Middle Paleolithic

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The intermediate part of the Paleolithic period, from about 100,000 years ago to about 35,000 years ago. It was characterized by the development of a variety of stone tools and the first symbolic use of artifacts and sites. It ended with the extinction of the Neanderthals. The Middle Paleolithic is equivalent to the Middle Stone Age in sub-Saharan Africa. The Middle Paleolithic comprises the Mousterian, a portion of the Levalloisian, and the Tayacian, all of which are complexes based on the production of flakes, although the hand-ax tradition survived in many instances. Middle Paleolithic assemblages first appear in deposits of the third interglacial and persist during the first major oscillation of the Fourth Glacial (Würm) stage. Associated with the Tayacian, in which the artifacts consist of very crude flakes, remains of modern man (Homo sapiens) have been found. Mousterian man, on the other hand, is of the Neanderthal race. It is in the Mousterian levels of the caves and rock shelters of central and southern France that the earliest evidence of the use of fire and the first definite burials have been discovered in western Europe. The artifacts consist of (1) the prepared striking-platform-tortoise-core (Levalloisian) tradition; (2) the plain striking-platform-discoidal-core technique of Clactonian tradition; and (3) a persistence of the bifacial core tool, or Acheulean tradition.