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Age : Upper Upper Paleolithic
Absolutely : 18,000–12,000 BC Chr.

Initially only south-west France, later also the Iberian Peninsula and Central Europe

Blade industries with a first tendency towards microlithisation; Spear throwers and harpoons made of bone; Cave painting; Cabaret

The Magdalenian (pronunciation [ … leˈni̯ɛ̃ː ]) is an archaeological cultural stage in the later section of the Upper Palaeolithic in Central and Western Europe at the end of the last Ice Age . The Magdalenian was named in 1869 by Gabriel de Mortillet after the half-cave La Madeleine in the Dordogne department . It spanned an approximate period from approx. 18,000 to 12,000 BC. Chr.


Distribution area of ​​the Magdalenian culture with important sites

The older stages of Magdalenian were limited to the south-west of France. The Magdalenian only spread extensively in Central Europe with level IV, from around 13,300 14 C-BP , which corresponds to a calibrated calendar age of around 14,280 ± 400 BC. Corresponds to.

The oldest Magdalenian site in southern Germany is located near Munzingen , with a series of 14 C dates, the mean value of which is about 15,000 BP (approx. 16,300 BC).

Level structure

Inclusion and overview

The two-part level structure

A first two-part breakdown based on the Magdalenian of the Dordogne was proposed by Henri Breuil in 1912:

  • Magdalénien inférieur = level I – III
  • Magdalénien supérieur = level IV – VI.

The Magdalenian I – II only exist in south-west France.

Typical Magdalenian harpoons, with microliths inserted on the left

The current division into three levels is a synthesis of the old classification of the bullet tips and new radiometric data. The correlation of the Magdalenian moyen with level IV corresponds to the newer interpretation, while the older view includes the end of level III and level IV.

  • Magdalénien inférieur - Lower Magdalenian (Breuil 0 – III, unknown in Northern Spain 0 – II). Dating approx. 18,000-14,000 14 C-BP . The Lascaux Interstadial falls into this stage , as evidenced by the long stratigraphic sequence of the Laugerie-Haute site . The calibration of 14 C data shows various plateaus in the Magdalenian time range. The Badegoulien , an archaic stage, corresponds in time with the Magdalenian 0, I and II, but is not identical with these stages.
  • Magdalenian moyen - Middle Magdalenian (Breuil IV). Dating approx. 14,000–13,000 14 C-BP , corresponds to 15,000–13,400 cal. BC. Climatically, this phase in south-western Europe corresponds to the end of a stadium and a moderate phase. In northern Central Europe, the middle Magdalenian is still in Greenland stage 2a.
  • Magdalénien supérieur / final - Upper Magdalénien / Endmagdalenien (Breuil V – VI). Dating approx. 13,000–12,000 14 C-BP, this corresponds to 13,400–12,000 BC when calibrated . In the End Magdalenian falls around 12,700 BC. The first rewarming with the Greenland Interstadial 1e.

The Magdalénien follows the Solutréen and is in turn replaced by the Azilien . In Italy it is called epigravettia .

At the beginning of the Alleröd Interstadial , the Magdalenian in Germany is replaced by penknife groups .

Climate history

The Magdalenian falls in the final stage of the last Ice Age, in Würm IV , in which approx. 12,700 BC. BC, in the Meiendorf Interstadial , the ice sheet began to melt. The limit of distribution of the central European park tundra gradually shifted to the north. The first sparse forests emerged along the Danube and in southern France. Silver birch , conifers and hazelnut bushes spread. The gradual onset of forest cover in Central Europe forced animals and hunters to follow the receding tundra north. The fauna consisted of wild horses , reindeer , deer , roe deer , aurochs , bison , cave lions , brown bears and wolves .

The Lower Magdalenian was mostly very cold, but was interrupted by warming in the Lascaux-Interstadial . Middle Magdalenian was also cold at the beginning, but then ended in the warm and humid Meiendorf Interstadial with the ecological consequences already mentioned (disappearance of the former cold steppe fauna, for example the saiga antelopes ). In Upper Magdalenian the cold returned briefly during the Elders Dryas , but finally gave way to the warm Bölling-Interstadial . This led to the complete disappearance of the mammoth and woolly rhinoceros, and the reindeer moving north.

Archaeological appearance

Bison on a bones, Bédeilhac cave , Ariège

Typical of the Magdalenian were blade industries that already showed the first tendencies towards microlithization , as they were characteristic in the Mesolithic . Among the stone artifacts clearly dominant tool is stylus (with a diamond-shaped cross-section double. Burin Dièdre ). The scratch (French: raclette ), which has been forgotten since the Moustérien , is also reappearing. Innovations of the Magdalenian are multiple drill with a star-shaped cross-section, real microlites (eg., In the form of a scalene triangle), spinal diameter of a new type, the precursor Azilian spikes with circular segment cross-section, with tips Papageienschnabelstichel and stunted notches.

Flint tips are hardly used any more, they are replaced by a multitude of spearheads made of bone material, which differ in the design of their base: single beveled, double beveled, conical, lanceolate, sometimes grooved or decorated with various engravings . Half-rounded rods and pierced rods (often decorated) are very common. For the first time fish hooks , spear throwers and various harpoons appear.

The individual stages of Magdalenian can be characterized by their typical tools as follows (from young to old):

  • Magdalenian VI - parrot beak pricks, teyjat tips and harpoons serrated on both sides.
  • Magdalenian V - harpoons with teeth on one side.
  • Magdalenian IV - points made of reindeer bones with side notches (harpoon precursors), small, partly decorated bone rondels.
  • Magdalenian III - spear throwers, pierced rods, spearheads, half-rounded sticks.
  • Magdalenian II - microliths
  • Magdalenian I - star-shaped small burs.

Life in the Magdalenian

The finds and findings from the well-researched Gönnersdorf site are particularly revealing for the way of life in the late Magdalenian period . People set up tents up to eight meters in diameter. Reindeer and horse were the dominant prey . Cooking took place in pits in the ground that were sealed with leather or animal stomachs. In these pits one put stones heated in the fire, which brought the liquid to a boil . Holes in thick slate of slate, in which animal fat and a wick were placed, served as lamps. The red iron oxide hematite was used for dyeing and probably also for body painting.

Spear throwers and harpoons were used as hunting weapons , with which one could reach distances of up to 140 meters. The hunters followed the herds of reindeer and wild horses on their seasonal migrations and tried to locate them in narrow passages and narrowing valleys. Hundreds of skeletons of the hunted animals were found in places like this.

Ornamental snails, which come from the Mediterranean or Atlantic , prove that there was already extensive trade back then. Overall, the Magdalenian found new and extraordinary artistic expression: the flowering of rock painting, rock sculptures, the incised drawings of plate art, jewelry, musical instruments and a pronounced joy in ornamentation. “Just about everything was decorated - including weapons and equipment; This is especially true for perforated rods and spear throwers , for example . "


The stone tools of the Magdalenian were mostly made from the basic shape of the blade. Back knives, also notch points, are typical. Short scratches, blade scratches, burins, prongs and fine drills as well as splintered pieces were mainly used to work bones, antlers and ivory. Alfred Rust found so-called "Riemenschneider" during his excavations in Poggenwisch and Meiendorf. These are reindeer antler pieces with a continuous slot in which notched tips or blades have been inserted. The point of the inserts is believed to have been used to cut leather into shape. Hence the speech chosen by Rust. Reindeer antler harpoons were also found during the excavations.

While Rust assumes that the notch tips are cheek scarfs, Lund makes good arguments in favor of scarfing certain notch tips in a lateral groove, which also explains the hollow notches that occasionally appear opposite the notch.

Works of art

Two birds as a link between hind (left) and fish (presumably a male salmon): the animals of the earth and the water, connected by the animals of the sky (France, around 12,000 before today)
Three heads of hinds engraved on a deer bone (France, around 12,000 before today)

Famous cave paintings date from Magdalenian, for example in the cave of Altamira , the bas-relief in Angles-sur-l'Anglin , Creswell Crags ( Nottingham ) on the banks of the Trent , the younger of the free-standing petroglyphs in the Côa Valley (Portugal) and decorated ones movable objects, which are referred to as Upper Paleolithic small art (see e.g. Laugerie-Haute ). The famous cave paintings of Lascaux , previously counted at the beginning of the Magdalenian era, are now viewed by some authors as solutrées or older.

In the younger Magdalenian there were stylized Venus figurines from z. B. Gagat or bones, which are named after the Gönnersdorf site ("Gönnersdorf type"), but also z. B. at Petersfels near Engen or in Monruz near Neuchâtel . The engraved Venus figures from Gönnersdorf and Andernach in the Rhineland correspond to this style .

Important sites

Petroglyphs from Penascosa near Vila Nova de Foz Côa


Iberian Peninsula:




Czech Republic:

Corresponding and overlapping terms

As early as 1861, Henry Christy and Édouard Armand Lartet presented a chronological system of Stone Age cultures based on key fossils. Your "period of the rentier" (French l'Âge du Renne ) was called in German Renntierzeit and largely corresponded to the Magdalenian. These terms were sometimes used synonymously.

Eduard Piette called a corresponding period in 1894 Cervidien , in 1898 floor de la gravure sometimes also Tarandien or Gourdanien . Piette saw the designations Solutréen and Magdalenian, coined by Mortilliet , for cultural stages only as type designations.


  • Andreas Maier: The Central European Magdalenian - Regional Diversity and Internal Variability . Springer, 2015, ISBN 978-94-017-7205-1 .
  • Gerhard Bosinski : Gönnersdorf - Ice Age Hunters on the Middle Rhine (=  series of publications of the Koblenz district government . Volume 2 ). Koblenz 1981.
  • Paul Pettit, Paul G. Bahn, Sergio Ripoll: Palaeolithic cave art at Creswell Crags in European context . Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-929917-1 .
  • Karel Valoch: The Magdalenian in Moravia . In: Yearbook of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz , 48 (2001), pp. 103–159 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Magdalenian  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gabriel de Mortillet: Essai d'une classification des cavernes et des stations sous abri fondée sur les produits de l'industrie humaine. Materiaux pour l'histoire de l'Homme 5, 1869, Paris, pp. 172-179.
  2. Clemens Pasda : The beginning of the Magdalenian in Central Europe . In: Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 28 . 1998, p. 175-190 .
  3. Danzeglocke, Uwe: "CalPal Online", , accessed on January 29, 2020
  4. Clemens Pasda: The beginning of the Magdalenian in Central Europe . In: Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 28 . 1998, p. 183 .
  5. ^ F. Djindjian, J. Koslowski, M. Otte: Le Paléolithique supérieur en Europe . Colin, 1987, p. 257-287 .
  6. ^ Gerhard Bosinski : The great time of the ice age hunters. Europe between 40,000 and 10,000 BC Chr . In: Yearbook of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz . tape 34 , 1987, pp. 13-139 .
  7. a b Paula J. Reimer et al .: IntCal04 terrestrial radiocarbon age calibration, 0-26 cal kyr BP . In: Radiocarbon . tape 46 , no. 3 , 2004, p. 1029-1058 ( [PDF]).
  8. Christopher Bronk Ramsey et al .: A Complete Terrestrial Radiocarbon Record for 11.2 to 52.8 kyr BP In: Science . tape 338 , no. 6105 , October 19, 2012, p. 370–374 , doi : 10.1126 / science.1226660 .
  9. ^ University of Oxford: 'Time-capsule' Japanese lake sediment advances radiocarbon dating for older objects. In: EurekAlert! American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) October 18, 2012, archived from the original October 27, 2012 ; accessed on January 29, 2020 .
  10. Michael Baales: The late Paleolithic site Kettig. Investigations into the settlement archeology of the Federmesser groups on the Middle Rhine . In: Monograph of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz 51 . 2002.
  11. U. Stodiek: On the technology of the Upper Palaeolithic spear thrower. A study based on archaeological, ethnological and experimental findings . In: Tübingen monographs on prehistory 9. Tübingen . 1993.
  12. Hermann Parzinger : The children of Prometheus. Munich 2014, p. 85.
  13. ^ N. Aujoulat: Lascaux. Le Geste, l'Espace et le Temps . Seuil, 2004, ISBN 2-02-025726-2 .
  14. G. Albrecht, H. Engelhardt: Ice Age finds from the Brudertal near Engen. Stone Age settlement of the Swabian Alb. Booklet accompanying the prehistoric exhibition Engen / Hegau . In: Bulletin of the Archaeologica Venatoria 13th special issue . Tübingen 1988.
  15. ^ Gerhard Bosinski : Gönnersdorf - Ice Age Hunters on the Middle Rhine . In: Volume 2 of the series of publications by the Koblenz district government . Koblenz 1981.
  16. ^ Gerhard Bosinski: Ice Age Hunters in the Neuwied Basin . In: Archeology on the Middle Rhine and Moselle 1, 3rd edition . Koblenz 1992.
  17. ^ Gerhard Bosinski, Gisela Fischer: The depictions of people from Gönnersdorf of the excavation of 1968. The Magdalenian site Gönnersdorf 1 . Wiesbaden 1974.
  18. ^ Gerhard Bosinski: Gönnersdorf and Andernach Martinsberg. Late Ice Age settlement sites. Koblenz. In: Archeology on the Middle Rhine and Moselle 19. (Wegner, H.-H. ed.). Society for Archeology on the Middle Rhine and Moselle e. V . 2007.
  19. Reindeer time . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 16, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1908, p.  804 .