Mousterian industry, tool culture traditionally associated with Neanderthal man in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa during the early Fourth (Würm) Glacial Period (c. 40,000 bc). The Mousterian tool assemblage shows flaking techniques in common with the Clactonian, as well as the frequent practice in some assemblages of the Levallois flaking technique.
Tools included small hand axes made from disk-shaped cores; flake tools, such as well-made sidescrapers and triangular points, probably used as knives; denticulate (toothed) instruments produced by making notches in a flake, perhaps used as saws or shaft straighteners; and round limestone balls, believed to have served as bolas (weapons of a type used today in South America, consisting of three balls on the end of a thong, which is hurled at an animal, wraps itself around its legs, and trips it). Wooden spears were used to hunt large game such as mammoth and wooly rhinoceros. Mousterian “tool kits” often have quite different contents from site to site. Some investigators explain this by suggesting that different groups of Neanderthal men had varying toolmaking traditions; other workers believe the tool kits were used by the same peoples to perform different functions (e.g., hunting, butchering, food preparation). Mousterian implements disappeared abruptly from Europe with the passing of Neanderthal man.