Upper Paleolithic

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Overview prehistory
Holocene (➚ early history )
Iron age
  late bronze age  
  middle bronze age
  early bronze age
Bronze age
    Copper Age  
Pleistocene     Upper Paleolithic  
    Middle Paleolithic
    Old Paleolithic
  Old Stone Age
Stone age

The Upper Paleolithic - from the Greek παλαιός (palaios) "old" and λίθος (lithos) "stone" - describes the younger section of the Eurasian Paleolithic from around 45,000 years ago to the end of the last cold period , that is, to the beginning of the Holocene before 11,700 Years. The beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic is equated with the beginning of the immigration of anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) to Europe .

Earliest evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens in Europe

The earliest fossil evidence for the presence of Homo sapiens in Europe is up to 45,000 years old and comes from Bulgaria ( Batscho-Kiro Cave ), Italy ( Grotta del Cavallo ), England ( Kents Cavern ) and Romania ( Peștera cu Oasis ). At that time, the Neanderthals , to whom the cultures of Szeletia and Châtelperronia are ascribed, had lived in Europe for decades . By definition, cultures of the late Neanderthals are still attributed to the previous period of the Middle Paleolithic . The most recent, unequivocally dated fossil finds of Neanderthals come from the Mesmaiskaya Cave in Russia and were dated to an age of 39,700 ± 1,100 years ( cal BP ).

Archaeological cultures of the Upper Paleolithic

Finds from the Upper Paleolithic in Europe; red dots: rock paintings, green dots: movable art (sculptures)

With the Upper Palaeolithic tools made of flint, a new blade concept is connected with the creation of a "leading ridge". This means that a vertical dorsal ridge is created on the core , which enables the brittle fracture to flow in a straight line along the breakdown surface (and thus the separation of long, narrow chips = blades). This concept differs from the blade manufacture based on the Levallois technique in the Middle Paleolithic. Despite a gradual adaptation of the Upper Paleolithic blade concept already in transition industries, which still show essential elements of the Levallois technique ( Bohunicia in Moravia, Uluzzia in Italy), the Aurignacia can only be described as a real Upper Paleolithic.

In addition to flint tips, there are now increasingly those made of bone , antler and ivory . Bone tips with a “split base” form a key form of the older Aurignaciens. A new tool of the Upper Paleolithic is the burin . In addition - connected with the immigration of modern humans - there is now cave painting and cabaret for the first time : jewelry, musical instruments and ivory figures ( see Upper Palaeolithic cabaret and Venus figurines ).

The middle Upper Paleolithic is defined by the appearance of blunt-backed blades and points (Gravettia, 28,000 to 22,000 BP) and the Solutréen (22,000 to 18,000 BP), which only occurs in France and Cantabria. The Magdalenian (including Badegoulian ) in Western Europe and the Epigravettian in eastern Central Europe and Eastern Europe are called the late or upper Upper Palaeolithic .

In a narrower sense, the Upper Paleolithic (when subdivided into older, middle and late Upper Paleolithic) ends around 12,700 BC. In the broader sense (in the three-part classification of the Old, Middle and Upper Paleolithic) it includes the Late Paleolithic and ends at the Pleistocene-Holocene border around 9700 BC. Chr.

Late Paleolithic

In the south-west European core area of ​​Magdalenian there are around 12,000 BC. A transition to Azilien , which is attributed to the Epipalaeolithic . For a uniform understanding of the late Upper Paleolithic, the cultures at the end of the Vistula Cold Age in northern Central Europe are therefore called the "Late Paleolithic".

The late Paleolithic begins with the significant global warming of the Greenland Interstadial 1e around 12,500 BC. BC, which corresponds to the beginning of the Meiendorf interstadial . The demarcation between the early and late palaeolithic is not uniform in the German-speaking area. 14 C-data of the Hamburg culture correspond to the Meiendorf-Interstadial, so that in a climatic definition the Hamburg culture should also be assigned to the late Paleolithic. This is countered by the fact that the Hamburg culture was at the same time as the younger Magdalenian in France, southern Germany and Moravia, so that archaeological and climatic-historical categories are in contradiction to one another. In practice, the conflict is usually avoided by subordinating the "Late Paleolithic" to the Upper Palaeolithic and only using it in the sense of the archaeological cultures of northern Central Europe. In northern Germany and neighboring areas, the archaeological cultures of the late Paleolithic are subdivided into the penknife groups and the Ahrensburg culture according to typical tool shapes.

Due to fluid archaeological boundaries, the end of the Paleolithic is defined in terms of climate history with the end of the Younger Dryas (9700 BC) and thus the change between the Pleistocene / Holocene geological ages . Microliths, a typical form of the Mesolithic , already existed in the late Paleolithic, so that there is no clear archaeological boundary here.

Climate and environment

Endglacial ice core data with cultures from Central Europe

Geographically, the Upper Paleolithic lies in the period of the Upper Pleistocene . Climatically, the Upper Paleolithic falls in the upper section of the last glacial period, the second cold maximum of which is around 20,000 to 18,000 BP. After partly interstadial conditions during the Aurignaciens with a humid-temperate climate , cold and dry climates prevail during the Gravettiens. The early Magdalenian is characterized in south-western Europe by an interstadial (Lascaux-Interstadial), with an otherwise predominantly cold climate. After the last major inland glaciation has melted, there is a first reforestation in the Allerød-Interstadial in the Late Glacial , which is followed by a final cold phase (Younger Dryas).

During and especially at the end of the Weichsel / Würm glacial period, many Pleistocene mammal species become extinct. This can be explained either with environmental changes, overhunting by humans ("overkill hypothesis") or a combination of both causes.

While the cave bear became extinct by 25,000 BP or was exterminated by the Cro-Magnon man, other large mammals only disappeared after the last cold peak of the Würm and Vistula glaciers. These include the cave lion , woolly rhinoceros , giant deer and steppe wisent . The mammoth was completely displaced from Europe and died in northeastern Siberia around 3000 BC. Chr. From.

The Laschamp event occurred around 42,000 BP - a brief reversal of the earth's magnetic field in combination with periods of low solar activity. It caused major extinctions and environmental changes, according to one study, and may have contributed to the Neanderthals' extinction and the appearance of cave paintings at the time. For ~ 700 years auroras were visible worldwide - not only at the poles - and harmful radiation was increased.

See also


  • Gerhard Bosinski : The great time of the ice age hunters. Europe between 40,000 and 10,000 BC Chr. Yearbook of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz, Vol 34, Mainz, 1987, pp 13-139.
  • Michael Baales : The late Paleolithic site Kettig. Investigations into the settlement archeology of the Federmesser groups on the Middle Rhine. Monograph of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz, Volume 51, Mainz 2002.
  • Frank Gelhausen: Settlement patterns of all-time penknife groups in Niederbieber, Neuwied town. Monograph of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz, Volume 90, Mainz 2011.
  • Denis de Sonneville-Bordes and Jean Perrot: Lexique typologique de Paleolithique superieure. In: Bulletin de la Société préhistorique de France, Volume 51, 1954, pp. 327-335; Vol. 52, 1955, pp. 76-79; Volume 53, 1956, pp. 408-412.
  • Leif Steguweit (Ed.): People of the Ice Age: Hunters - Craftsmen - Artists. Praehistorika, Fürth 2008, ISBN 978-3-937852-01-0 , ( PDF download ).

Web links


  1. In the specialist literature, the beginning of the colonization of Europe by Homo sapiens and the associated Upper Paleolithic is often given as 40,000 years (rounded). However, since the new dating of the finds from the Batscho-Kiro Cave (2020) and the Grotta del Cavallo (2011), this rounding can be considered to be almost 5000 years too low.

supporting documents

  1. Jörg Orschiedt , Gerd-Christian Less (Ed.): Neanderthals and Modern Humans - Discussing the Transition. Central and Eastern Europe from 50,000–30,000 BP Colloquium Neanderthal Museum 1999. Scientific writings of the Neanderthal Museum. Mettmann 2000.
  2. Joachim Hahn : Recognizing and determining stone and bone artifacts: Introduction to artifact morphology. Archaeologica Venatoria 10. 2nd edition. Tübingen 1993. pp. 109-115
  3. João Zilhão , Francesco d'Errico: The chronology and taphonomy of the Earliest Aurignacian and its implications for the understanding of Neandertal extinction. In: Journal of World Prehistory. Volume 13, 1999, pp. 1-68.
  4. João Zilhão, Francesco d'Errico (Ed.): The Chronology of the Aurignacian and of the Transitional Technocomplexes. Dating, Stratigraphies, Cultural Implications. 14th UISPP Congress in Liège 2001, Lisbon 2003.
  5. Joachim Hahn: Strength and Aggression. The message of Ice Age art in the Aurignacia of southern Germany? In: Archaeologica Venatoria. Volume 7, Tübingen 1986.
  6. Gerhard Bosinski : The beginnings of art - The Upper Palaeolithic in Germany. In: People - Times - Spaces. Archeology in Germany. Theiss, Stuttgart 2002, pp. 113-120.
  7. Thomas Litt, Karl-Ernst Behre, Klaus-Dieter Meyer, Hans-Jürgen Stephan and Stefan Wansa: Stratigraphic terms for the Quaternary of the northern German glaciation area. In: Ice Age and the Present (Quaternary Science Journal). Volume 56, No. 1/2, 2007, pp. 7-65 (especially p. 59) ISSN  0424-7116 doi : 10.3285 / eg.56.1-2.02 .
  8. A Hitchhiker's Guide to an Ancient Geomagnetic Disruption . In: The New York Times , February 18, 2021. Retrieved March 5, 2021. 
  9. ^ Alan Cooper et al .: A global environmental crisis 42,000 years ago . In: Science . 371, No. 6531, February 19, 2021, ISSN  0036-8075 , pp. 811-818. doi : 10.1126 / science.abb8677 .