The Evidence from Europe

The first discovery of truly modern people was made in 1868, when skeletons were excavated by railway workers at the Cro-Magnon rock shelter at Les Eyzies in France, which gave these people their name, "the Cro-Magnon race" (Figure 9.6). Following this were innumerable discoveries in Europe — in the former Czechoslovakia at Mladec, Predmosti, and Brno; in France at Combe Capelle, Grimaldi, Chancelade, Aurignac, and many other sites; in Germany at Oberkassel; and on and on. Thus, for the first time we have what can be considered a decent population sample, and

Figure 9.6 ► Cro-Magnon specimen 1 from France.

we know recent human prehistory in more detail in Europe than in any other region, at any time.

Only one of the European fossils dates earlier than 32,000 years ago (Trinkaus et al., 2003), though the archeological record, as shown earlier, suggests that they had arrived in southern Europe by at least 40,000 years ago. The earliest fossil evidence shows that the first H. sapiens to arrive in Europe were not "cold adapted" but were marked by long limbs, with a fully modern cranial and facial morphology. They have high and vertical frontals, with a round braincase, reduced supraorbital tori, a flat facial profile, with reduced zygomatic development, a relatively small dental complex, and a distinctive chin. Unexpectedly, some intraspecies changes occurred even within Europe. The earliest Europeans were tall, though robust, with some brow ridge development and big jaws. The changes toward smaller, more gracile people can be traced through the Late Pleistocene into Recent times. Overall, however, they clearly reflect an African anatomical condition. It would appear that their success within glacial Europe was not based on their physique (which was at least partially the case for the Neanderthals) but rather on a superior material culture, greater cooperative hunting skills, and perhaps a more effective form of language. And perhaps even the beginnings of symbiosis with the ancestors of the dog (Newby, 1997).

The fully fledged Aurignacian industry, which appears in Europe, is different from the earlier tool traditions associated with modern H. sapiens as observed in Africa and the Levant. This later technology consists of long, narrow blades struck successively from carefully shaped cylindrical stone cores, the most innovative aspect being the widespread use of bone and antler to fashion additional tools (Figure 9.7). The material culture of the Aurignacian is diverse and is extremely refined in appearance. Nothing like it has been seen in the archeological record before this time. In addition, we also see for the first time undisputed evidence of art and objects of symbolism. And the period is also characterized by frequent use of red ochre and stone-circled hearths, as well as the use of rocks for warmth baking (Bar-Yosef, 1995). Clearly a behavioral shift has occurred that reflects our own view of the world and how we interpret it.

The earliest appearance to date of artifacts associated with artistic/ symbolic meaning are the caves from Vogelherd in Germany, where a whole series of animal figurines carved from mammoth ivory has been recovered, dating to around 34,000 years ago. The most famous evidence for their artistic expression and possibly associated ritual is the fantastic cave art from France and Spain, which was being produced at Chauvet cave

Shouldered point

Leaf point

Leaf point

Clovis point (North America)

Shouldered point

Crescent microlith

Clovis point (North America)

Antler harpoon

Burin f> Triangle microlith

Backed bladelet

Bone point

Antler harpoon

Figure 9.7 ► European Mode IV stone artifacts. From Schick and Toth (1993, p. 297).

in France as early as 32,000 years ago, through to the masterpieces at Lascaux, now thought to date to around 17,000 years ago, which provide a form of Ice Age narrative. There is also evidence of music, as shown by the discovery of bone flutes from the French Pyrenees site of Isturitz, dated to around 32,000 years ago, with additional flutes and beads from Pair-non-Pair cave in France, dating to around 27,000 years ago, and a flute made from a swan's radius recently discovered from Geissenklosterle in southern Germany, dating to as early as 36,000 years ago (Gamble, 1999).

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