Document Type

Open Access Article


Using a database of 499 archaeological assemblages from 332 sites in Europe, we statistically test a model of the economic reactivity of the hunter-gatherer production system to climatic variations. This model predicts an increase in the diversity of lithic tools during harsh cold periods, in order to maintain carrying capacity, and a reduction during favorable climatic periods. Diversity was measured from the variations in flint tool distributions in traditional Bordes typological categories, using Shannon’s derived diversity index (D). Reactivity was measured in 190 archaeological assemblages from 103 sites of the Middle Paleolithic in Europe (mainly France). The Neanderthals show technological inertia in the development and use of lithic tools for 200,000 years, despite the four cool to cold macroclimatic periods they experienced.