Evidence for Neandertal use of fire at Roc de Marsal (France)
The association of Neandertal occupations with fire has been reported for several European late Middle Paleolithic sites. Renewed excavations at the French site of Roc de Marsal (Dordogne) have exposed a series of well-preserved fire features associated with artifact-rich Neandertal occupations. This paper provides detailed descriptions of the combustion sediments and associated archaeological assemblages, using field observations and laboratory methods, including soil micromorphology, FTIR, and GIS techniques. From an integrity point of view, the available data demonstrate the excellent preservation of the hearths at Roc de Marsal, which display minimal or no post-depositional movement. However, our results suggest that it is often impossible to access the level of contemporaneity between different combustion events, the absence of association between burned objects and the hearths, and that it is often very difficult to distinguish distinct fire events based solely on macroscopic observations. These problems have significant implications for how such features are excavated and analyzed.