New evidence on Neandertal use of fire: examples from Roc de Marsal and Pech de l'Azé IV
Pyrotechnology must be seen as one of the most important technological developments in human prehistory. Once developed it eventually came to serve a wide range of applications, but when this actually occurred is not well understood. Fire is well known at a number of Middle Palaeolithic sites in Western Europe, and the Neandertals of this region clearly made use of it at some times and at some sites. Recent excavations at two generally contemporaneous Middle Palaeolithic sites in the Dordogne region of France, Pech de l'Azé IV and Roc de Marsal, have provided significant data on Neandertal use of fire. Both sites have revealed a number of extremely well preserved and delineated fire features at the base of their sequences. The goals of this paper are to describe and contrast the combustion features from these two sites using both field observations and laboratory data that employ micromorphological and FTIR techniques. Pyrotechnological differences can be seen, representing differences in Neandertal fire use and, potentially, site use.