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Palaeolithic of Europe

A two-hour lecture at first-year undergraduate level providing an introduction to the Palaeolithic archaeology of Europe.
by

Rebecca Wragg Sykes

on 10 October 2011

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Transcript of Palaeolithic of Europe

Sima de los Huesos, > 350 kyr BP
Excavated 1976- 2011
28 individuals (NISP = c.6000, more than all other hominin fossils in world)
Complete cranium
Very early evidence of handedness
Intentional deposition?
Handaxe
Neanderthal ancestor?
Gran Dolina
5-6 individuals
Ancestral to H. heidel & Neanderthals
Lithics
?Nutritional cannibalism
Strangers in a strange land
understanding
Deep time
Earth's age 4.6 billion years:
4,600,000,000
9th - Banded ironstones 3.87 byr
25th- Red beds form onland: oxidisation
32nd- Oldest eukaryote single-celled fossils
40th- Earliest fossil soft-bodied animals
42nd- First true vertebrates, plants colonise land
44th- Reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals
8 months ago- Dinosaurs extinct
4 months ago- First true primates
3 weeks ago- Lucy: bipedal hominins
3 days ago- First cycle of ice ages in Europe (800 kyr)
24 hours ago- Neanderthals develop
3.4 hours ago- modern people enter Europe, Neanderthals disappear
55 minutes ago- Last ice sheets retreat, great forests across Europe
Half an hour ago- Farming lifestyles
Human scales of time
Second World War: 2-3 generations
English civil war: 12
Stonehenge builders: 100
Last hunter-gatherers (Mesolithic): 350
First European modern humans: 1400
Interaction with Neanderthals: 2100
Earliest anatomically modern humans: 6825
Oldest occupation of Britain: 28000
Modern Humans and
&The Upper Palaeolithic

a Family Affair
Palaeolithic Europe
Deep human history of a continent
A Million is a LOT
Happy Birthday
Earth!
Context is Everything
Palaeogenetics is transforming our view of ancient human populations
And a bit of Asia and Africa...
Neanderthal genetics
Mt-DNA from Neanderthals previously showed no input into modern human populations
Hints from modern genetics that some admixture with archaics had occurred
May 2010 Science paper Green et. al. first draft sequence of Neanderthal nuclear DNA genome
3 females from Vindija Cave, Croatia, c. 38 kyr
Comparison with extant humans shows that for non-Africans, 1-<4% DNA is Neanderthal
The Species X Files
Denisova Cave, Altai, Siberia
Girl's finger bone and two molars
DNA a new hominin form, "a genome in search of a fossil record"
3 specimens all have greater mtDNA variation than 7 Neanderthal samples from W.Europe- Siberia
Layer 11- Denisovans, Neanderthal toe bone and ?modern human archaeology
So two ancient indigenous populations encountered by ancestors of modern people leaving Africa
Denisovan DNA in modern humans
Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians have <5% Denisovan DNA
These groups from 1st wave African expansion 60-75 kyr
2nd wave Asian groups lack Denisovan DNA: mainland Asia
Because some groups linked to 1st wave e.g. Andamans do not have Denisovan either, suggests contact model IN S.E. Asia
Vast Deniovan range: Altai mountains to tropical jungles
Flores....
female figurines
Over 100 clearly identifiable from Pyrenees to Siberia
Female features differently emphasised
Most are Gravettian
Early find termed "Venus" in reference to 19th century art; this has influenced interpretations
Divine figure: 'fertility' goddess
Palaeo-erotica
Gynaecological learning tools
Self-portraits
Multiple meanings
Context!
Other figurines, raw materials, treatment
Female figurines from mammoth ivory, animals from marl
Breaks: female torsos, 1 face
Animal fragments are heads, woolly rhino torso
Only females and mammoths unbroken
Rules? Break marl, take torso, leave head...
If females are broken, take head, leave torso
If ivory, mostly whole.
Climate cycles
"The" Ice Age doesn't exist....
Pliocene warm period ∼5-3 mya was significantly warmer than today: ice cap over Greenland absent, sea level c.30 m higher.
Long-term increase in oxygen isotope values ∼3–2.5 mya marks development of permanent Northern Hemisphere ice cap
Last 3 million years characterized by alternating glacial and interglacial climate stages
Glacial ice sheets reached largest size during the last 700 kyr
So technically, we are still in an Ice Age...
Now THAT'S an Ice Age
How ice ages work
Milankovitch cycles
The variation in orbital movements of the Earth
Affects insolation
Affects temperatures of air and sea
Stimulates ice formation
Eccentricity
Axial Tilt
Precession
Isotopes, glacials + interglacials
Milankovitch's predictions for insolation based on calculations
Tested by proxy records for temperatures
Deep sea sediment cores preserve uninterrupted proxy climate records over millions of years
Oxygen isotope record major climatic framework for Palaeolithic
Plankton fossils in marine cores have varying oxygen isotopes depending on sea temperature and isotopic composition, controlled by global land ice volumes
When ice sheets grow in volume they absorb more δ16O, oceans become enriched in δ18O
Last wiggly line graph...
OIS/MIS Stages
Glacials are EVEN
Interglacials are ODD
Remember: now is an interglacial = 1
(Don't worry about sub-stages yet...)
Why study the palaeolithic?
Because we're worth it...
UGG?
Not very bling
Frameworks for human history in europe
Neanderthals and the middle
Palaeolithic
eurasians at home
The Middle Palaeolithic
the Lower Palaeolithic
The Upper Palaeolithic
Burials
Symbolic behaviour
Europe
Africa
Lower Palaeolithic 1.8 mya- c. 300 kyr
Middle Palaeolithic 300 kyr- 24 kyr
Upper Palaeolithic c. 40 kyr- 10 kyr
Early Stone Age (ESA) 2.6 mya- c.300 kyr
Middle Stone Age (MSA) 300 kyr- 30 kyr
Later Stone Age (LSA)
Neanderthals
Anatomically modern humans (AMH)
H. erectus/ergaster
Acheulean
Handaxes 1.7 mya
H. erectus
H. habilis
H. habilis/erectus (Dmanisi)
Anatomically modern humans (AMH)
Anatomically modern humans (AMH) c. 195 kyr @ Herto
H. heidelbergensis
A. garhi
H. antecessor
H. heidelbergensis
(Near East anatomically modern humans)
H. antecessor
H. heidelbergensis
Dmanisi, Georgia
1.8 mya
Archaic H. erectus, some features of habilis
Lithic artefacts
Was there a human Revolution?
H. antecessor, c. 800 kyr BP
H. heidelbergensis, c. 500-300 kyr BP
Geological boundary
Lower/Early Pleistocene
Middle Pleistocene
Upper/Late Pleistocene
781 kyr BP
126 kyr BP
Holocene
11 kyr BP
2.5 mya BP
H. ergaster/antecessor, ?1.2 mya BP
Sima del Elefante
Mandible
Flake/core lithics
Faunal processing
Tortoise consumption
Sierra de atapuerca, Spain
1 million years of hominin history
We are
still evolving!
norfolk's where it's at...
Lithics
Costa del Cromer...
Pakefield: c. 700 kyr BP
Happisburgh Site 3, c. 950-840 kyr BP
Channel of Palaeo-Thames
Excellent organic preservation
Boreal environment
Summer 15-16, winter < -3
c. 80 fresh lithics
Major sites c. 1.7 mya
Lithic industries of core/flakes & handaxes (Acheulean)
Occupation of boreal environments very early
Control of fire only from c. 3-400 kyr BP
Hunting of medium fauna
Beginnings of a cultural landscape?
Boxgrove: a palaeolithic pompeii
Schoningen, germany, c. 400 ky BP
Several find spots within a lignite quarry
Site 13: Spruce throwing stick, 8 worked spruce spears & 15,000 faunal remains (20 horse skulls)
Site 12: 4 worked fir branches with grooves
In-situ butchery and knapping
Bison bones used as cutting surfaces
Clacton spear, Essex
c. 400 kyr
Worked yew wood
Some of the earliest evidence for control of fire in Europe
Skilled wood-working
Bark & branches stripped
Tips made from hardest wood at base of tree
Points cut to avoid pith centre
Surfaces polished
Maximum thickness & weight towards tip: javelins
Reddened sediment areas (fireplaces)
Worked stick (de-barked) with carbonised tip
Pre-Anglian glaciation, MIS 13
c. 500 kyr BP
Primary context landsurfaces
In-situ flint scatters
Refitting knapping sequences
Butchery site
Hominin remains: tibia and two incisors, H. heidelbergensis
Transitions
Early Upper palaeolithic
Aurignacian c. 38- 32 kyr BP
Mid-upper palaeolithic
Late upper palaeolithic
final upper palaeolithic/ Epipalaeolithic
Human remains in Europe scarce
Mobiliary art c. 35 kyr BP German sites, mammoth, venus, flute
Parietal art c. 32 kyr BP Chauvet Cave
Personal ornaments
Major artefact types: Aurignacian blade, Dufour bladelet, busked burins, carinated scrapers, split-based bone point
Gravettian, Pavlovian 33-20 kyr BP
Rich burials including children
Large living sites
Mobiliary art: female figurines
Tanged points, shouldered points, Gravette points, burins
Case study: Pavlovian archaeology of Moravia
Magdalenian 19-13 kyr BP
Burials
Faunal art: atlatl with deer & bird
Parietal art: Lascaux, Altamira
Major artefact types: Creswell point, bone, antler and ivory harpoons, blades
Solutrean, c. 22-20 kyr BP
Glacial maximum
Major artefact type: leaf points
Various: Azilian, Federmesser , Hamburgian
Major artefact types: varied types of points, harpoon
Painted pebbles
Building worlds
Large structures built around mammoth bones
Seasonal/ long-term dwellings
Re-occupation of locales
Large refuse deposits of faunal remains
Domestic spaces/hierchical settlements
ceramics and art
flax is the new fur
Impressions of plant fibres on ceramic fragments
Cordage
Knotted
netting
Basketry/plaiting
Textiles of many weaves, some very fine gauges
Possible bone tools used
Recent find of dyed flax fibres, Georgia
dealing with the dead
subsistence
Viewed initially as scavengers
Mounting evidence for prime hunting
Varied species including large fauna, birds, marine species
Neanderthals ate CARBS?
Cooked starchy foods
Microfossils in tooth calculus
Belgium and Near East
Containers?
curse of taphonomy
I would like a Neanderthal wetland site for Christmas...
Wooden pseudomorphs at Abric Romani, Spain
Structure at La Folie, France
Several lithic industries across Europe with 'Upper Palaeolithic' features
Blades, retouched tool types, bone/antler working
Personal ornaments
Chatelperronian, SW France
Chronology often disputed; old excavations
Quinçay site
Mousterian underlies Chatelperronian
No overlying Aurignacian
Genuine technological differences to first Aurignacian industries
Some low level contact possibly responsible
Major technological changes in lithics: prepared core technology, Levallois
Linked to expansion of open environments c. MIS 9/8
Expansion of activities across landscape; curation of Levallois flakes
Greater raw material transport distances
Hunting of prime fauna
Production of first synthetic product, birch bark pitch
Composite tools
Early Middle Palaeolithic 300-150 kyr BP
Late Middle Palaeolithic 150- 28 kyr BP
Regional and temporal variation in lithic industries
Further increase in scheduling of activites across landscape
Very long distance transport of artefacts
Apparent treatment of dead
Pigment use
Personal ornaments
First clear representational art
Greater use of bone/antler/ivory
Larger investment in long-term structures
Complex burials
More extensive evidence for personal ornaments
Transfers of lithics and shells suggesting trade
Greater consumption of marine and freshwater resources
Invention of ceramic technology
First evidence of textiles
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