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Paleolithic Europe

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The first Europe inhabitanceEdit

The model of Europe inhabitance consists of two main migrations: the first one - carriers of the VIth genetical group (mutation M89) approximately 35 000 years BC appeared alongside the northern Mediterranean coast neighboring neanderthals and possible leaving some relics in the Basque language approximately 25 000 years BCE the IXth genetical group (mutation M173) entered Europe and spread from the Central Asia inhabiting lands free from Neanderthal for hunting and fishing. Later these populations were pressed into the southern direction by the Iceland.

ArchaeologyEdit

Upper Paleolithic technologies were H. sapiens. Some locally developed transitional cultures (Szletian in Central Europe and Chatelperronian in the Southwest) use clearly Upper Paleolithic technologies at very early dates and there are doubts about who were their carriers: H. sapiens or Neanderthal man.

Nevertheless, the definitive advance of these technologies is made by the Aurignacian culture. The origins of this culture can be located in Bulgaria (proto-Aurignacian) and Hungary (first full Aurignacian). It is thought that peoples originating from the Near East were the carriers of the basics that gave birth to this culture. In any case by 35,000 BCE, the Aurignacian culture and its technology had extended through most of Europe. The last Neanderthals seem to have been forced to retreat during this process to the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. Although genetic and archaeological evidence seems to point this culture to a North Asian origin, rather than a Near Eastern origin.

The first but scarce works of art appear during this phase.

One of the main events at this period is the Last Glacial Maximum, which refers to the time of maximum extent of the ice sheets during the last glaciation (the Würm or Wisconsin glaciation), approximately 20,000 years ago. The conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum persisted for probably two thousand years. At this time, all of Northern Europe, almost all of Canada and the northern half of the West Siberian Plain were covered by huge ice sheets extending roughly to the southern boundary of the Great Lakes in North America and to a line from the mouth of the Rhine River through Kraków, Moscow up to the mouth of the Anabar River in Russia.

Ice sheets covered the whole of Iceland and all but the southern extremity of the British Isles.


Middle Upper Paleolithic: Around 22,000 BCE two new technologies/cultures appear in the southwestern region of Europe: Solutrean and Gravettian. They might be linked with the transitional cultures mentioned before, because their techniques have some similarities and are both very different from Aurignacian ones but this issue is thus far very obscure.

Though both cultures seem to appear in the SW, the Gravetian soon disappears there, with the notable exception of the Mediterranean coasts of Iberia. Nevertheless, it finds its way to other regions of Europe (Italy, Central and Eastern Europe), reaching even the Caucasus and the Zagros mountains.

The Solutrean culture, extended from northern Spain to SE France, includes not only a beautiful stone technology but also the first significant development of cave painting, the use of the needle and possibly that of the bow and arrow.

The more widespread Gravetian culture is no less advanced, at least in artistic terms: sculpture (mainly venuses) is the most outstanding form of creative expression of these peoples.

Late Upper Paleolithic: Around 17,000 BCE, Europe witnesses the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Aurignacian one. This culture soon supersedes the Solutrean area and also the Gravetian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy and Eastern Europe, epi-Gravettian cultures continue evolving locally.

With the Magdalenian culture, Paleolithic development in Europe reaches its peak and this is reflected in the amazing art, owing to the previous traditions: basically paintings in the West and sculpture in Central Europe.

Epi-Paleolithic: Around 10,500 BCE, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 8000 BCE, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe. Though there are some differences, both cultures share several traits: the creation of very small stone tools called microliths and the scarcity of figurative art, which seems to have vanished almost completely, being replaced by abstract decoration of tools.

In the late phase of this epi-Paleolithic period, the Sauveterrean culture evolves into the so-called Tardenoisian and influences strongly its southern neighbour, clearly replacing it in Mediterranean Spain and Portugal.

The recession of the glaciers allows human colonization in Northern Europe for the first time. The Maglemosian culture, derived from the Sauveterre-Tardenois culture but with a strong personality, colonizes Denmark and the nearby regions, including parts of Britain

ReferencesEdit

  1. Language and paleolithic Europe according to prof. Mario Alinei
  2. Finno-ugric languages and paleolithic Europe according to prof. Kalevi Wiik
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