Late and final mousterian setting in the Fossellone Cave (Latium, Italy): Patterns of settlement, micro-environmental factors and evidence of coloured material in a transitional context
The Fossellone Cave (San Felice Circeo - Central Italy) is one of the prehistoric sites that constitute the extraordinary group of Mount Circeo caves in the Southern Latium. The archaeological, geostratigraphical and ecological (paleoenvironmental) features of this settlement make it a natural centre of scientific interest. The study of the later part of the Middle Paleolithic sequence (layers F27–F23 of the stratigraphical deposit in the central slope), which started in 1989, has been an opportunity for analysis of the lithic assemblages belonging to late and final facies of the Mousterian complex. The lithic industries of F27–F23 layers indicate the transition from Middle to Upper Paleolithic and a change in occupancy from Homo neanderthalensis to Homo sapiens sapiens. The reconstruction of the environmental context and the systematic analysis of raw materials used for industry has been also carried out. The study of patina on artifacts indicates the effects of water circulation and abrasive action of wind in the cave. The evidence of a coloured powder (from yellow to ochre) on tools surfaces in squares β and γ of the digging grid of all layers studied suggests the choice of a specific place of the cave where this material was stored from the inhabitants of the cave. The mineral comes from an outcrop far from the Fossellone Cave, in the Mount Circeo area. The spatial distribution of the mineral coloured remains and the frequence of its occurrence in the archeological deposit of the Fossellone Cave suggests its intentional use by the Neanderthalian group inhabiting the area.