The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia, as well as with the Neanderthals in Europe. The Mousterian largely defines the latter part of the Middle Paleolithic, the middle of the West Eurasian Old Stone Age. It lasted roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP. If its predecessor, known as Levallois or "Levallois-Mousterian" is included, the range is extended to as early as c. 300,000–200,000 BP.[3]

Geographical distribution of Mousterian sites
Geographical rangeAfrica and Eurasia
PeriodMiddle Paleolithic
Datesc. 160,000 – 40,000 BP [1]
Type siteLe Moustier
Major sitesCreswell Crags, Lynford Quarry, Arcy-sur-Cure, Vindija Cave, Atapuerca Mountains, Zafarraya, Gorham's Cave, Devil's Tower, Haua Fteah, Jebel Irhoud
Preceded byAcheulean, Micoquien, Clactonian
Followed byChâtelperronian, Emiran, Baradostian, Aterian
mtDNA-based simulation of the species Homo sapiens in Europe starting 1600 generations ago. Homo neanderthalensis range in light grey.[2]


The culture was named after the type site of Le Moustier, three superimposed rock shelters in the Dordogne region of France.[4] Similar flintwork has been found all over unglaciated Europe and also the Near East and North Africa. Handaxes, racloirs and points constitute the industry; sometimes a Levallois technique or another prepared-core technique was employed in making the flint flakes.[5]


The European Mousterian is the product of Neanderthals. It existed roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP.[6] Some assemblages, namely those from Pech de l'Aze, include exceptionally small points prepared using the Levallois technique among other prepared core types, causing some researchers to suggest that these flakes take advantage of greater grip strength possessed by Neanderthals.[7]

In North Africa and the Near East, Mousterian tools were produced by anatomically modern humans. In the Levant, for example, assemblages produced by Neanderthals are indistinguishable from those made by Qafzeh type modern humans.[8] The Mousterian industry in North Africa is estimated to be 315,000 years old.[3]

Possible variants are Denticulate, Charentian (Ferrassie & Quina) named after the Charente region,[9] Typical and the Acheulean Tradition (MTA) - Type-A and Type-B.[10] The industry continued alongside the new Châtelperronian industry during the 45,000-40,000 BP period.[11]


Homo neanderthalensis adult male - head model - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-17

Artistic impression of the head of the Shanidar 1 fossil, a Homo neanderthalensis male who lived circa 70000 BCE discovered in the mid-20th century at the Mousterian archaeological site Shanidar Cave

Range of Homo neanderthalensis

Range of Homo neanderthalensis. Mousterian industries have been found outside this range (e.g., Jordan, Saudi Arabia).

Pointe levallois Beuzeville MHNT PRE.2009.0.203.2

Levallois points

See also


  1. ^ Neanderthals: Bone technique redrafts prehistory : Nature News & Comment "From the Black Sea to the Atlantic coast of France, these [Mousterian] artefacts and Neanderthal remains disappear from European sites at roughly the same time, 39,000–41,000 years ago, Higham’s team conclude. The data challenge arguments that Neanderthals endured in refuges in the southern Iberian Peninsula until as recently as 28,000 years ago"
  2. ^ Currat, Mathias; Excoffier, Laurent (2004). "Modern Humans Did Not Admix with Neanderthals during Their Range Expansion into Europe". PLoS Biology. 2 (12): e421. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020421. PMC 532389. PMID 15562317.
  3. ^ a b Richter, Daniel; Grün, Rainer; Joannes-Boyau, Renaud; Steele, Teresa E.; Amani, Fethi; Rué, Mathieu; Fernandes, Paul; Raynal, Jean-Paul; Geraads, Denis (2017-06-07). "The age of the hominin fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and the origins of the Middle Stone Age". Nature. 546 (7657): 293–296. doi:10.1038/nature22335. ISSN 0028-0836.
  4. ^ William A. Haviland; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (24 February 2009). The Essence of Anthropology. Cengage Learning. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-495-59981-4. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  5. ^ Mark Aldenderfer; Alfred J. Andrea; Kevin McGeough; William E. Mierse; Carolyn Neel (29 April 2010). World History Encyclopedia. Abc-Clio. p. 330. ISBN 978-1-85109-929-0. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  6. ^ Shaw, Ian; Jameson, Robert, eds. (1999). A Dictionary of Archaeology. Blackwell. p. 408. ISBN 0-631-17423-0. Retrieved 1 August 2016. "the classic Mousterian can be identified after berpahs 160,000 BP and lasts until c. 40,000 BP in Europe."
  7. ^ Dibble, Harold L.; McPherron, Shannon P. (October 2006). "The Missing Mousterian". Current Anthropology. 47 (5): 777–803. doi:10.1086/506282.
  8. ^ Shea, J. J., 2003: Neandertals [sic], competition and the origin of modern human behaviour in the Levant, Evolutionary Anthropology, 12:173-187.
  9. ^ Andrew Lock, Charles R. Peters - Handbook of human symbolic evolution - 906 pages Oxford science publications Wiley-Blackwell, 1999 ISBN 0-631-21690-1 RETRIEVED 2012-01-06
  10. ^ University of Oslo P.O. Box 1072 - Blindern-0316 Oslo-Norway email : / - Universitetet i Oslo Archived 2012-01-30 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2012-01-06
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d e f Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN 0-395-13592-3.
  13. ^ Armstrong, A. Leslie (1931). Rhodesian archaeological expedition (1929) : excavations in Bambata cave and researches on prehistoric sites in Southern Rhodesia. London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
  14. ^ Levy, T.(Ed.).(2001). The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land. London : Leicester University Press.
  15. ^ Lan Shaw, Robert Jameson, ed. (2008). A Dictionary of Archaeology. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470751961.
  16. ^ Pavel Dolukhanov (2004). The Early Slavs: Eastern Europe from the Initial Settlement to the Kievan Rus. Routledge. ISBN 9781317892229.

External links

Preceded by
600,000 years before present — 40,000 years before present
Succeeded by

Acheulean (; also Acheulian and Mode II), from the French acheuléen, is an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture characterized by distinctive oval and pear-shaped "hand-axes" associated with Homo erectus and derived species such as Homo heidelbergensis.

Acheulean tools were produced during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia, and Europe, and are typically found with Homo erectus remains. It is thought that Acheulean technologies first developed about 1.76 million years ago, derived from the more primitive Oldowan technology associated with Homo habilis.

The Acheulean includes at least the early part of the Middle Paleolithic. Its end is not well defined, depending on whether Sangoan (also known as "Epi-Achaeulean") is included, it may be taken to last until as late as 130,000 years ago. In Europe and Western Asia, early Neanderthals adopted Achaeulean technology, transitioning to Mousterian by about 160,000 years ago.


Axlor is a prehistoric archeological site in the village of Dima in Biscay in the Autonomous Basque Community of Spain, dating from the Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian period.

Bisitun Cave

Bisitun Cave (also called "Hunter's cave", Bisotun [Farsi], Bisetoun [Kurdish], Bisitoun, or Behistoun) is an archaeological site of prehistoric human habitation in the Zagros Mountains in the Kermanshah province, north-west Iran. Bisitun Cave is one of five caves situated at the base of The Rock of Bisitun, a 1300m high cliff within the Chamchamal Plain. It was first excavated in 1949 by Carlton Coon, and is notable for the discovery of Mousterian stone tools of the Middle Paleolithic, as well as the remains of 109 identifiable species of Pleistocene mammals, and hominid remains.Dibble described the stone tools as having strong Levallois components. All artefacts are apparently from the same period.

It has not been possible to discern a geological age of the Middle Paleolithic levels at Bisitun Cave. However, the relative abundance of Cervus in the deposits suggests a nearby woodland, and such vegetation is indicative of a warmer later Pleistocene phase. In Southwestern Asia in general, the Middle Paleolithic falls between the Later Middle Pleistocene (Marine Isotope Stage 6/7) and the middle of the Last Glacial (mid Marine Isotope Stage-3). Therefore the age of Bisitun Cave is likely to fall within this period also.


The Châtelperronian is a claimed industry of the Upper Palaeolithic, the existence of which is debated. It represents both the only Upper Palaeolithic industry made by Neanderthals and the earliest Upper Palaeolithic industry in Central and Southwestern France, as well as in Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France.

It is preceded by the Mousterian industry, and lasted from c. 45,000 to c. 40,000 BP. The industry produced denticulate stone tools and also a distinctive flint knife with a single cutting edge and a blunt, curved back. The use of ivory at Châtelperronian sites appears to be more frequent than that of the later Aurignacian, while antler tools have not been found. It is followed by the Aurignacian industry.

Scholars who question its existence claim that it is an archaeological mix of Mousterian and Aurignacian layers. The Châtelperronian industry may relate to the origins of the very similar Gravettian culture. French archaeologists have traditionally classified both cultures together under the name Périgordian, Early Perigordian being equivalent to the Châtelperronian and all the other phases corresponding to the Gravettian, though this scheme is not often used by Anglophone authors.

Combe Grenal

Combe Grenal, also known as Combe-Grenal, is an archeological site consisting of a collapsed cave and a slope deposit near Domme, Dordogne in Dordogne, France. It dates back to c. 130,000 to 50,000 Before Present (BP).First described by François Jouannet in 1812, it was again briefly described by Édouard Lartet and Henry Christy in "Cavernes du Perigord" published in Revue archéologique in 1864. In the 1930s, D. and E. Peyrony did excavations, but the cave was first thoroughly excavated by François Bordes from 1953 to 1965.The site's stratigraphic sequence is 13 meters in depth and has 64 layers (65 layers in some sources). 55 layers are Mousterian while the 9 layers near the bottom are Acheulean. The oldest layers dates back to the end of the Riss glaciation and the youngest to the Würm glaciation.The oldest Neanderthal remains was found in layer 60. There are also found remains in level 39 and 35. Most remains are found in level 25 which includes 24 cranial and post-cranial specimen estimated to date to about 75,000–65,000 years BP. In 2009, part of a incisor belonging to a child about 3 three years old (estimate 2–4 years) (Combe-Grenal Hominid 31) was discovered in layer 60. Estimated to be 130,000 years, this is the oldest human fossil in the region Aquitaine.Archeologist Lewis Binford found that some stone tool cut marks on the jaw remains of reindeer, red deer and horses at Combe Grenal were similar to cut marks on caribous jaws that contemporary Nunamiuts hunted in Alaska. The Nunamiuts made the cut marks in order to get out the tongue and Binford assumed the Neatherthals left the marks for similar reason.Early wood structure perhaps with thatched roof was indicated in Mousterian layers.

Damjili Cave

Damjili (Azerbaijani: Damcılı mağarası) – is a half-circular shaped cave site (6400-6000 BC) in Azerbaijan, where evidence of prehistoric human presence during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic was discovered.Various stone tools, arrowheads, flint knives, remains of hearth and fossilized bones of animals have been found in the cave.Traces of ochre were found in a grotto of the cave, lending credence to the idea, that the occupants had a desire to deal with symbolism and aesthetics. The sediment layers, in which the ochre was found are mixed with more tardy ones which suggests that the use ochre dates back to the Mousterian culture

Denticulate tool

In archeology, a denticulate tool is a stone tool containing one or more edges that are worked into multiple notched shapes (or teeth), much like the toothed edge of a saw. Indeed, such tools have been used as saws, more likely for meat processing than for wood. It is possible, however, that some or all of these notches were used for smoothing wooden shafts or for similar purposes.

These tools are included in the Mousterian tool industry by Neanderthal culture, proceeded by small hand axes and side scrapers.

Do-Ashkaft Cave

The Do-Ashkaft Cave, being a Middle Paleolithic cave site, is located north of Kermanshah, near Taq-e Bostan, Iran about 1,600 m (5,200 ft) above sea level. Its entrance faces south of Meywala Mount, overlooking the national park of Kuhestan. The site was first visited in 1996 by Iranian researchers F. Biglari and S. Heydari-Guran and during the following four years a series of surface surveys were made at one-month intervals, which resulted in a rich collection of Middle Paleolithic lithic artifacts.The main chamber of the cave is 23 m (75 ft) deep and 15 m (49 ft) wide. Large areas of Breccia sediments indicate lateral percolation of water into the cave sediments as a substantial amount of the cave sediments may have been washed away. The sediments at the entrance yielded numerous animal bones, charcoal and flint tools, Middle Paleolithic artifacts, such as side-scrapers and a Mousterian point. Animal bones show signs of human involvement in their accumulation during the Mousterian occupation. They include a fragment of a right mandible of an adult specimen and an upper third right molar of a sub-adult ruminant, both allocated to wild Caprinae.

In 1999 an area of about 7 km2 (2.7 sq mi) including 14 caves and rock-shelters was surveyed, where Upper Palaeolithic and later lithic assemblages came to light. Records and samples made by S. Heydari provide a paleo-environmental sequence for the region from the late Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene. The Neanderthal occupants of the cave made tools from local raw material outcrops around the cave, which classify as to be Mousterian.


Emiran culture was a culture that existed in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine) between the Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic periods.

Emiran culture apparently developed from the local Mousterian without rupture, keeping numerous elements of the Levalloise-Mousterian, together with the locally typical Emireh point. The Emireh point is the type tool of stage one of the Upper Paleolithic, first identified in the Emiran culture. Numerous stone blade tools were used, including curved knives similar to those found in the Chatelperronian culture of Western Europe.

The Emiran eventually evolved into the Antelian culture, still of Levalloise tradition but with some Aurignacian influences.

According to Dorothy Garrod, the Emireh point, known from several sites in Palestine, is the hallmark of this culture.


Flaoui or Fleywe or Flaoueh (Arabic: فلاوي‎) is a small village located 17 kilometres (11 mi) northwest of Baalbek, Lebanon in Baalbek District, Baalbek-Hermel Governorate, Lebanon. It is located near the north-south road that runs from Bodai to Chlifa.A Heavy Neolithic archaeological site of the Qaraoun culture is located in the area on fielded slopes of a small valley facing the Beqaa valley. It was discovered by Lorraine Copeland and Frank Skeels in 1965 with materials examined by Henri Fleisch. Worked tools were found made from abundant nodules of silicious, grey-yellow limestone. The material suggested to be Heavy Neolithic consisted of massive, rough cores and flakes with another group being found that showed resemblance to an assemblage termed by Fleisch the Micro-Mousterian. The site was under cultivation in 1966.

Hazar Merd Cave

Hazar Merd is a group of Paleolithic cave sites excavated by Dorothy Garrod in 1928. The caves are located south-southwest of Sulaymaniyah in Sulaymaniyah Governorate in Iraq. Garrod's soundings in two caves in the Hazar Merd group provided evidence of Middle and Epi-Paleolithic occupation.The Dark cave or Ashkawty Tarik in Kurdish has a commanding view of the local valley and is close to a small spring and a village with the same name.

Dark Cave has a single lofty chamber 11 by 12 m wide. The Mousterian layer, level C, is over 3 m thick, containing many hearths and burnt flints and bones. The stone tool assemblage, of flint and chert, is dominated by side scrapers and Mousterian points, with no evidence of the Levallois technique. In the lowest reaches of level C, but still within Mousterian layers, two hand-axes were found. Side-scrapers slightly decrease in popularity towards the top of level C.

The faunal assemblage, although fragmentary, again shows a completely modem aspect, with bones from wild goat, red deer, gazelle, field mouse, mole rat, hare, bat and several birds of woodland and scrub habitat. This evidence, and that from the presence of snails of the species Helix salomonica, indicates a mixed environment of woodland, grassland and scrub, much as exists today. A smaIl sounding in the adjacent Water Cave also revealed evidence of Mousterian occupation.

Garrod did not keep all the excavated material and she only kept those pieces that were topologically informative. Remaining pieces were thrown away at the site.

Hazar Merd and Shanidar Cave are the only excavated Middle Palaeolithic sites in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Noisetier Cave

The Noisetier Cave (French: Grotte du Noisetier, lit: Hazel cave, also Grotte de Peyrère or Grotte de Serrat de la Toue), owing its popular name to the Hazel trees that grow in front of its entrance, is located in a mountainside 145 m (476 ft) atop the Vallée d'Aure in the Ardengost commune, Hautes-Pyrénées department in the region Occitania, southern France. During systematic excavations since 1992 Middle Paleolithic stone tools and artifacts attributed to the Neanderthal Mousterian culture were discovered among numerous faunal remains.

Plain of Zgharta

The Plain of Zgharta (or Plain of Zghorta) is a Heavy Neolithic archaeological site approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) east and southeast of Tripoli in Lebanon. It has historically been a region known for growing sumptuous olives owing to early Quaternary, cemented fluvatile deposits that cover the land beneath the topsoil (known as the Conglomerates of Zgharta or the Conglomerates of Zghorta). The site was documented by R. Wetzel and J. Haller in 1945 who discuss surface finds of several large flakes and atypical bifaces from this area and ended up giving them a very improabable label of Mousterian. Lorraine Copeland deduced the likelihood that these pieces were Gigantolithic tools, once used by the Qaraoun culture to chop down Cedars of Lebanon to start the Neolithic Revolution.

Qafzeh cave

Qafzeh cave (Hebrew: מערת קפזה‎, translit. Me'arat Qafzeh) means “precipice”, also known as Kedumim cave (Hebrew: מערת קדומים‎, translit. Me'arat Kedumim) or Ha'kfitza cave (Hebrew: מערת הקפיצה‎, translit. Me'arat Hakfitzah), is a prehistoric archaeological site located at the bottom of Mount Precipice (Hebrew: הר קדומים, "Har Kedumim"), in the Yizrael Valley of the Lower Galilee, south of Nazareth. Important remains of prehistoric people were discovered on the site - some of the oldest examples in the world, outside of Africa, of virtually anatomically modern human beings.These were discovered on the ledge just outside the cave, where 18 layers from the Middle Paleolithic era were identified. The interior of the cave contains layers ranging from the Neolithic era to the Bronze age.Excavations of the site began in 1932, by Moshe Stekelis and René Victor Neuville, but were interrupted due to a collapse. In 1936, during the Arab rebellion in Palestine, the British blew up the cave because it was being used as a hideout by gangs associated with the rebels. Excavations were renewed in 1965, by Bernard Vandermeersch, Ofer Bar-Yosef, then continued, intermittently, until 1979.Among the finds on the site are stoves, stone tools belonging to the Mousterian culture, and also human and animal bones, which attest to the fact that the cave had been used both for residence and as a burial site. The remains of 15 human skeletons were discovered on site, in a Mousterian archaeological context. Seven of them are skeletons of adults and the rest - of children. The high proportion of children skeletons is unique among Middle Palaeolithic sites, and it led researchers to look for signs of trauma or disease that might have led to their premature deaths. One child, Qafzeh 12, of around 3 years of age, by modern reference standards, had abnormalities indicating hydrocephalus. Five of these skeletons were found buried in an orderly fashion in the cave's floor, of which 2 were found with deer horns lying in their hands. The site was dated to circa 92,000 BP, using Thermoluminescence.Human remains founded in the cave were preserved at the Institut de paléontologie humaine (IPH) de Paris and the largest part of Neville’s lithic series was preserved at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. One such burial is of a 10 year old boy from the earliest of the Middle Paleolithic layers, who was buried in a rectangular grave carved out of the bedrock, with his arms folded alongside his body and his hands placed on either side of his neck. Deer horns were laid on his hands, probably constituting one of the offerings put in the grave. The boy's skull bears signs of a head trauma that had probably been the cause of death.According to K. Kris Hirst, bones and bone fragments found in the cave belong to at least 27 people. Ramains of Qafzeh 9 and 10 are completely pristine.An additional important find was the remains of ochre that were found on human bones, and, also, 71 pieces of ochre that were associated with burial practices, which indicates that ceremonial funerary rites that included symbolic acts which held special meaning had already been common around 100,000 years ago. Ochre was used for body dyeing and ornamentation. It was also used during the burial of a brain damaged child that was found in the cave. Red, black and yellow ochre-painted seashells were found around the cave.


In archeology, a racloir, also known as racloirs sur talon (French for scraper on the platform), is a certain type of flint tool made by prehistoric peoples.

It is a type of side scraper distinctive of Mousterian assemblages. It is created from a flint flake and looks like a large scraper. As well as being used for scraping hides and bark, it may also have been used as a knife. Racloirs are most associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industry. These racloirs are retouched along the ridge between the striking platform and the dorsal face. They have shaped edges and are modified by abrupt flaking from the dorsal face.

Saraain El Faouqa

Saraain El Faouqa (Arabic: سرعين الفوقا‎) is a village located 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) northeast of Rayak in Baalbek District, Baalbek-Hermel Governorate, Lebanon.

Tabun Cave

The Tabun Cave is an excavated site located at Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve, Israel and is one of Human Evolution sites at Mount Carmel, which were proclaimed as having universal value by UNESCO in 2012. The cave was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic (500,000 to around 40,000 years ago). In the course of this period, deposits of sand, silt and clay of up to 25 m (82 ft) accumulated in the cave. Excavations suggest that it features one of the longest sequences of human occupation in the Levant.

The earliest and lowest deposits in the cave contain large amounts of sea sand. This, and pollen traces found, suggests a relatively warm climate at the time. The melting glaciers which covered large parts of the globe caused the sea level to rise and the Mediterranean coastline to recede. The Coastal Plain was then narrower than it is today, and was covered with savannah vegetation. The cave dwellers of that time used handaxes of flint or limestone for killing animals (gazelle, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and wild cattle which roamed the Coastal Plain) and for digging out plant roots. As tools improved slowly over time, the hand axes became smaller and better shaped, and scrapers made of thick flakes chipped off flint cores were probably used for scraping meat off bones and for processing animal skins.The upper levels in the Tabun Cave consist mainly of clay and silt, indicating that a colder, more humid climate prevailed as glaciers formed once more; this change yielded a wider coastal strip, covered by dense forests and swamps. The material remains from the upper strata of the cave are of the Mousterian culture (about 200,000 - 45,000 years ago). Small flint tools made of thin flakes predominate these levels, many produced using the Levallois technique. Tools typical of the Mousterian culture feature elongated points, and include flakes of various shapes used as scrapers, end scrapers and other denticulate tools used for cutting and sawing.

Arthur Jelinek’s 1967 to 1972 excavations of the cave yielded over 1,900 complete and partial bifaces. The bulk of the biface assemblage can be attributed to the Late Acheulian and Yabrudian industries.The large number of fallow deer bones found in the upper layers of the Tabun Cave may be due to the chimney-like opening in the back of the cave which functioned as a natural trap. The animals may have been herded towards it, and fell into the cave where they were butchered.The Tabun Cave contains a Neanderthal-type female, dated to about 120,000 years ago. It is one of the most ancient human skeletal remains found in Israel. A 2014 study of objects at Tabun suggests that ancestral humans used fire at the site on a regular basis since about 350,000 years ago.


Triguères is a commune in the Loiret department in north-central France.


Zafarraya is a municipality in the province of Granada, Spain, with a population of 2,200 (2003).

Zafarraya is known for a Neanderthal mandible found in a cave (Cueva del Boquete) in 1983 by Cecilio Barroso and Paqui Medina. The mandible has been dated to 30,000 years Before Present (BP), and at the time represented the youngest-known Neanderthal remains. Near the mandible, Mousterian tools dated to 27,000 years BP were found. The find was one of the first pieces of definite evidence showing that the presence of Neanderthals and modern humans overlapped in Europe for a significant period.

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