al.,
from 21.3 to 4.6% between layers 8 and 6A, while reindeer presence 2012; Rendu et al., 2012). If the inferred function of RdM and Pech
remains almost nil (0e1.5%, respectively), suggesting the re signal IV as habitation sites remained unchanged, an increase in resi-
at the site dropped off already prior to the climatic deterioration dential mobilitydpossibly coupled with reduced population den-
signalled by the relative increase in reindeer fauna. Only in layer 5B sities (cf., Morin, 2008)dwould have led to fewer and shorter site
(Bordes levels J3 and J2) do reindeer percentages (17.1e34.7%, visits, naturally resulting in weaker re signals due to the presence
respectively) approach levels seen in the hearth-bearing layers at of fewer res of shorter duration. The absence of combustion fea-
RdM, but by this point, percentages of heated int have already tures itself could be an indication that the function of these sites did
dropped to below 1%. Does this support the younger chronology for change with the onset of colder climate (cf., Niven et al., 2012). Or if
RdM proposed by Gue rin et al. (2012, in press)? While this disparity these sites were never primary residences, but instead perhaps
could be attributed to differences in when or how the sites were hunting-observation stations or some other short-term campsites
used, perhaps caused by differential positioning of prey species in within a more logistic system all along, other external factors (e.g.,
the landscape (see Section 2.4.1.), the apparent waning of re use at easy access to wood fuel, discussed in the section below) may have
Pech IV prior to the shift towards a more cold climate faunal been at play.
spectrumda similar reduction in re signal occurring well after Switching to a reindeer-based subsistence strategy would also
this transition at RdMdagain calls into question the forces driving have led to changes in when sites were occupied based on the local
these changes in re signal, and the applicability of Sandgathe availability of this resource. Site use at Pech IV (Table 2 in Sandgathe
et al.'s re use model to the region as a whole. et al., 2011a) shows an apparent increase in seasonality after rein-
deer become more prevalent that could possibly be related to the
2.4. Factors inuencing archaeological re signals position of the site relative to the boundary between forest and
steppe vegetation zones (cf., Stewart, 2005). The exploitation of
Reconstructing the chane op eratoire of a re from its resultant forest species throughout the year in layers 8-6A suggests the site
residues is no easy affair (cf., March et al., 2014): primary re res- was well within the forested zone. As reindeer often prefer to
idues rarely preserve (cf., Mallol et al., 2007), and the direct rela- overwinter just inside wooded areas due to the greater prevalence
tionship between re use and archaeological re proxies is complex of lichens for winter forage (Klein, 1982), the hunting of reindeer
and remains poorly understood. Whether or not an individual re during the winter and spring at Pech IV during Layer 5A suggests the
leaves behind evidence of it having burned depends not only on site may have been located near the forest-steppe ecotone, and then
preservation conditions at a site, but also on the nature of the re located north(east) of this boundary during the colder period rep-
itself. External controls, both environmental and cultural, will in- resented by layers 4C-4A, when spring and summer hunting may
uence how a re burns (e.g., large and hot, small and cool, long or have been focused on intercepting reindeer migrating northward
short duration), which in turn dictate the strength of the initial re from more sheltered, southerly wintering grounds. Moreover, the
signal. After a re is abandoned, attritional processes, both short- appearance of swarms of biting insects during the spring and
term (e.g., displacement by wind or water) and long-term (e.g., summer months (as is usual in the high-latitudes today) may have
diagenesis), determine to what degree the original re signal re- made more windswept upland locations preferred camping spots
mains intact. Finally, the excavation and analysis methods (Binford, 1978; Sharp and Sharp, 2015). This pattern could suggest
employed by archaeologists will determine if and to what extent Pech IV was utilised multiple times a year during warmer climatic
the necessary evidence is collected for identifying and interpreting intervals and perhaps only once a year during colder intervals, again
this depleted re signal. reducing the number of opportunities for re to have been

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
10 A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

introduced into the site. Furthermore, if occupations were indeed coals that can be banked in ashes and revived later.
largely restricted to the warmer months, it is possible that hearths Much like ner fuels, the combustion of bone results in a
were placed outside the protected connes of the cave/shelterda aming re that extinguishes quickly (i.e., no glowing coals) and
common practice among some modern northern hunter-gatherers favours the production of radiative and convective heat, but is
(e.g., the Dene suline
 of the northern Canadian Subarctic; Sharp completely ineffective at producing conductive heat (The ry-Parisot,
and Sharp, 2015). The few seasonality data reported from RdM are 2002; The ry-Parisot et al., 2005), meaning res fuelled primarily by
restricted to layer 4, thus not allowing for a diachronic comparison bone (and/or ne fuels) were less likely to alter the underlying
with Pech IV. Foetal reindeer bones suggest a late winter or early substrate. Also, if site visits were only short-term affairs, site
spring occupation, while teeth from two reindeer individuals indi- maintenance would likely have been minimal, and it is unlikely
cate they were hunted in the summer or fall (Castel et al., 2016). This bone would have been extensively burned as a means of disposal.
mixed signal could suggesting RdM may have been a multi-seasonal It should be remembered that the combustible portion of bone
stop, possibly coinciding with the spring and fall reindeer is also the nutritive portion, meaning the purposeful burning of
migrations. bones suitable for use as fuel would mean sacricing internal heat
Roof collapses and sedimentary inlling at Pech IV and RdM also (i.e., calories) for external heat. During periods of nutritive stress,
likely altered when and how Neandertals utilised these caves over bones were probably only used as fuel if there was a surplus. Given
time. The receding of the porch at Pech IV caused it to function the intensity with which Neandertals often processed bone to
more like a rock shelter and is cited as a possible reason for so few extract marrow at RdM and Pech IV (Hodgkins et al., 2016; Castel
re remains in the upper layers (Turq et al., 2011). More generally, et al., in press), unless they had a surplus of marrow bones, only
reduced clearance caused by sedimentary inlling can reduce both trabecular (spongy) bonedgenerally considered a more effective
mobility and smoke ventilation within a cave (Gentles and fuel than cortical (compact) bonedwould likely have been sacri-
Smithson, 1986; Lioubine, 1992), making it less attractive for use- ced to the re as fuel (Costamagno et al., 1999; The ry-Parisot et al.,
dat least with redlater in its use life. Other enclosed sites where 2005). Trabecular bone only comprises around 20% of a skeleton, so
the use of re appears to have been limited or discontinued in the relative proportion of elements burned may have been low to
upper deposits possibly due to reduced clearance caused by sedi- begin with, while the tendency for burned spongy bone to fragment
mentary inlling include Combe Grenal (Bordes, 1972), Abri du easily would cause most remaining fragments to fall outside the
Brugas (Meignen, 1981) and La Rochette (Soressi, 2002). 2.5 cm size range analysed by Sandgathe et al. (see Section 2.4.4.).
However, if Neandertals were stressed to the point where it may
2.4.2. Fuel availability have been better to process trabecular bone into bone meal rather
Sandgathe et al. argue that the widespread replacement of than burn it, as postulated by Castel et al. (in press), then this
woodland by grasses during the colder periods does not explain the practice would be one more factor potentially weakening the re
apparent reduction in re use during these periods for two reasons: signal in the colder layers at these sites.
1) There is always some wood around, though often conned to
river valleys. 2) Bone can be used as a fuel when wood is scarce. 2.4.3. Taphonomic factors
These points are both valid but carry with them important Sandgathe et al. point out the apparent correlation between the
restrictions. presence of combustion features and the greater prevalence of re
Fuel foraging generally conforms to the principle of least effort, proxies in the warmer lower levels at RdM and Pech IV, and
though this can be amended based on the importance of re to the conversely, the paucity of hearth traces and low percentages of re
group in question at any given moment (The ry-Parisot, 2001). proxies in the colder upper levels. On its face, this observation
During forested interglacial periods, high-quality wood fuel could seems logical, but the actual relationship between combustion
be easily procured in the immediate vicinity of both RdM and Pech features and re proxies is not nearly so relative due to variability in
IV. Thus relatively little effort would have been needed to collect an re use, depositional settings and preservation.
abundance of fuel, allowing the inhabitants to maintain larger, Indeed, comparable levels of re proxies can occur in archaeo-
longer-burning res with minimal extra effort. During colder pe- logical layers devoid of intact combustion features (e.g., the Lower
riods when grasses dominate the landscape, however, the likeli- Palaeolithic site Gesher Benot Ya'akov: Goren-Inbar et al., 2004;
hood of there being robust woody fuel sources in close proximity to Alperson-Al et al., 2007; Alperson-Al and Goren-Inbar, 2010) as
either of these upland sites is low, as trees would have been largely are recovered from layers with multiple well-preserved hearth
restricted to valley bottoms. Considering the rough terrain (see structures (e.g., the UP Magdalenian sites of Champre veyres and
Henry et al., in press), and depending on the distance to these fuel Monruz: Leesch et al., 2010). Hypothetically speaking, variability in
sources, the amount of energy required to extract a comparable re use (i.e., re size, duration, intensity, frequency) can result in
amount of wood as was used during warm periods likely out- disparate re signals; but in some cases, it could lead to similar
weighed the benets of the re itself (Henry et al., 2016), likely signals due to equinality. Regarding this latter point, if conditions
leading to increased fuel economisation and perhaps shorter resi- are such that hearth features are not preserved, one large re
dency times as combustible materials in the immediate vicinity of burning for an extended period could potentially result in a similar
the caves would have been rapidly consumed (Ofek, 2001). This has proportion of dispersed re residues or re proxies as numerous
many negative implications for re signals. Fires would have been smaller, short-lived hearths. On the other hand, if a re is built over
lit more out of necessity rather than convenience or comfort, and an extant lithic scatter (Sergant et al., 2006), the resulting number
would likely have been smaller and/or of shorter duration, i.e., more of heated lithic fragments will be much higher than from an
task-specic (cf., Mallol et al., 2007). Shrubs, grasses and herba- identical re built on a previously unoccupied surface devoid of
ceous plants located in the immediate vicinity of these sites would artefacts (e.g., Johansen and Stapert, 2001). This would also apply to
have likely supplemented meagre wood fuels, potentially reducing shallowly buried artefactsdperhaps up to 5 cm deep (Stiner et al.,
re signals for a number of reasons. Finer fuels tend to burn quickly 1995)dthough the depth at which temperatures high enough to
and are poor producers of conductive heat (Cheney and Sullivan, visibly alter bone and stone can penetrate is dependent, again, on
2008); they also tend to combust fully (in hearths), leaving the size, intensity and duration of the re, as well as the compo-
behind few if any robust charcoals, and are nearly impossible to sition and moisture content of the underlying substrate (Bellomo,
maintain in a non-aming state since they do not produce glowing 1990; Campbell et al., 1995; Bennett, 1999), with even very

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 11

shallowly buried artefacts remaining largely unaffected by small, 2.4.4. Excavation methods and sampling
short-term, low-intensity res. As suggested by Sandgathe et al., it seems unlikely that obvious
Lower geogenic sedimentation rates, coupled perhaps with hearth features were simply missed during excavations at Pech IV
more intensive re use and redundant hearth placement in the re- and RdM, and the idea that combustion features might remain
rich layers at RdM and Pech IV, left extant artefact scatters directly undiscovered within the unexcavated portions of the sites, while
below the hearths exposed to repeated episodes of heating, thus possible, is also unlikely to change the overall trend. However, it
increasing the frequency of re proxies (i.e., the palimpsest effect, appears obvious, based on the evidence provided above, that ne-
see Henry, 2012). This effect was possibly amplied by the prox- grained excavation, analytical and sampling methods are necessary
imity of these early occupation layers to the cave oors, which may to aid in the identication and characterization of poorly expressed
have acted as a reective surface allowing for more intense heating episodes of Neandertal re use.
of the overlying sediments and artefacts after any excess moisture Studies have shown that the collection and incorporation of
is evaporated away. The smaller available occupation surface area smaller artefact classes (generally <2 cm) into a sample tends to
within RdM likely restricted hearth placement to some degree, give the spatial resolution necessary to identify phantom hearth
which in turn increased the chances of later hearths being placed locations (Sergant et al., 2006; Alperson-Al and Goren-Inbar,
over extant knapping scatters produced near the previous 2010; Leesch et al., 2010). Moreover, higher percentages of heated
hearth(s). Thus, the smaller size of RdM compared to Pech IV could lithic artefacts are often observed when smaller artefact classes are
explain the higher frequencies of re proxies recovered from the included in analyses (Roebroeks, 1988; Sergant et al., 2006; Stapert,
hearth layers at RdM despite possibly greater site use intensity at 2007; He risson et al., 2013). The disparity between different size
Pech IV, as suggested by lateral blurring of hearth features (Turq classes of burned/charred bone tends to be even more pronounced
et al., 2011; Aldeias et al., 2012; Goldberg et al., 2012). (Chase, 1989; as cited in Jelinek, 2013; Costamagno et al., 1999;
Increased rates of geogenic sedimentation during colder pe- ris, 2001; Villa et al., 2002; Daujeard, 2008; Daujeard and
riods, especially if coupled with reduced frequencies in site use, Moncel, 2010; Jelinek, 2013; Abrams and Cattelain, 2014). While
may have allowed for more vertical separation of individual occu- this trend may to an extent reect the thermal fragmentation of
pation layers. This additional thermal buffer likely reduced the larger pieces into many smaller ones (Stiner et al., 1995; Sergant
chances for incidental heating of extant artefacts (e.g., Quebrada et al., 2006), it also can reect incidental heating of (shallowly
Cave: Eixea Vilanova, 2015). The parallel reduction of heated lithics buried) artefacts directly underlying a re. This is important for a
and lithic artefacts densities as conditions deteriorated at RdM couple of reasons: 1) In situations where res are of short duration
could be indicative of this trend (Fig. 7 in Sandgathe et al., 2011a), and/or lower intensity, only smaller artefacts at or very near the
while the increase in faunal bone densities could reect minimal surface may have enough time to heat up to temperatures required
site maintenance (i.e., removing or burning bone), better preser- to result in noticeable thermal alteration; glowing res can burn at
vation due to colder conditions, or perhaps inated numbers of low enough temperatures to cause no thermal alteration at all
bone fragments from more intensive marrow processing (Sergant et al., 2006). 2) Thermal alteration of bone often makes it
(Hodgkins, 2012; Hodgkins et al., 2016). The relationship between more brittle and susceptible to mechanical fragmentation and/or
re proxies and artefact densities is less clear at Pech IV, and may dissolution (Stiner et al., 1995). At RdM and Pech IV, only int and
reect a more complex depositional history. bone artefacts 2.5 cm were included in re proxy analyses
Concerning the possibility of differential preservation of re (Sandgathe et al., 2011a), likely meaning the majority of the re-
traces between the lower and upper layers at Pech IV and RdM, the affected artefacts fell outside of this sample. In a recent study
authors assert that preservation was not a signicant factor conducted on layer 4 of RdM (Castel et al., 2016), it was indeed
(Sandgathe et al., 2011a, p. 224). However, the fact that combustion shown that burned bone percentages, while still providing a rela-
features are lacking in layers containing notable amounts of re tively weak re signal compared to the lower re-rich layers, were
proxies, by denition, seems to suggest otherwise. The excellent highest among the smallest size classes: 0e10 mm (3.14%),
preservation of combustion features (and residues) in layer 8 at 10e20 mm (1.86%), 20e50 mm (0.2%) and >50 mm (0%).
Pech IV has been attributed to large roof fall fragments (associated Mechanical fragmentation and/or dissolution also affect pri-
with layer 6B) effectively capping the layer and acting as a chemical mary re residues like charcoal, ash or phytoliths (The ry-Parisot,
buffer, while calcite dissolution and precipitation cycles may have 2001). Finer fuels (branches, shrubs, grasses) are much less likely
degraded ash deposits in the upper levels (Dibble et al., 2009; Turq to produce robust charcoal fragments that can better withstand
et al., 2011). The proximity of the hearth layers at RdM to the un- these processesdespecially in more basic environments like
derlying bedrock may have acted as a similar buffer. Moreover, limestone caves (Cohen-Ofri et al., 2006)dresulting in a scatter of
rapid localised cementing of the upper portions of ash deposits in charcoal composed only of microscopic fragments that would
layer 8 at Pech IV, as well as in layers 9 and 7 at RdM (here also the potentially go unnoticed without special collection and analytical
formation of mm-thick phosphatic weathering crusts), may have methods (Cui et al., 2009; Marquer, 2009; Marquer et al., 2010,
acted as protective caps against the winnowing away of ash and 2012).
ne charcoal fragments by wind or water runoff and prevented Micromorphology is a powerful tool for providing very detailed
further diagenetic alteration (Turq et al., 2011; Aldeias et al., 2012). data on site formation processes and archaeological features (e.g.,
Furthermore, the upper layers at RdM and Pech IV effectively Albert et al., 2012; Mallol et al., 2013; Mentzer, 2014; Mallol and
shielded the lower horizons from the adverse climatic conditions Mentzer, 2015), and was utilised at RdM and Pech IV (Aldeias
encountered from MIS 4 onward. Varying degrees of cryoturbation et al., 2012; Couchoud, 2003; Goldberg et al., 2012). However, the
are reported in nearly all layers above layer 8 at Pech IV (Bordes, localised nature of these samples and the propensity for re-
1975; Goldberg et al., 2012; Turq et al., 2011), with evidence of searchers to sample locations where (re) features are plainly
soliuction in layer 7 and possibly layer 5B (Turq et al., 2011). At visible is less than helpful when one wishes to know more about
RdM, evidence of ice segregation, platy freeze-thaw structures and possible re use in layers where burning is not evident.
ice wedges were observed throughout the sequence into the upper
portion of layer 8, but no deeper, while soliuction affected the 2.4.5. A case for Neandertal re making?
upper layers outside the cave entrance (Couchoud, 2003; Goldberg, Based on their interpretation of the re records at RdM and Pech
in Sandgathe et al., 2007). IV, Sandgathe et al. ultimately point to the Neandertal lack of re

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
12 A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15

making technology and reliance on climatically-mediated natural While signals for re use do appear suppressed in the layers pre-
res as the salient force behind the reduced re signals observed in senting colder climatic signals at RdM and Pech IV (especially those
the upper layers at these sites (and elsewhere), their logic being associated with Quina Mousterian lithic techno-complexes), the
that if Neandertals could make re at will, re signals should apparent chronological offset between the more re-rich lower
remain consistent between cold and warm intervals. However, in layers at these sites, as indicated by chronometric dating and dis-
light of the evidence presented above, this may not necessarily be parities between faunal signals and re traces, calls into question
the case. In fact, within the framework of fuel economisation during the relationship between climate and re use (see Section 2.3.).
colder periods, one could hypothesise (perhaps counterintuitively) Furthermore, the faunal assemblages in the re-rich layers at RdM
that possessing the ability to make re could actually reduce the indicate more temperate conditions despite the most recent dates
overall signal of re use in the archaeological record by allowing for these layers placing them mid-MIS 4 (Gue rin et al., 2012, in
res to be kindled only when they are needed, as opposed to being press), generally considered to be quite cold despite pollen re-
kept burning constantly so as not to lose one's ameda potentially cords suggesting an expansion of boreal forests in the region during
very labour-intensive task during periods when robust, high- this period (Sanchez-Gon ~ i et al., 2008). At Pech IV, re signals drop
quality fuel sources are in short supply. These smaller, short-term, drastically already prior to the onset of colder conditions, as indi-
perhaps task-specic res would likely have been carefully ten- cated primarily by the increased prevalence of reindeer remains
ded to ensure near complete combustion of all available fuel. Since onsite. Moreover, the trends observed at RdM and Pech IV conict
aming res are fuel-expensive (Braadbaart et al., 2012), res of with that seen at the nearby and coeval site of Combe Grenal, where
longer duration were probably often maintained as less costly strong evidence of re use is noted in the majority of the cold stage
glowing res that tend to burn at lower ambient temperatures Quina layers (see Section 2.2.). The desire to understand the un-
(Rein, 2009), making them less likely to signicantly alter the un- derlying phenomena behind this disparity prompted a re-
derlying substrate or any shallowly buried artefacts that might be evaluation and reinterpretation of the re evidence from these
present (Sergant et al., 2006). sites within a broader environmental context.
Moreover, and arguably most importantly, there exists direct The similar morphology and geographical positions of RdM and
and indirect evidence for re making by Neandertals during the Pech IV (i.e., relatively small caves, located on uplands around
Last Glacial. This includes a probable int strike-a-light from 1.7 km from major waterways) may make them comparable to one
Bettencourt-Saint-Ouen (75e85 kya) in northern France (Rots et al., anotherdperhaps as short-term stops during annual migra-
2011; Sorensen and Rots, 2014; Rots, 2015), as well as several tionsdbut not necessarily representative of the region as a whole,
Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) bifacial tools from Chez- as demonstrated by Combe Grenal, which may have been more
Pinaud (Jonzac) in south-west France exhibiting microwear traces suitable as a longer-term residential site (i.e., a larger cave/rock
comparable to those produced on experimental bifaces used in shelter located lower in the landscape, much closer to a major
conjunction with pyriteda requisite component of the stone-on- water sourcedthe Dordogne River located ~300 m to the north-
stone re making methoddto make re (Sorensen and Claud, westdand presumably nearer stands of trees), thus making it more
2016). The potential for re making can be inferred from the re- likely to exhibit stronger re signals during colder periods.
covery of allochthonous pyrite nodules and fragments from Generally speaking, a reduction in re signal during cold cli-
Mousterian layers at multiple sites (Weiner and Floss, 2004; matic episodes does not necessarily indicate a climatically-
Sorensen et al., 2014), including a nodule from layer 4 at RdM mediated reduction in re use; instead, shifts in fauna (i.e., to
(Turq, 2016). Moreover, the recurring presence of manganese di- more mobile reindeer, see Section 2.4.1.) and vegetation (i.e.,
oxide (MnO2) at MP sites (see Demars, 1992)despecially abraded reduced prevalence of wood fuel, see Section 2.4.2.) triggered cul-
fragments like those recovered from Pech de lAze  I (Soressi et al., tural responses that resulted in a fundamental change in how and
2008)dmay be additional evidence for re making, as it has when re was used, the practice likely becoming more ephemeral
recently been shown that this mineral, when powdered and mixed but no less important or regular in its use. Moreover, a reduction in
with tinder, lowers the temperature required for ignition by nearly re signal does not indicate Neandertals lacked or lost the ability to
100  C (Heyes et al., 2016), signicantly increasing the efcacy of make re. Articial re making may have actually allowed for
the stone-on-stone re production method. greater fuel economisation in cold periods by shifting from a
strategy of long-term re maintenance afforded by abundant and
3. Conclusion readily accessible wood fuel to one focused more on short-term,
task-specic res. These low-intensity res, when coupled with
The pyrotechnical prowess of Neandertals has long been the reduced site use frequencies and increased geogenic sedimentation
subject of lively scientic debate. While still sparse in the MP, rates, would have resulted in weakened cold stage re signals that
artefactual evidence of re making (outlined in the section above) were potentially exacerbated by less favourable preservation con-
is slowly becoming more prevalent, lending credence to the idea ditions (see Section 2.4.3.), ultimately requiring more ne-grained
that Neandertals coulddand indeed, likely diddmake re at least excavation and sampling methods to extract (see Section 2.4.4.).
by the Last Glacial. A large body of evidence suggesting regular re Even if one accepts the premise that Neandertals did not make
use by Neandertals during this perioddas well as by much earlier re, basic modelling and comparison with marine microcharcoal
Neandertals and their contemporaries (Karkanas et al., 2007; records suggest it is unlikely that a reduction in lightning frequency
Shimelmitz et al., 2014)dadds further support (Roebroeks and and regional re regime during the Lower Pleniglacial in south-
Villa, 2011b, a). However, based on re residues and proxy data west France would have signicantly limited Neandertal access to
from RdM and Pech IV, Sandgathe et al. (2011a, 2011b) point to re to the point that it virtually disappears from the archaeological
weak re signals (relatively speaking) in archaeological layers record (see Section 2.1). These ndings suggest that while climate
deposited during cold periodsdpresumably coinciding with change may have ultimately been the underlying force behind the
reduced lightning activitydas evidence suggesting Neandertals variability in re use and resultant re signals between colder and
were reliant on natural sources of re and did not make it for warmer periods at RdM and Pech IV, this relationship does not
themselves. appear to be the direct cause-and-effect scenario of less lightning
The current study has tested the veracity of this environmen- means less re posited by Sandgathe et al. Instead, a highly complex
tally determined re use model at multiple scales (see Table 1). interplay between wider environmental and cultural trends and

Please cite this article in press as: Sorensen, A.C., On the relationship between climate and Neandertal re use during the Last Glacial in south-
west France, Quaternary International (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2016.10.003
A.C. Sorensen / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e15 13

more localised factors together inuenced how and when Nean- and water content beneath a surface re. Soil Sci. 159, 363e374.
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 Verge s, J.M., 2016. Three archaeomagnetic applica-
dertals used re, and whether or not evidence of its use would be
tions of archaeological interest to the study of burnt anthropogenic cave sedi-
preserved. ments. Quat. Int. 414.
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Funding was provided by the Netherlands Organisation for Goldberg, P., Turq, A., 2016. Neandertal subsistence strategies during the Quina
Scientic Research (Grant# PGW-13-42). Many thanks to Anne- Mousterian at Roc de Marsal (France). Quat. Int. (in press).
Cecil, D.J., Buechler, D.E., Blakeslee, R.J., 2014. Gridded lightning climatology from
Laure Daniau for sharing her microcharcoal dataset and for her TRMM-LIS and OTD: dataset description. Atmos. Res. 135, 404e414.
very helpful instruction. Thank you to David Romps, Graeme Chase, P.G., 1989. La Quina Bone Fragmentation Project: Report of Research (Un-
Anderson and Martin Uman for taking the time to answer my published manuscript).
Cheney, P., Sullivan, A., 2008. Grassres: Fuel, Weather and Fire Behaviour. CSIRO
questions about lightning. I am also grateful for the insightful dis- Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
cussions held with various members of the Leiden Human Origins CIGRE WG C4.407, 2013. Lightning parameters for Engineering applications. Tech.
Group and to Wil Roebroeks, Alexander Verpoorte, Alain Turq and Broch. 549.
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proble me taphonomique: utilisation de combustible osseux au Pale olithique.
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