Gravettian

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Gravettian
Pointe de la Gravette MHNT PRE.2009.0.231.2.fond (2).jpg
Geographical rangeEurope
Period Upper Paleolithic
Dates33,000 [1] to 21,000 BP [ is this date calibrated? ] [lower-alpha 1]
Type site La Gravette
Major sites Dordogne
Characteristics Venus figurines
Preceded by Aurignacian
Followed by Solutrean, Epigravettian
Defined by Dorothy Garrod, 1938 [3]

The Gravettian was an archaeological industry of the European Upper Paleolithic that succeeded the Aurignacian circa 33,000 years BP. [1] [4] It is archaeologically the last European culture many consider unified, [5] and had mostly disappeared by c. 22,000 BP, close to the Last Glacial Maximum, although some elements lasted until c. 17,000 BP. [2] 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 [6] and Russia. [7]

Contents

The Gravettian culture is known for Venus figurines, which were typically carved from either ivory or limestone. The culture was first identified at the site of La Gravette in the southwestern French department of Dordogne. [8]

Gravettian culture

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, [8] whose remains are usually found not in caves but in open air sites.

The Venus of Moravany, made of mammoth tusk ivory Moravianska venusa.jpg
The Venus of Moravany, made of mammoth tusk ivory

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. [8] Other innovations include the use of woven nets and oil lamps made of stone. [9] Blades and bladelets were used to make decorations and bone tools from animal remains.

A replica of the Gravettian Venus of Lespugue. The Gravettians produced a large number of Venus figurines Venus de Lespugue (replica).jpg
A replica of the Gravettian Venus of Lespugue. The Gravettians produced a large number of Venus figurines

Gravettian culture extends across a large geographic region, as far as Estremadura in Portugal. [10] but is relatively homogeneous until about 27,000 BP. [11] They developed burial rites, [9] which included the inclusion of simple, purpose built, offerings and/or personal ornaments owned by the deceased, placed within the grave or tomb. [12] 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 are often broken off. [11]

During the post glacial period, evidence of the culture begins to disappear from northern Europe but was continued in areas around the Mediterranean. [11]

Diet

Animals were a primary food source for early humans of the Gravettian period. [13] 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. [14]

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. [15] 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. [16] 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. [13]

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. [17] [18] Populations of lower latitudes relied more on shell fish and fish while higher latitudes' diets consisted of seals. [18]

Physical type

A reconstruction by Libor Balak, Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological research. The reconstruction depicts the Lady of Brassempouy from the Western Gravettian Reconstruction of the Lady of Brassempouy by Libor Balak, Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research.jpg
A reconstruction by Libor Balák, Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological research. The reconstruction depicts the Lady of Brassempouy from the Western Gravettian

Physical remains of people of the Gravettian have revealed that they were tall and relatively slender people. The male height of the Gravettian culture ranged between 179 and 188 centimetres (5 ft 10 in and 6 ft 2 in) tall with an average of 183.5 centimetres (6 ft 0.2 in), which is exceptionally tall not only for that period of prehistory, but for all periods of history. [19] [20]

They were fairly slender and normally weighed between 67–73 kilograms (148–161 lb), although they would likely have had a higher ratio of lean muscle mass compared to body fat in comparison to modern humans as a result of a very physically active and demanding lifestyle. The females of the Gravettian were much shorter, standing 158 centimetres (5 ft 2 in) on average, with an average weight of 54 kilograms (119 lb). Examinations of Gravettian skulls reveal that high cheekbones were common among them. [21] [22] [23]

Hunting

A gravettian burin, a chisel Burin 213 5 Global.jpg
A gravettian burin, a chisel

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. [24] 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, [25] and were used to hunt big game. Gravettians used nets to hunt small game, and are credited with inventing the bow and arrow. [8] [ citation needed ]

Gravettian settlers tended towards the valleys that pooled migrating prey. [24] Examples found through discoveries in Gr. La Gala, a site in Southern Italy, show a strategic settlement based in a small valley. [26] 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. [26] Additional evidence of strategically positioned settlements include sites like Klithi in Greece, also placed to intercept migrating prey. [15]

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 (0.16 in) thick rope preserved on clay imprints. [16] 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. [16] The weaving of nets was likely a communal task, relying on the work of both women and children. [16]

Use of animal remains

Decorations and tools

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. [27]

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. [27] 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. [27]

Genetics

In a genetic study published in Nature in May 2016, the remains of fourteen Gravettians were examined. The eight samples of Y-DNA analyzed were determined to be three samples of haplogroup CT, one sample of I, one sample of IJK, one sample of BT, one sample of C1a2, one sample of F. Of the fourteen samples of mtDNA, there were thirteen samples of U and one sample of M. The majority of the sample of U belonged to the U5 and U2. [28]

In a genetic study published in Nature in November 2020, the remains of one adult male and two twin boys from a Gravettian site were examined. The Y-DNA analysis revealed that all 3 individuals belonged to haplogroup I. [29] The 3 individuals had the same mtDNA, U5.

See also

Preceded by
Aurignacian
Gravettian
33,00024,000 cal BP
Succeeded by
Solutrean

Note

  1. The transition to the Epigravettian is not well-defined, and the Gravettian may be extended down to 17,000 years ago with the most inclusive definition, based on anything that may be considered Gravettian (burials, venus statues, lithics) [2]

Related Research Articles

Paleolithic Prehistoric period, first part of the Stone Age

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic, also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 99% of the period of human technological prehistory. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.

Solutrean

The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Paleolithic of the Final Gravettian, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal.

Aurignacian Archaeological culture

The Aurignacian is an archaeological tradition of the Upper Paleolithic associated with European early modern humans (EEMH) lasting from 43,000 to 26,000 years ago. The Upper Paleolithic developed in Europe some time after the Levant, where the Emiran period and the Ahmarian period form the first periods of the Upper Paleolithic, corresponding to the first stages of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa. They then migrated to Europe and created the first European culture of modern humans, the Aurignacian.

Creswellian culture

The Creswellian is a British Upper Palaeolithic culture named after the type site of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire by Dorothy Garrod in 1926. It is also known as the British Late Magdalenian. According to Andreas Maier: "In current research, the Creswellian and Hamburgian are considered to be independent but closely related entities which are rooted in the Magdalenian." The Creswellian is dated between 13,000 and 11,800 BP and was followed by the most recent ice age, the Younger Dryas, when Britain was at times unoccupied by humans.

Magdalenian

The Magdalenian cultures are later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic in western Europe. They date from around 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. It is named after the type site of La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, commune of Tursac, in France's Dordogne department.

Upper Paleolithic Subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age

The Upper Paleolithic also called the Late Stone Age is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago, according to some theories coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity in early modern humans, until the advent of the Neolithic Revolution and agriculture.

Dolní Věstonice (archaeological site) Archaeological site in the Czech Republic

Dolní Věstonice refers to an Upper Paleolithic archaeological site near the village of Dolní Věstonice, Moravia in the Czech Republic, on the base of Děvín Mountain 549 metres (1,801 ft), dating to approximately 26,000 BP, as supported by radiocarbon dating. The site is unique in that it has been a particularly abundant source of prehistoric artifacts dating from the Gravettian period, which spanned roughly 27,000 to 20,000 B.C. In addition to the abundance of art, this site also includes carved representations of men, women, and animals, along with personal ornaments, human burials and enigmatic engravings.

Kostyonki–Borshchyovo archaeological complex Archaeological site in Russia

The Kostyonki–Borshchyovo archaeological complex is an area where numerous Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites have been found, located around the villages of Kostyonki and Borshchyovo. The area is found on the western (right) bank of the Don River in Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast, Russia, some 25 km south of the city of Voronezh. The 26 Paleolithic sites of the area are numbered Kostenki 1–21 and Borshchevo 1–5.

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Prehistoric Iberia aspect of history of Spain and Portugal

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Prehistory Span of time before recorded history

Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago and the invention of writing systems. The use of symbols, marks, and images appears very early among humans, but the earliest known writing systems appeared c. 5000 years ago and it took thousands of years for writing systems to be widely adopted. In some human cultures, writing systems were not used until the nineteenth century and, in a few, are not even used until the present. The end of prehistory therefore came at very different dates in different places, and the term is less often used in discussing societies where prehistory ended relatively recently.

Early European modern humans Earliest anatomically modern humans in Europe

Early European modern humans (EEMH) or Cro-Magnons were the first early modern humans to settle in Europe, continuously occupying the continent possibly from as early as 48,000 years ago. They interacted and interbred with the indigenous Neanderthals, who went extinct 40 to 35 thousand years ago; and from 37,000 years ago onwards, all EEMH descended from a single founder population which contributes ancestry to present-day Europeans. EEMH produced Upper Palaeolithic cultures, the first major one being the Aurignacian, which was succeeded by the Gravettian by 30,000 years ago. The Gravettian split into the Epi-Gravettian in the east and Solutrean in the west, due to major climate degradation during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), peaking 21,000 years ago. As Europe warmed, the Solutrean evolved into the Magdalenian by 20,000 years ago, and these peoples recolonised Europe. The Magdalenian and Epi-Gravettian gave way to Mesolithic cultures as big game animals were dying out and the Last Glacial Period drew to a close.

Epigravettian

The Epigravettian 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 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.

Hadži-Prodans Cave Cave and archaeological site in Serbia

The Hadži-Prodan's Cave is an archaeological site of the Paleolithic period and a national natural monument, located in the village Raščići around 7 km (4.3 mi) from Ivanjica in western central Serbia. The rather narrow and high entrance with at an altitude of 630 m (2,070 ft) above sea level sits about 40 m (130 ft) above the Rašćanska river valley bed and is oriented towards the south. The 345 m (1,132 ft) long cave was formed during the Late Cretaceous in "thick-bedded to massive" Senonian limestone. Prehistoric pottery shards and Pleistocene faunal fossils had already been collected by Zoran Vučićević from Ivanjica. Animal fossils especially Cave bear and Iron Age artifact discoveries during an unrelated areal survey were reportedly made at the cave entrance and in the main cavern. The site is named in honor of Hadži-Prodan, a 19th century Serbian revolutionary.

Pair-non-Pair Cave and archaeological site in southwestern France

The Pair-non-Pair Cave is located near the village of Prignac-et-Marcamps, Aquitaine:Gironde (33) department in France. Only discovered in 1881 it is known for remarkable prehistoric parietal engravings - petroglyphic representations of wild animals, "which rank among the most ancient examples of art made by prehistoric" humans, dating back to between 30.000 and 25.000 BP, the Aurignacian cultural period of the Upper Paleolithic.

Satsurblia Cave Cave and archaeological site in Georgia

Satsurblia Cave Natural Monument is a paleoanthropological site located 1.2 km from Kumistavi village, Tsqaltubo Municipality, in the Imereti region of Georgia, 287 meters above sea level. The karst cave was first excavated in 1976 by A. N. Kalandadze. In the Middle Ages the cave was used as a refuge.

Romito Cave Cave and archaeological site in the Pollino National Park in Calabria, Italy

The Romito cave is a natural limestone cave in the Lao Valley of Pollino National Park, near the town of Papasidero in Calabria, Italy. Stratigraphic record of the first excavation confirmed prolonged paleo-human occupation during the Upper Paleolithic since 17,000 years ago and the Neolithic since 6,400 years ago. A single, but exquisite piece of Upper Paleolithic parietal rock engraving was documented. Several burial sites of varying age were initially discovered. Irregularly recurring sessions have led to additional finds, which suggests future excavation work. Notable is the amount of accumulated data that has revealed deeper understanding of prehistoric daily life, the remarkable quality of the rock carvings and the burial named Romito 2, who exhibits features of pathological skeletal conditions (dwarfism).

Sirgenstein Cave Cave in Germany

The small Sirgenstein Cave, German: Sirgensteinhöhle is situated 565 m (1,854 ft) above sea level inside the 20 m (66 ft) high Sirgenstein, a limestone rock. The cave sits 35 m (115 ft) above the Ach River valley bottom in the central Swabian Jura, southern Germany. Archaeologist R. R. Schmidt excavated the site in 1906 during which he identified indices of prehistoric human presence. He recorded the complete stratigraphic sequence of Palaeolithic and Neolithic origin. In his 1910 analysis Schmidt inspired future archaeologists with his pioneering concept of including the excavation site within its geographic region, contextualizing it within a wide scientific spectrum and demonstrated valuable results as he correlated the Sirgenstein layer structure to those of prehistoric sites in France.

Pešturina Cave and archaeological site in Serbia

Pešturina is a cave in the municipality of Niška Banja in southeast Serbia. It is southwest of Jelašnica and 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Niš. Artifacts from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods were discovered since the archaeological excavations began in 2006. The remains, identified as the Mousterian culture, were dated from 102,000 BP+ 5,000 to 39,000 BP + 3,000, which makes Pešturina one of the latest surviving Neanderthal habitats. The cave has been nicknamed the "Serbian Atapuerca".

Romuald’s Cave is a cave in the western part of Istria County, Croatia, that contains the oldest known cave paintings in southeast Europe, as well as traces of both animal and human Upper Paleolithic habitation. Although the cave has been excavated since late 19th century, the paintings were only found in 2010, by Professor Darko Komšo, while the findings were published in Antiquity in 2019.

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