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.
|Dates||33,000 to 21,000 BP[a]|
|Type site||La Gravette|
|Followed by||Solutrean, Epigravettian|
|Defined by||Dorothy Garrod, 1938|
The Gravettians were hunter-gatherers who lived in a bitterly cold period of European prehistory, and Gravettian lifestyle was shaped by the climate. Pleniglacial environmental changes forced them to adapt. West and Central Europe were extremely cold during this period. Archaeologists usually describe two regional variants: the western Gravettian, known mainly from cave sites in France, Spain and Britain, and the eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians, which include the Pavlovian culture, were specialized mammoth hunters, whose remains are usually found not in caves but in open air sites.
Gravettian culture thrived on their ability to hunt animals. They utilized a variety of tools and hunting strategies. Compared to theorized hunting techniques of Neanderthals and earlier human groups, Gravettian hunting culture appears much more mobile and complex. They lived in caves or semi-subterranean or rounded dwellings which were typically arranged in small "villages". Gravettians are thought to have been innovative in the development of tools such as blunted-back knives, tanged arrowheads and boomerangs. Other innovations include the use of woven nets and oil lamps made of stone. Blades and bladelets were used to make decorations and bone tools from animal remains.
Gravettian culture extends across a large geographic region, as far as Estremadura in Portugal. but is relatively homogeneous until about 27,000 BN. They developed burial rites, which included the inclusion of simple, purpose built, offerings and/or personal ornaments owned by the deceased, placed within the grave or tomb. Surviving Gravettian art includes numerous cave paintings and small, portable Venus figurines made from clay or ivory, as well as jewelry objects. The fertility deities mostly date from the early period; there are over 100 known surviving examples. They conform to a very specific physical type, with large breasts, broad hips and prominent posteriors. The statuettes tend to lack facial details, and their limbs that are often broken off.
During the post glacial period, evidence of the culture begins to disappear from northern Europe but was continued in areas around the Mediterranean.
Animals were a primary food source for early humans of the Gravettian period. Since Europe was extremely cold during this period, food sources needed to be high in energy and fat content. Testing comparisons among various human remains reveal that populations at higher latitudes placed greater dietary emphasis on meat. A defining trait distinguishing Gravettian people was their ease of mobility compared to their Neanderthal counterparts. Modern humans developed the technology and social organization that enabled them to migrate with their food source whereas Neanderthals were not adept at travelling, even with relatively sedentary herds.
With their ability to move with the herds, Gravettian diets incorporated a huge variety of animal prey. The main factors were the animal's age and size. For example, first year deer offered hides most suitable for clothing, while fourth year deer contained far more meat. Gravettian diet included larger animals such as mammoths, hyenas, wolves, reindeer killed with stone or bone tools, as well as hares and foxes captured with nets. This time period is classified by the strong emphasis on meat consumption because agriculture had not been fully introduced nor utilized. In addition, the climate was not favorable to stable crop cultivation.
Coastal Gravettians were able to avail of marine protein. From remains found in Italy and Wales, carbon dating reveals that 20-30% of Gravettian diets of coastal peoples consisted of sea animals. Populations of lower latitudes relied more on shell fish and fish while higher latitudes' diets consisted of seals.
Clubs, stones and sticks were the primary hunting tools during the Upper Paleolithic period. Bone, antler and ivory points have all been found at sites in France; but proper stone arrowheads and throwing spears did not appear until the Solutrean period (~20,000 Before Present). Due to the primitive tools, many animals were hunted at close range. The typical artefact of Gravettian industry, once considered diagnostic, is the small pointed blade with a straight blunt back. They are today known as the Gravette point, and were used to hunt big game. Gravettians used nets to hunt small game, and are credited with inventing the bow and arrow.
Gravettian settlers tended towards the valleys that pooled migrating prey. Examples found through discoveries in Gr. La Gala, a site in Southern Italy, show a strategic settlement based in a small valley. As the settlers became more aware of the migration patterns of animals like red deer, they learned that prey herd in valleys, thereby allowing the hunters to avoid travelling long distances for food. Specifically in Gr. La Gala, the glacial topography forced the deer to pass through the areas in the valley occupied by humans. Additional evidence of strategically positioned settlements include sites like Klithi in Greece, also placed to intercept migrating prey.
Discoveries in the Czech Republic suggest that nets were used to capture large numbers of smaller prey, thus offering a quick and consistent food supply and thus an alternative to the feast/famine pattern of large game hunters. Evidence comes in the form of 4 mm thick rope preserved on clay imprints. Research suggests that although no larger net imprints have been discovered, there would be little reason for them not to be made as no further knowledge would be required for their creation. The weaving of nets was likely a communal task, relying on the work of both women and children.
The Gravettian era landscape is most closely related to the landscape of present-day Moravia. Pavlov I in southern Moravia is the most complete and complex Gravettian site to date, and a perfect model for a general understanding of Gravettian culture. In many instances, animal remains indicate both decorative and utilitarian purposes. In the case of, for example, Arctic foxes, incisors and canines were used for decoration, while their humeri and radii bones were used as tools. Similarly, the skeletons of some red foxes contain decorative incisors and canines as well as ulnas used for awls and barbs.
Some animal bones were only used to create tools. Due to their shape, the ribs, fibulas, and metapodia of horses were good for awl and barb creation. In addition, the ribs were also implemented to create different types of smoothers for pelt preparation. The shapes of hare bones are also unique, and as a result, the ulnas were commonly used as awls and barbs. Reindeer antlers, ulnas, ribs, tibias and teeth were utilised in addition to a rare documented case of a phalanx. Mammoth remnants are among the most common bone remnants of the culture, while long bones and molars are also documented. Some mammoth bones were used for decorative purposes. Wolf remains were often used for tool production and decoration.
33,000–24,000 cal BP
D'ailleurs selon les auteurs et les thèmes abordés, la définition et donc les contours du Gravettien varient, parfois considérablement. Tantôt certains ensembles de la plaine russe seront intégrés sur la base des témoignages funéraires, tantôt les statuettes féminines serviront d'argument pour annexer les rives du lac Baïkal à cette supra-entité. De même, le Gravettien débuterait vers 31,000 BP ou 27,000 BP selon les régions pour finir parfois à 22,000 BP, parfois à 17,000 BP. Ce ne sont pas là de menues différences. [Besides, depending on the authors and the subjects at hand, the definition and therefore the borders of the Gravettian vary, sometimes considerably. Sometimes, certain assemblages of the Russian plains are integrated on the basis of funerary customs, other times feminine statuettes are used to annex the shores of Lake Baikal to this supra-entity. Likewise, the Gravettian would start around 31,000 or 27,000 BP depending on the regions and finish sometimes at 22,000 BP, sometimes at 17,000 BP. These are not small differences.]
The Aurignacian () 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 possiblity that the Levantine Aurignacian was rather the result of reverse influence from the European Aurignacian: this remains unsettled.Balzi Rossi
The Balzi Rossi caves (Ligurian: baussi rossi "red rocks") in Ventimiglia comune, Liguria, Italy, is one of the most important archaeological sites of the early Upper Paleolithic in Western Europe.
Riparo Mochi remains, evidence for the earliest presence of modern humans in Europe (early Aurignacian, 42,000 years ago).
Grimaldi Man (Gravettian, c. 25,000 years)
Venus figurines of Balzi Rossi (Gravettian, c. 22,000 years)Brillenhöhle
The Brillenhöhle (German: Brillenhöhle, literally spectacles cave) is a cave ruin, located 16 km (9.94 mi) west of Ulm on the Swabian Alb in south-western Germany, where archaeological excavations have documented human habitation since as early as 30,000 years ago. Excavated by Gustav Riek from 1955 to 1963, the cave's Upper Paleolithic layers contain a sequence of Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian artifacts. In 1956 the first human fossils were discovered within a fireplace in the center of the cave, a discovery which made important contributions to the foundational understanding of the Magdalenian culture of central Europe.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.Coliboaia Cave
Coliboaia Cave (Romanian: Peștera Coliboaia, pronounced [koliˈbo̯aja]) is located in Apuseni Natural Park, Câmpani, Bihor County, Romania. It contains the oldest known cave paintings of Central Europe, radiocarbon dated to 32,000 and 35,000 years BP, corresponding to the Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures of the Paleolithic period.Creswell Crags
Creswell Crags is an enclosed limestone gorge on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, England, near the villages of Creswell and Whitwell. The cliffs in the ravine contain several caves that were occupied during the last ice age, between around 43,000 and 10,000 years ago. Its caves contain the northernmost cave art in Europe. The evidence of occupation found in the rich series of sediments that accumulated over many thousands of years is regarded as internationally unique in demonstrating how prehistoric people managed to live at the extreme northernmost limits of their territory during the Late Pleistocene period.The caves contain occupation layers with evidence of flint tools from the Mousterian, proto-Solutrean, Creswellian and Maglemosian cultures. They were seasonally occupied by nomadic groups of people during the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. Evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman and post-medieval activity has also been found there. There is evidence of Neanderthal occupation 50,000–60,000 years ago, a brief Gravettian occupation around 32,000 years ago and use of all the main caves during the Magdalenian around 14,000 years ago. The site is open to the public and has a visitor centre with a small museum of objects associated with the caves, including a stuffed cave hyena.
As a result of its unique features, Creswell Crags has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It has also been put forward as a potential World Heritage Site.
The site was the subject of the BBC Radio 4 documentaries Unearthing Mysteries and Nature and featured in the 2005 BBC Two television programme Seven Natural Wonders, as one of the wonders of the Midlands.
In 2006–07, the B6042 road was re-routed from its path through the gorge, by approximately 150 metres (160 yd) to the north, to minimise traffic impact on the site.Epigravettian
The Epigravettian (Greek: epi "above, on top of", and Gravettian) was one of the last archaeological industries and cultures of the European Upper Paleolithic. It emerged after the Last Glacial Maximum around ~21,000 cal. BP and is considered to be a cultural derivative of the Gravettian culture. Initially named Tardigravettian (Late Gravettian) in 1964 by Georges Laplace in reference to several lithic industries, found in Italy it was later renamed in order to better emphasize its independent character.
Three subphases, the Early Epigravettian (20,000 to 16,000 BP), the Evolved Epigravettian (16,000 to 14,000 BP) and the Final Epigravettian (14,000 to 8,000 BP), have been established, that were further subdivided and reclassified. In this sense, the Epigravettian is simply the Gravettian after ~21,000 BP, when the Solutrean had replaced the Gravettian in most of France and Spain.
Several Epigravettian cultural centers have developed contemporaneously after 22,000 years BP in Europe. These range across southern, central and most of eastern Europe, including south-western France, Italy, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Western Russia to the banks of the Volga River.
Its lithic complex was first documented at numerous sites in Italy. Great geographical and local variability of the facies is present,
however all sites are characterized by the predominance of microliths, such as backed blades, backed points, and bladelets with retouched end.The Epigravettian is the last stage of the Upper Paleolithic succeeded by Mesolithic cultures after 10,000 BP.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.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.Prehistoric Iberia
The prehistory of the Iberian Peninsula begins with the arrival of the first hominins 1.2 million years ago and ends with the Punic Wars, when the territory enters the domains of written history. In this long period, some of its most significant landmarks were to host the last stand of the Neanderthal people, to develop some of the most impressive Paleolithic art, alongside southern France, to be the seat of the earliest civilizations of Western Europe and finally to become a most desired colonial objective due to its strategic position and its many mineral riches.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.Santimamiñe
Santimamiñe cave, Kortezubi, Biscay, Basque Country, Spain, is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Basque Country, including a nearly complete sequence from the Middle Paleolithic to the Iron Age.Its complete sequence includes the following cultures:
AzilianPlus unclassified remains of the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze and Iron ages.
It is best known for its mural paintings of the Magdalenian period, depicting bisons, horses, goats and deers.
Its excellent location over the Urdaibai estuary was probably most important in its continued habitation, first by Neanderthals and later by Homo sapiens.
Since 2008, it is one of the caves included as a World Heritage Site within "Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain".Solutrean
The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic of the Final Gravettian, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal.Venus figurines of Mal'ta
The Venus figurines of Mal’ta (also: Malta) are several palaeolithic figurines of women found in Siberia, Russia.
They consist most often of ivory. Delporte writes of 29 figurines altogether. They are about 20,000 years old and stem from the Gravettian. Most of these statuettes show stylized clothes. Quite often the face is depicted. They were discovered at Mal'ta, at the Angara River, near Lake Baikal in Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia by the archeologists Sergey Zamyatnin, Georgy Sosnovsky, and Mikhail Gerasimov.These figurines are on display at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.Venus of Brassempouy
The Venus of Brassempouy (French: la Dame de Brassempouy, meaning "Lady of Brassempouy", or Dame à la Capuche, "Lady with the Hood") is a fragmentary ivory figurine from the Upper Palaeolithic. It was discovered in a cave at Brassempouy, France in 1892. About 25,000 years old, it is one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face.Venus of Dolní Věstonice
The Venus of Dolní Věstonice (Czech: Věstonická venuše) is a Venus figurine, a ceramic statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE (Gravettian industry), or 29,000 - 25,000 BC. It was found at the Paleolithic site Dolní Věstonice in the Moravian basin south of Brno, in the base of Děvín Mountain, 549 metres (1,801 ft). This figurine and a few others from locations nearby are the oldest known ceramic articles in the world.Venus of Laussel
The Venus of Laussel is an 18.11-inch-high (46.0-centimetre) limestone bas-relief of a nude woman. It is painted with red ochre and was carved into the limestone of a rock shelter (Abri de Laussel) in the commune of Marquay, in the Dordogne department of south-western France. The carving is associated with the Gravettian Upper Paleolithic culture (approximately 25,000 years old). It is currently displayed in the Musée d'Aquitaine in Bordeaux, France.Venus of Lespugue
The Venus of Lespugue is a Venus figurine, a statuette of a nude female figure of the Gravettian, dated to between 26,000 and 24,000 years ago.Venus of Petřkovice
The Venus of Petřkovice (Czech: Petřkovická venuše or Landecká venuše) is a pre-historic Venus figurine, a mineral statuette of a nude female figure, dated to about 23,000 BCE (Gravettian industry) in what is today the Czech Republic.