Leave at the height of the party: A critical review of the Middle Paleolithic in Western Central Europe from its beginnings to its rapid decline
The German Middle Paleolithic is marked by two stages with abundant archaeological sites: The Eemian Interglacial (MIS 5e) and the Weichselian Interpleniglacial (MIS 3). On the other hand, several stages were seemingly void of any human population (the second half of MIS 6 and MIS 4) and two long periods (MIS 8-6 and MIS 5d-5a) delivered very few archaeological sites, so far. The majority of all assemblages seem to belong to the latest part of the Middle Paleolithic, during the first half of MIS 3. Concerning this period, the layer G stratigraphic complex (“G-Komplex”) of Sesselfelsgrotte yielded the longest cultural sequence of late Middle Paleolithic unifacial-plus-bifacial industries (Keilmessergruppen, Micoquian in the sense of a “Mousterian with a Micoquian option”, MMO) in Central Europe. Information from this sequence permitted a reconsideration of the internal structure and the dating of the MMO. Evidence is presented for an earlier MMO stage with almost no Levallois technology (MMO-A) and a later stage (MMO-B) with Levallois technology, both occurring at the very end of the European Middle Paleolithic, between 60,000 and 43,000 (cal.) B.P. The vast majority of all Middle Paleolithic sites in Germany belong to the MMO-B which was, in Southern Germany, rapidly followed by the Upper Paleolithic Aurignacian from 42 ka (cal.) B.P. onwards without any Proto-Aurignacian interlude.