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2018-01-01 22:02:04   •   ID: 1703

A short journey through the early Aurignacian of Central and South Europe

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Figure 2
This is a classic carinated scraper from the European (Proto)-Aurignacian.

Overall the geochronology of the (Proto) Aurignacian ensembles in Central and South Europe is complex  and during the last years several broad phases have been proposed: An early phase - the "Protoaurignacian" / Aurignacian 0“ and an Early "Classic" Aurignacian dating before HE-4, followed by an evolved phase of the technocomplex after the HE-4 Event.

Starting in Central Europe, some indisputable Aurignacian I / Early Aurignacian site clusters with reliably dated findings are now known: Sites in the Swabian Jura: Geißenklösterle, AH III dated to ca. 43–to 40 k.a. cal BP and Stadel Cave ca 40 k.a. cal BP and Willendorf II, AH 3 at the Wachau Gate ca. 43,5 k.a. cal BP. All this sites ante- date the HE–4 / CI eruption.

It has always suggested that Krems Hundssteig has a strong early / Protoaurignacian component but unfortunately modern excavations of this complex are missing. Finding remnants of the Aurignacian stratum at the Hundssteig site remain an important dissertate of Austrian Paleolithic research.

Krems Hundssteig was investigated not by regular excavation but during loess quarrying for the Danube high dam construction at the end of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th century (Strobl & Obermaier 1909). Its abundant lithic assemblage was  analyzed and published in the 1960s- 1970s by G. Laplace, A. Broglio and J. Hahn. Thanks to these researchers, all basic and unique industrial features are thus quite clearly described.

The Krems-Hundssteig complex is techno-typologically within the the Western “Aurignacian 0/ Protoaurignacian” group, with numerous alternatively retouched Dufour bladelets (Dufour sub-type) and Font-Yves/ Krems points, including the Krems alternatively retouched vari- ant of the latter. Many “non-geometric microliths” (about 60% of all tools, or about 1900 items and a variety of both carinated and prismatic cores  are the most prominent characteristics of the assemblage. The fint artifacts were also accompanied by 128 Mediterranean shell beads and two bone awls.

The Aurignacian in Moravia is extraordinary rich (several hundred sites) but when reliable dated in general younger than the sites in Swabia and Lower Austria.

Prominent examples are the Mladeč caves, Stránská skála open-air site complex, Vedrovice Ia Milovice I, Líšeň I / Líšeň - Čtvrtě, Líšeň VIII / Líšeň - Nad výhonem and Napajedla III / Napajedla - Zámoraví. 

Absolute dates for these sites ranging from ca. 37–36 ka to 33–32 k.a. cal BP and post-date the HE–4 event. In Moravia there is only a short-time geochronological coexistence with the Bohunician and Szeletian

Result of a kernel density estimation point to four centres of high site-density of early and late Aurignacian sites in descending order: the region of Moravia, the Swabian Jura and Lower Austria, the western Carpathians and the area around the Iron Gate. A small concentration of sites is also visible east of the Carpathians.

Româneşti- Dumbrăviţa I, GH 3 (Romania) has recently been TL dated for the main accumulation in GH3 and represents according to several researchers another Aurignacian 0 / Proto-Aurignacian  site in Central/South Europe.

The cores are commonly unidirectional but there are also bi-/multidirectional ones. They are carinated, prismatic, and narrow-faced (including burin-like cores- on-flakes). Dufour bladelets, on alternatively retouched bladelets, Font-Yves points and bladelets with oblique proximal truncation are known from this horizon from older excavations. 

The average absolute dates for Româneşti- Dumbrăviţa I, GH 3 is  40,6 ± 1,5 k.a. cal BP and it correlates geochronologically with GIS-10 and GIS-9 and thus to the older group of the Aurignacian in Europe. Indeed the findings indicate a possible contemporaneity of the Româneşti- Dumbrăviţa I, GH 3  with the Oase AMH finds.

In addition to Româneşti-Dumbrăviţa, another central European Aurignacian 0 / Proto-Aurignacian site, located in the neighboring Balkans, in northwestern Bulgaria is Kozarnika Cave, layer VII. This site is located in in the Danube River valley. It has been dated slightly older than Româneşti-Dumbrăviţa I ca. 43–41 k.a. cal BP .

Much has been achieved, and research has made considerable progress on our way towards more sustainable understanding in the last 20 years.

While our recognition of the Aurignacian as an early Upper Paleolithic technocomplex along the Danube corridor has been shaped and broadened, we have learned that the Aurignacian maybe a genuine European invention.

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Suggested Reading:

Demidenko Y.E., Otte M. & Noiret P. (dir.) - Siuren i rock-shelter. From Late Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Paleolithic to Epi-Paleolithic in Crimea. Liège, ERAUL 129, 2012, p. 343-357.