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2016-06-17 03:52:30   •   ID: 1397

Azilian from the Roc d’Abeilles rock shelter

Figure 1
These are three broken Azilian bi-points from the Espitalié collection excavated at the”Roc d’Abeilles” rock shelter in Dordogne. About the context of this collection, see here 1695 , The Azilian (s.s) is an industry of the Epipaleolithic in northern Spain, France and Switzerland.

It was first described from the large cave Le Mas-d’Azil, which is an enormous 500 meter long tunnel dug by the Arize River through a wall of the Massif Plantaurelin, part of the Ariege Pyrenees. Secondary caves leading off the main tunnel and were occupied at during the Aurignacian, Magdalenian and the Epipaleolithic. The “Federmessser” -groups in Germany, southern Demark and Poland and the “Tjongerian” in Belgium also belong to the Azilian tradition.

The most distinctive characteristic of Azilian material culture in comparison to that of the Upper Magdalenian is the reduction in tool type diversity. Lithic assemblages are dominated by endscrapers on short blades segments or flakes, especially “thumbnail” scrapers. Most of the other tool types are backed pieces, especially small bladelets and points, including the tiny backed “Azilian” points.

The lithic inventories of the early Azilien are characterized by arched backed bi-points, followed by a straight-backed mono-point phase and a phase with Maulerie points (straight-backed points with an abruptly retouched base). Bone tools included punches, and flat harpoons are often made of red-deer antler. The first expressions of Azilian art, which were detected in the early 20th century, were geometric drawings made on pebbles using red and black pigments.

While parietal art disappeared, small scale abstract and figurative representations of animals and humans were depicted and sculptured on various organic and inorganic materials. The majority of Azilian sites are dated to the Allerød Oscillation. It is generally accepted, that the early Azilian is technologically rooted  in the preceding late Paleolithic, and that the technological innovations of the Azilian may be the result of innovative hunting techniques (bow and arrow).

Anyhow, the process of “Azilianization” remains enigmatic. Currently the discussion is moving away from simple explanations, based on an ec0lgical determinism. According to A. Thévenin (2005) the spread of the curved backed points began independly of climatic changes during the late glacial interstadial. These points already existed in S/E-France  in an Epigravettian substratum already before the retreat of the reindeer during the Allerød Oscillation.

Thévenin postulates an origin at the Bouches-du-Rhône, and a spread through the Rhône valley to the North (bi-pointes in numerous inventories of the Jura and Switzerland and in the Paris basin). At roughly the same time, the Azilian point was also adapted by late Magdalenian groups in the greater Aquitaine and shortly later in Northern Spain. According to radiometric dating, the Rhine valley and North Germany were entered by Azilian groups only after the bi-point phase.