Last modified on 9 December 2014, at 01:35

The Upper Paleolithic

Early Upper Paleolithic CulturesEdit

AurignacianEdit

First DiscoveredEdit

  • Aurignac (Dordogne, France)

ChronologyEdit

  • ca. 35,000-27,000 BC

GeographyEdit

  • Widespread distribution over Eurasia
  • Siberia (Sungir)

HominidEdit

  • Modern humans (Homo sapiens)

Material CultureEdit

  • Upper Paleolithic-type lithic industry
  • Aurignacian blades, burins, endscrapers, etc.
  • Bone Tools

Mortuary practicesEdit

  • Definitive elaborate burials, with grave goods

Symbolic ExpressionEdit

Proliferation of various forms of personal ornaments:

  • perforated animal-teeth;
  • distinctive "bead" forms carved out of bone and mammoth ivory;
  • earliest perforated marine shells
Artistic ExpressionEdit

Types of evidence:

  • Engraved limestone blocks
  • Animal and human figurines
  • Parietal art

Engraved block characteristics:

  • Stiffness of outlines;
  • Deep incisions;
  • Work executed mainly on limestone slabs or blocks;
  • Sexual symbols realistically represented;
  • Animals (usually heads, forequarters and dorsal lines) extremely crudely rendered;
  • This type of artistic expression limited to southwest France (mainly Dordogne).

Figurine characteristics:

  • Earliest evidence of artwork in the Upper Paleolithic: Geissenklösterle - 37,000-33,000 BC
  • Present in Central Europe, presently Germany
  • Sophisticated and naturalistic statuettes of animal (mammoth, feline, bear, bison) and even human figures
  • Carved from mammoth ivory

GravettianEdit

First DiscoveredEdit

  • La Gravette (Dordogne, France)

ChronologyEdit

  • ca. 27,000-21,000 BC

GeographyEdit

  • Widespread distribution over Eurasia

Major cultural centersEdit

  • Southwest France
  • Northern Italy (Grimaldi)
  • Central Europe (Dolni Vestonice, Pavlov)

ArchitectureEdit

  • Mammoth huts

Material CultureEdit

  • Upper Paleolithic-type lithic industry
  • Gravette Points, etc.

Other Economic ActivitiesEdit

  • Pyrotechnology
  • Basketry

Complex mortuary practicesEdit

  • Dolni Vestonice triple burial

Artistic ExpressionEdit

Types:

  • Animal figurines
  • Female figurines ("Venuses")
  • Parietal art

Animal figuring characteristics: Animals most frequently depicted are dangerous species (felines and bears), continuing Aurignacian tradition

  • In Moravia, 67 animal statuettes recorded:
    • 21 bears
    • 11 small carnivores
    • 9 felines
    • 8 mammoths
    • 6 birds
    • 6 horses
    • 4 rhinoceroses
    • 1 caprid
    • 1 cervid

By contrast, Magdalenian animal statuettes from the same region show very different patterns (N=139):

  • 56 horses, 44 bisons
  • 9 bears,
  • 2 felines,
  • 1 mammoth
  • 2 birds
  • 1 caprid, 1 cervid
  • 5 miscellaneous, 18 indeterminates
  • No rhinoceros

Dangerous animals represent only 10% of total

Female figurine characteristics: Widespread distribution over Europe and Russia; except Spain where no evidence of Venuses

  • Raw materials:
    • ivory
    • clay
  • Various types of research performed by anthropologists:
    • technological
    • stylistic
    • details of clothing, ornaments
    • chronological/geographical
    • interpretational
  • Most of baked clay figurines found fragmented
    • Lack of skill or deliberate action? Intentional fracturation through heating process
    • Fragmented figurines were intended products Involved and by-products of ritual ceremonies rather than art objects

Parietal art characteristics: From 21 sites, a list of 47 animals identified:

  • 9 ibexes
  • 9 cervids
  • 7 horses
  • 4 mammoths
  • 3 bovids
  • 1 megaceros
  • 1 salmon
  • 10 indeterminates

Dangerous animals (rhinoceros, bear, lion) depicted during the Gravettian do not constitute more than 11% of determinable animals:

  • 3 times less than in Aurignacian period);
  • yet still higher frequency than during Solutrean and Magdalenian

Strong preponderance of hunted animals, with horse very widely dominant

  • Example: Gargas with a list of 148 animals identified:
    • 36.5% bovids (bison and aurochs)
    • 29% horses
    • 10% ibexes
    • 6% cervids
    • 4% mammoths
    • 8% indeterminates
    • (2 birds, 1 wild boar)
    • No feline, rhinoceros, bear

Late Upper Paleolithic CulturesEdit

SolutreanEdit

First DiscoveredEdit

  • Solutré (NE France)

ChronologyEdit

  • ca. 21,000-18,000 BC

GeographyEdit

  • Limited distribution over SW France and Iberia

Material CultureEdit

  • Upper Paleolithic-type lithic industry
  • Heat Treatment, Pressure Retouch
  • Solutrean points: bifacially retouched leaf points, shouldered points, etc.
  • burins, endscrapers, etc.

SettlementsEdit

  • Some sedentary groups (Fourneau-du-Diable)
  • Long stratigraphic sequences

Human remainsEdit

  • Complex mortuary practices:
No evidence of burials, but manipulation of dead (e.g., reuse of skull: Le Placard)

Artistic expressionEdit

Types:

  • Engraved limestone blocks
  • Engraved Bones
  • Parietal art

Characteristics:

  • Various techniques applied: painting, engraving
  • Distribution and amount of animals represented in tradition of Late Upper Paleolithic: mainly horses and bisons
  • Several novelties from Gravettian:
    • First association of parietal art with occupation sites [Low-relief scupture on blocks detached from walls];
    • Representation of animals in line or opposed

MagdelenianEdit

First DiscoveredEdit

  • La Madeleine (Dordogne, France)

ChronologyEdit

  • ca. 19,000-10,000 BC

GeographyEdit

  • Widespread distribution over Eurasia

Major cultural centersEdit

  • Southwest France (Charente, Dordogne, Pyrénées)
  • Northeast Spain
  • Central Europe

Material CultureEdit

  • Upper Paleolithic-type lithic industry
  • Magdalenian blades, burins, etc.
  • Rich bone tool industry (harpoons)

Complex mortuary practicesEdit

  • Children burials

Artistic expressionEdit

Types:

  • Raw Materials: Great diversity (limestone cave walls and slabs, sandstone, shale, bone, ivory, clay, etc.)
  • Techniques: All techniques employed: Engraving, Sculpture, Molding, Cutting, Drawing, Painting
  • Both mobiliary and parietal arts present. Out of about 300 sites with parietal art, 250 are attributed to Magdalenian period.
  • Types of Figurations:
    • Animals (mainly horses and bisons)
    • Humans (male and female)
    • Hands (positive and negative)
    • Signs (dots, lines)