The Aurignacian (/ɔːrɪɡˈneɪʃən/) is an archaeological tradition of the Upper Palaeolithic associated with European early modern humans (EEMH). The Upper Paleolithic developed in Europe some time after the Levant, where the Emiran period and the Ahmarian period form the very first periods of the Upper Paleolithic, corresponding to the first stages of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa. From this stage, the first modern humans probably migrated to Europe to form the beginning of the European Upper Paleolithic, including the Aurignacian culture.
An Early Aurignacian or Proto-Aurignacian stage is dated between about 43,000 and 37,000 years ago. The Aurignacian proper lasts from about 37,000 to 33,000 years ago. A Late Aurignacian phase transitional with the Gravettian dates to about 33,000 to 26,000 years ago. The type site is the Cave of Aurignac, Haute-Garonne, south-west France. The main preceding period is the Mousterian of the Neanderthals.
One of the oldest examples of figurative art, the Venus of Hohle Fels, comes from the Aurignacian and is dated to between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago (though now earlier figurative art may be known, see Lubang Jeriji Saléh). It was discovered in September 2008 in a cave at Schelklingen in Baden-Württemberg in western Germany. The German Lion-man figure is given a similar date range. The Bacho Kiro site in Bulgaria is one of the earliest known Aurignacian burials.
A "Levantine Aurignacian" culture is known from the Levant, with a type of blade technology very similar to the European Aurignacian, following chronologically the Emiran and Early Ahmarian in the same area of the Near East, and also closely related to them. The Levantine Aurignacian may have preceded European Aurignacian, but there is a possibility that the Levantine Aurignacian was rather the result of reverse influence from the European Aurignacian: this remains unsettled.
Rhino drawings from the Chauvet Cave, 37,000 to 33,500 years old, and map of Aurignacian sites
|Dates||c. 43,000 – c. 28,000 BP|
|Preceded by||Ahmarian, Châtelperronian|
|Defined by||Breuil and Cartailhac, 1906|
The Aurignacians are part of the wave of anatomically modern humans who spread from Africa through the Near East into Paleolithic Europe, and became known as European early modern humans, or Cro-Magnons. This wave of anatomically modern humans includes fossils of the Ahmarian, Bohunician, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian cultures, extending throughout the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), covering the period of roughly 48,000 to 15,000 years ago.
The Aurignacian tool industry is characterized by worked bone or antler points with grooves cut in the bottom. Their flint tools include fine blades and bladelets struck from prepared cores rather than using crude flakes. The people of this culture also produced some of the earliest known cave art, such as the animal engravings at Trois Freres and the paintings at Chauvet cave in southern France. They also made pendants, bracelets, and ivory beads, as well as three-dimensional figurines. Perforated rods, thought to be spear throwers or shaft wrenches, also are found at their sites.
The sophistication and self-awareness demonstrated in the work led archaeologists to consider the makers of Aurignacian artifacts the first modern humans in Europe. Human remains and Late Aurignacian artifacts found in juxtaposition support this inference. Although finds of human skeletal remains in direct association with Proto-Aurignacian technologies are scarce in Europe, the few available are also probably modern human. The best dated association between Aurignacian industries and human remains are those of at least five individuals from the Mladeč caves in the Czech Republic, dated by direct radiocarbon measurements of the skeletal remains to at least 31,000–32,000 years old. At least three robust, but typically anatomically-modern individuals from the Peștera cu Oase cave in Romania, were dated directly from the bones to ca. 35,000–36,000 BP. Although not associated directly with archaeological material, these finds are within the chronological and geographical range of the Early Aurignacian in southeastern Europe. On genetic evidence it has been argued that both Aurignacian and the Dabba culture of North Africa came from an earlier big game hunting Levantine Aurignacian culture of the Levant.
Aurignacian figurines have been found depicting faunal representations of the time period associated with now-extinct mammals, including mammoths, rhinoceros, and tarpan, along with anthropomorphized depictions that may be interpreted as some of the earliest evidence of religion.
Many 35,000-year-old animal figurines were discovered in the Vogelherd Cave in Germany. One of the horses, amongst six tiny mammoth and horse ivory figures found previously at Vogelherd, was sculpted as skillfully as any piece found throughout the Upper Paleolithic. The production of ivory beads for body ornamentation was also important during the Aurignacian. The famous paintings in Chauvet cave date from this period.
Typical statuettes consist of women that are called Venus figurines. They emphasize the hips, breasts, and other body parts associated with fertility. Feet and arms are lacking or minimized. One of the most ancient figurines was discovered in 2008 in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany. The figurine has been dated to 35,000 years ago.
Aurignacian finds include bone flutes. The oldest undisputed musical instrument was the Hohle Fels Flute discovered in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany's Swabian Alb in 2008. The flute is made from a vulture's wing bone perforated with five finger holes, and dates to approximately 35,000 years ago. A flute was also found at the Abri Blanchard in southwestern France.
Stone tools from the Aurignacian culture are known as Mode 4, characterized by blades (rather than flakes, typical of mode 2 Acheulean and mode 3 Mousterian) from prepared cores. Also seen throughout the Upper Paleolithic is a greater degree of tool standardization and the use of bone and antler for tools. Based on the research of scraper reduction and paleoenvironment, the early Aurignacian group moved seasonally over greater distance to procure reindeer herds within cold and open environment than those of the earlier tool cultures.
One of the earliest dates for an Aurignacian assemblage is greater than 43,000 BP from Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria ...
The Acheulo-Yabrudian complex is a complex of archaeological cultures in the Levant at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic. It follows the Acheulian and precedes the Mousterian. It is also called the Mugharan Tradition or the Acheulo-Yabrudian Cultural Complex (AYCC).The Acheulo-Yabrudian complex has three stone-tool traditions, chronologically: the Acheulo-Yabrudian, the Yabrudian and the Pre-Aurignacian or Amudian. The Yabrudian tradition is dominated by thick scrapers shaped by steep Quina retouch; the Acheuleo-Yabrudian contains Yabrudian scrapers and handaxes; and the Pre-Aurignacian/Amudian is dominated by blades and blade-tools.Antelias cave
Antelias Cave was a large cave located 2.5 km (1.6 mi) east of Antelias, 10 km (6.2 mi) northeast of Beirut close to the wadi of Ksar Akil.It was discovered by Heidenborg in 1833. Godefroy Zumoffen made an excavation in 1893, finding an Aurignacian industry amongst large quantities of bones and flints. Henri Fleisch re-examined the material from Zumoffen's excavation and concluded that it was not solely Aurignacian but showed evidence of successive industries present as late as the Neolithic. Raoul Describes also excavated the site and found numerous tools made of bone including two harpoons which are now in the Museum of Lebanese Prehistory. Auguste Bergy also made a small excavation here and another sounding was made possibly in 1948 by J. Ewing who described the industry as "transitional, Upper Paleolithic-to-Mesolithic". Dirk Albert Hooijer studied the fauna from the cave and found Dama and Capra to have been predominant. Neolithic finds included a long, denticulated, lustrous blade. Bones of a human foetus were also found in the cave by Delore in 1901 which were published by Vallois in 1957 as being possibly Neolithic in date. Collections from the cave can be found in the Musée de l'Homme, Paris, Museum of Lebanese Prehistory and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut.Antelias cave was completely destroyed by dynamite in the spring of 1964 due to quarrying in the area. Lorraine Copeland and Peter J. Wescombe recovered some cave deposits from which they hoped to extract material for radio-carbon dating.Aurignac
Aurignac is a commune in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France on the edge of the Pyrénées. It was the seat of the former canton of Aurignac (population 4,160), which was composed of 19 communes. It is part of the ancient region known as the Comminges.Cave of Aurignac
The Cave of Aurignac is an archaeological site in the commune of Aurignac, Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France. Sediment excavation and artefact documentation since 1860 confirm the idea of the arrival and permanent presence of European early modern humans during the Upper Palaeolithic. The eponymous location represents the type site of the Aurignacian, the earliest known culture attributed to modern humans in western Eurasia. Assemblages of Aurignacian tool making tradition can be found in the cultural sediments of numerous sites from around 45,000 years BP to around 26,000 years BP. In recognition of its significance for various scientific fields and the 19th century pioneering work of Édouard Lartet the Cave of Aurignac was officially declared a national Historic Monument of France by order of May 26, 1921.Cave of El Castillo
The Cueva de El Castillo, or Cave of the Castle, is an archaeological site within the complex of the Caves of Monte Castillo, in Puente Viesgo, Cantabria, Spain.
The archaeological stratigraphy has been divided into around 19 layers, depending on the source they slightly deviate from each other, however the overall sequence is consistent, beginning in the Proto-Aurignacian, and ending in the Bronze Age.The El Castillo cave contains the oldest known cave painting: a large red stippled disk in the Panel de las Manos
was dated to more than 40,000 years old using uranium-thorium dating in a 2012 study.
This is consistent with the tradition of cave painting originating in the Proto-Aurignacian, with the first arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe. A 2013 study of finger length ratios in Upper Paleolithic hand stencils found in France and Spain determined that the majority were of female hands, overturning the previous widely held belief that this art form was primarily a male activity.Cueva del Castillo was discovered in 1903 by Hermilio Alcalde del Río, a Spanish archaeologist, who was one of the pioneers in the study of the earliest cave paintings of Cantabria. The entrance to the cave was smaller in the past and has been enlarged as a result of archaeological excavations.
Alcalde del Río found an extensive sequence of images executed in charcoal and red ochre on the walls and ceilings of multiple caverns.
The paintings and numerous markings and graffiti span from the Lower Paleolithic to the Bronze Age, and even into the Middle Ages.
There are over 150 depictions already catalogued, including those that emphasize the engravings of a few deer, complete with shadowing.Châtelperronian
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.Cro-Magnon rock shelter
Cro-Magnon ( (listen), US: ; French: Abri de Cro-Magnon French pronunciation: [kʁomaɲɔ̃]) is an Aurignacian (Upper Paleolithic) site, located in a rock shelter at Les Eyzies, a hamlet in the commune of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, Dordogne, southwestern France.Abri de Cro-Magnon is part of the UNESCO World Heritage of the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley.Most notably, it is the site of the discovery of anatomically modern human remains, apparently buried at the site, dated to about 28,000 years ago.European early modern humans
European early modern humans (EEMH) in the context of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe refers to the early presence of anatomically modern humans in Europe. The term "early modern" is usually taken to include fossils of the Ahmarian, Bohunician, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian, extending throughout the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), covering the period of roughly 48,000 to 15,000 years ago, usually referred to as the Cro-Magnon. The earliest sites in Europe dated 48,000 years ago are Riparo Mochi (Italy), Geissenklösterle (Germany), and Isturitz (France). The upper limit of 15,000 marks the transition to the European Mesolithic, depending on the region also given in the range of 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Use of "Cro-Magnon" is mostly to times after the beginning of the Aurignacian proper, c. 37 to 35 ka. Genetically, EEMH form an isolated population between 37 and 14 ka, with significant Mesolithic admixture from the Near East and Caucasus beginning around 14 ka. The description as "modern" is used as contrasting with the "archaic" Neanderthals who lived within Europe from 400,000 to 37,000 years ago.
The term EEMH is equivalent to Cro-Magnon Man, or Cro-Magnons, a term derived from the Cro-Magnon rock shelter in southwestern France, where the first EEMH were found in 1868. Louis Lartet (1869) proposed Homo sapiens fossilis as the systematic name for "Cro-Magnon Man". W.K. Gregory (1921) proposed the subspecies name Homo sapiens cro-magnonensis. In literature published since the late 1990s, the term EEMH is generally preferred over the common name Cro-Magnon, which has no formal taxonomic status, as it refers neither to a species or subspecies nor to an archaeological phase or culture.Another known remains of EEMH can be dated to before 40,000 years ago (40 ka) with some certainty: those from Grotta del Cavallo in Italy, and from Kents Cavern in England, have been radiocarbon dated to 45–41 ka. A number of other early fossils are dated close to or just after 40ka, including fossils found in Romania (Peștera cu Oase, 42–37 ka) and Russia (Kostenki-14, 40–35 ka). The Siberian Ust'-Ishim man, dated to 45 ka, was not geographically found in Europe, and indeed is not part of the "Western Eurasian" genetic lineage, but intermediate between the Western Eurasian and East Asian lineages.The EEMH lineage in the European Mesolithic is also known as "West European Hunter-Gatherer" (WHG). These mesolithic hunter-gatherers emerge after the end of the LGM ca. 15 ka and are described as more gracile than the Upper Paleolithic Cro-Magnons. The WHG lineage survives in contemporary Europeans, albeit only as a minor contribution overwhelmed by the later Neolithic and Bronze Age migrations.Gravettian
The Gravettian was an archaeological industry of the European Upper Paleolithic that succeeded the Aurignacian circa 33,000 years BP. It is archaeologically the last European culture many consider unified, and had mostly disappeared by c. 22,000 BP, close to the Last Glacial Maximum, although some elements lasted until c. 17,000 BP. At this point, it was replaced abruptly by the Solutrean in France and Spain, and developed into or continued as the Epigravettian in Italy, the Balkans, Ukraine and Russia.They are known for their Venus figurines, which were typically made as either ivory or limestone carvings. The Gravettian culture was first identified at the site of La Gravette in Southwestern France.Levantine Aurignacian
The Levantine Aurignacian (35,000-29,000 BP, calibrated, 32,000-26,000 BP, non-calibrated) is an Upper Paleolithic culture of the Near-Eastern Levant. It was named so because of the similarity of stone tools with the Aurignacian culture in Europe. The Levantine Aurignacian used to be called Lower and Upper Antelian in old sources, from the site of Wadi Antelias in Lebanon.Long Hole Cave
Long Hole, also spelled Longhole, is a limestone cave on the south coast of the Gower Peninsula between Paviland and Port Eynon. It is relatively small, measuring about 15 m (49 ft) deep after several excavations. It was first excavated in 1861 by Colonel E. R. Wood. Wood found evidence of a lithic assemblage and faunal remains. The faunal remains included cave hyena, reindeer, Woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, straight-tusked elephant and wild horse.A second excavation was conducted in 1969 by J. B. Campbell. Analysis of the evidence from the two excavations, including sediment and pollen as well as the lithic evidence, has identified Long Hole as an Aurignacian site contemporary with and related to the site at Paviland, evidence of the first modern humans in Britain.Mladeč
Mladeč (German: Lautsch) is a village and municipality (obec) in Olomouc District in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic. The municipality covers an area of 12.08 square kilometres (4.66 sq mi), and has a population of 761 (as at 3 July 2006). Mladeč lies approximately 21 kilometres (13 mi) north-west of Olomouc and 191 km (119 mi) east of Prague.
The Mladeč caves are located near Mladeč.
Mladeč is an Aurignacian archaeological site with directly dated remains of early modern human dating to about 31,000 radiocarbon years. The site contains remains of at least half a dozen individuals, including children. They are the oldest bones that indicate a human settlement, or community in Europe. The Mladec collection also includes Aurignacian tools and art associated with early modern humans. The remains appear to show some Neanderthal-like features.
The presence of remnant [rear skull] bones that are not present in the early modern Africans and Near Easterners do not necessarily indicate inter-breeding with Neanderthals. In National Geographic, Theodore Schurr, an anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, notes:
The Mladec individuals do not consistently exhibit the same Neandertal skeletal features, to whatever extent they possess them, nor do they yield any trace of Neandertal DNA... Therefore, based on these data, the Mladec remains show no strong evidence of interbreeding between Neandertals and anatomically modern humans.Mousterian
The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the Neanderthals in Europe, and to a lesser extent the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia. 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. The main following period is the Aurignacian (c.43,000–28,000 BP) of Homo sapiens.Paleolithic Europe
Paleolithic Europe, the Lower or Old Stone Age in Europe, encompasses the era from the arrival of the first archaic humans, about 1.4 million years ago until the beginning of the Mesolithic (also Epipaleolithic) around 10,000 years ago. This period thus covers over 99% of the total human presence on the European continent. The early arrival and disappearance of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, the appearance, complete evolution and eventual demise of Homo neanderthalensis and the immigration and successful settlement of Homo sapiens all have taken place during the European Paleolithic.Paleolithic flutes
During regular archaeological excavations several flutes, that date to the European Upper Paleolithic have been discovered in caves in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. Dated and tested independently by two laboratories, in England and Germany, the artifacts are authentic products of the Homo sapiens Aurignacian archaeological culture, made in between 43,000 and 35,000 years ago. The flutes, made of bone and ivory represent the earliest known musical instruments and provide unmistakable evidence of prehistoric music. The flutes were found in the Caves with the oldest Ice Age art, where also the oldest known examples of figurative art were discovered. Music and sculpture as artistic expression have developed simultaneously among the first humans in Europe as the region is considered a key area in which various cultural innovations have developed. Experts say, besides recreation and religious ritual music might have helped to maintain larger social networks, a competitive advantage over the Neanderthals.Périgordian
Périgordian is a term for several distinct but related Upper Palaeolithic cultures which are thought by some archaeologists to represent a contiguous tradition. Thought to have existed between c.35,000 BP and c.20,000 BP the Perigordian was theorized by prehistorians (namely Denis Peyrony).The earliest culture in the tradition is the Châtelperronian which is thought to have produced denticulate tools and flint knives. It is argued that this was superseded by the Gravettian with its Font Robert points and Noailles burins. The tradition culminated in the proto-Magdalenian.Critics have pointed out that no continuous sequence of Périgordian occupation has yet been found, and that the tradition requires it to have co-existed separately from the Aurignacian industry rather than being differing industries that existed before and afterwards.Red Lady of Paviland
The Red Lady of Paviland is an Upper Paleolithic partial skeleton of a male dyed in red ochre and buried in Britain 33,000 BP. The bones were discovered in 1823 by William Buckland in an archaeological dig at Goat's Hole Cave (Paviland cave) — one of the limestone caves between Port Eynon and Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula, south Wales.The remains were at first thought to be a Roman Britain era female, however more recent analysis indicates the bones of a young male.
Goat's Hole was occupied throughout prehistory. Artefacts are predominantly Aurignacian, but also include examples from the earlier Mousterian, and later Gravettian and Creswellian periods. The site is the oldest known ceremonial burial in Western Europe.Venus of Hohle Fels
The Venus of Hohle Fels (also known as the Venus of Schelklingen; in German variously Venus vom Hohlen Fels, vom Hohle Fels; Venus von Schelklingen) is an Upper Paleolithic Venus figurine made of mammoth ivory that was unearthed in 2008 in Hohle Fels, a cave near Schelklingen, Germany. It is dated to between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago, belonging to the early Aurignacian, at the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, which is associated with the earliest presence of Cro-Magnon in Europe.
The figure is the oldest undisputed example of a depiction of a human being. In terms of figurative art only the lion-headed, zoomorphic Löwenmensch figurine is older. The Venus figurine is housed at the Prehistoric Museum of Blaubeuren (Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren).Vogelherd Cave
The Vogelherd Cave (German: Vogelherdhöhle , or simply Vogelherd) is located in the eastern Swabian Jura, south-western Germany. This limestone karst cave came to scientific and public attention after the 1931 discovery of the Upper Palaeolithic Vogelherd figurines, attributed to paleo-humans of the Aurignacian culture. These miniature sculptures made of mammoth ivory rank among the oldest uncontested works of art of mankind. In 2017 the site became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura".