The best-documented Neanderthal living spaces are caves and rock shelters, although there is also evidence of open air settlements for which the material record is less well preserved. It was in those spaces that they undertook the daily activities needed for the maintenance of group, such as the processing of game or tool manufacture.
The space occupation strategies during the Middle Palaeolithic allow us to understand the organisation, abilities, actions and socialisation strategies of the Neanderthal groups.
The occupation patterns were very complex and varied from long-term stable settlements, with a considerable complexity in their internal spatial distribution, to short, recurrent occupations.
The spaces for day-to-day use were generally organised around hearths that acted as a focal point for different activities such as working stone to make tools, preparing food, etc. The organisation of space differs from one archaeological site to another, but we can already see at that time complex space occupation strategies, suggesting that social behaviour among the Neanderthal groups was also complex.
The study of the domestic spaces allows us to understand the day-to-day occupation dynamic and from that to derive an understanding of the social behaviour of the groups. The identification of different spaces at Middle Palaeolithic archaeological sites indicates conduct with a complexity similar to that of anatomically modern human groups.
Picture: View of Cova Negra (Xàtiva, València). © Ángel Velasco
Picture: Excavation of Cova Negra (Xàtiva, València). © Ángel Velasco