Late Upper Paleolithic

Around 19,000 BP, 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 Gravettian of Central Europe. However, in Mediterranean Iberia, Italy, the Balkans and Turkey, cultures continue evolving locally. With the Magdalenian culture, Paleolithic development in Europe reaches its peak and this is reflected in art, owing to previous traditions of paintings and sculpture.

Epi-PaleolithicAround 12,500 BP, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. During this time, Ireland and Great Britain become islands, and Scandinavia is separated from the main part of the European Peninsula, known as Doggerland. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 10,000 BP, 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.



Archaeozoological and technological analyses of the grave goods associated with the Saint-Germain-la-Rivière burial (15,570 ± 200 B.P.) and their comparison with ornaments and faunal assemblages from contemporary Magdalenian sites and burials reveal the exceptional character of this inhumation. The great number of perforated red deer canines and the preference for teeth from young stags contrast with the virtual absence of red deer in southwestern French faunal assemblages dated to the same period as the burial. The rarity and probable exotic origin of these teeth, the small number of paired canines, and the technological and morphological homogeneity of the collection suggest that the teeth were obtained through long-distance trade and represented prestige items. As observed in a number of hunter–gatherer populations and contrary to the supposed egalitarian character of Upper Palaeolithic societies, these items may have materialized the integration of this individual into a privileged social group. Results suggest that application of the integrated approach followed in this study to the remainder of Upper Palaeolithic burials may be useful in identifying other societies in which prestige items represented the tangible expression of social inequality.