Flint thermoluminescence dates from the CFR laboratory at Gif: Contributions to the study of the chronology of the middle palaeolithic
Flint tools are among the most durable objects marking the presence of prehistoric humans. Methodological advances of the last decade have made thermoluminescence of burnt flint a reliable dating tool and have provided new dates which require reassessment of the chronology of numerous Middle Palaeolithic sites. Dates for several Near Eastern sites show the presence of Neanderthals from at least oxygen isotope stage 6 until after 50 ka ago and push the appearance of modern humans to before 100 ka ago, long before their arrival in Europe. Whether the two populations were present continuously or intermittently and precisely when they appeared is uncertain at the moment. Thermoluminescence results suggest that the Mousterian lithic industries were introduced at about the same time in Europe as in the Near East, with the difference that in the latter area this industry was used by early modern humans as well as by Neanderthals. The new TL chronology assigns a much longer life-span to specific types of Levantine Mousterian lithic industries than previously believed. Finally, new dates for the Châtelperronian site of Saint-Césaire open up the possibility that the last Neanderthals were still present after some Cro-Magnons had already settled in western Europe.