QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL, vol.411, pp.198-215, 2016 (SCI-Expanded)
The European Middle Palaeolithic archaeological database is rich, but is biased towards evidence that originates in stratified sites. In many river catchments, prevalent and often ignored evidence for Middle Palaeolithic occupation is found in palimpsest lithic assemblages on the surface. By way of a case study, this paper addresses the problem of how to integrate lithic artifact assemblage data from such contexts to complement an often unbalanced picture of long-term land use. Analysis of a sample of Middle Palaeolithic surface assemblages from south-southwest facing edges of plateaus and terraces in Dutch and Belgian Limburg yields data suitable for comparison and integration with those from stratified assemblages associated with the wider Maas River valley floor. Sample size and artifact class diversity relationships account for sample size effects and numerically summarize patterns of inter-site fragmentation of core reduction sequences and differential artifact discard, arguably indicators of regional mobility and land use. Variability in artifact class diversity among assemblages also indicates differences in site occupational frequency. When viewed from a long-term diachronic perspective, integrated evidence from cumulative and spatial palimpsests suggests that land use behavior was complex, dynamic, and varied according to topographic factors in the research area. Lack of chronological resolution, variable site formation processes and conditions of artifact recovery complicate detailed interpretation of land use patterns. Despite these problems, results suggest that throughout the Middle Palaeolithic in the research area some plateau and terrace localities were 'persistent places' frequently re-occupied for a variety of purposes, while other similarly situated sites and localities more closely associated with river and stream valleys appear to have been occupied less frequently for a more limited range of activities. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.