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2014-09-30 18:56:35   •   ID: 1194

The Aurignacian of Lower Austria revisited

Figure 1
is a Burin from the Krems Hundssteig site, made from Radiolarite and dating either to the Aurignacian or Gravettian.

The Krems Hundssteig site is one of several sites in the Krems valley with Aurignacian material, dated between 41-31 k.a. BP.

New excavations indicate that not only an extensive Aurignacian level but also a substantial complex of Pavlovian layers are present at the site. It must be assumed that more than one cultural level was affected and destroyed by the historic loess quarrying during the early 20th century, and that the assemblage of Krems-Hundssteig artifacts, traditionally ascribed solely to the Aurignacian, might be interspersed with Gravettian pieces.

The Aurignacian from the Hundssteig is characterized by a large number of retouched bladelets including more than 1,500 Dufour bladelets with alternate retouch associated with unipolar bladelet cores of pyramidal morphology.

This ensemble could be interpreted as a Protoaurignacian, both by typology and technology. In addition there are also many tools of an Aurignacien typique like carinated scrapers (cores), Aurignacian blades and strangulated blades.

Actually it is unknown if this ensemble represents the effect of geological or curatory mixing of two technocomplexes, or if these artifacts were once the part of a single find horizon.

Figure 2
Several sites, usually detected and excavated before the WWI (with the exception of Krems Strazing and Alberndorf) are known in Lower Austria. Krems Strazing, Layer 2 (Figure 2 and 3) is dated to 31-29 k.a. BP. It is the layer of the anthropomorphic figurine (a dancing women??), found in 1988. A rich inventory with Aurignacian-endscrapers and burins, together with points and sidescrapers is present.

Figure 3
Refitting sequences show that the lithic material, centered on several hearths, is contemporaneous. There are no bladelets, which may have removed from the site or displaced by taphonomic processes.

Senftenberg near Krems:  An Aurignacian site in the Krems valley, some 10 km north of the Hundssteig. The assemblage is a typical Aurignacian with Aurignacian endscrapers (bladelet cores), bladlets and laterally retouched blades.

Willendorf II/3: The Willendorf site is situated 30 km upstream from Krems on the left side of the Danube. Conventionally dated during the 1980ies, the C–14 method indicated an age of 39-34 k.a. BP. This layer shows a typical Aurignacian pattern (carinated and nosed scrapers, laterally retouched flakes and blades). 

New AMS C-14 dates indicate a very early Aurignacian at Willendorf II / AH3 (AH3: part of Obermeiers / Bayers stratum 3) and confirm older dates from the 1980ies. By using stratigraphic, palaeoenvironmental, and chronological data, the stratum AH 3, which should be part of the original W II/3, is securely ascribed to the onset of Greenland Interstadial 11, around 43,5 k.a. cal B.P., and thus is older than any other Aurignacian assemblage in the world.

Of course these data are under critical discussion (Is AH3 really a non mixed Aurignacian ensemble and really equivalent to Willendorf II/3?), but actually I see no reason to doubt the new data..

Willendorf II/4 contains a typical Aurignacian, dated to 32-31 K.a. BP (non calibrated), mainly focused towards the production of bladelets, which is indicated by the presence of lamelles and many carinated and nosed scrapers. Bone points and ivory implements are also present.

Figure 4
Getzersdorf is situated 10 km south east of Krems in the Traisen valley. A small Aurignacian ensemble was detected without much contextual information during the early 20th century. Figure 2 shows a typical road cut in the Loess; near Getzersdorf. Similar findings are known from Grosweikersdorf (32-31 k.a. BP).

Alberndorf, excavated 1990 to 1995 is situated on the southern slope of the river Pulkau, which flows from into the river Thaya ca 70 km north east from Krems,  The site probably represents just a single butchery episode in a cold steppe environment, as displayed by the small number of hunted individuals. Refitted lithics and the raw material procurement reflect the short term character of the primary site formation and its redeposition.

Bladelets, most probably part of composite projectile implements are a significant component of the assemblage. Apart from laterally modified bladelets, artifacts of ivory are the most important finds. Alberndorf I is suggested to be a late Aurignacian butchery site, dated to 28 k.a. BP. The Aurignacian of Breitenbach in Saxony-Anhalt is of similar late age.

Does this mean that the late Aurignacian is still present in central Europe during  a period for which Gravettian assemblages are already well documented in Lower Austria? In Lower Austria the earliest Gravettian occupation is suggested to be best documented at Willendorf II, layer 5 (around 30 k.a. BP; that are 34 k.a. Cal BP; Denekamp / Arcy; PK1; Stillfried B; Schwallenbach II/III; W2/3-interstadial).

The high age of this layer has also been questioned, because there are some indications that Willendorf II/5 was mixed with the Aurignacian from stratum 4 to a certain degree. A second point of critique is, that it is not entirely clear if the unite C , where Haesarts took his samples really corresponds with stratum 5 as defined by earlier excavators.

Further North, the Moravian sites of Stranska Skala, Mladec, Vedrovice I, Milovice and Pod Hradem are relatively young (32-30 k.a. BP; non calibrated old data) and can not contribute to the questions about the beginning and end of the Middle European Aurignacian.

Demidenko and Skrdla described recently new sites, that were excavated with modern methods during the last 10 yrs. They postdate the HE–4 event and date to the GI-8–GI-5 period with absolute dates ranging from ca. 37–36 ka to 33–32 k.a .cal BP. Therefore the "old" data are confirmed. The Aurignacian of Moravia is relative late and not comperable to the clusters in the Aquitaine and around the middle / upper Danube.

Provenance: 1: J Meller collection (GER), 2 and 3: NHM- photograph taken in 2020 and 4: photograph taken in 2001