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2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2189

News from the Gravettian of Central Europe

Figure 1
Figure 1 and 2: These are some early Gravettes and Microgravettes- a visual introduction into the thematic of this post.

Earlier Posts about the Central European Gravettian are found here: 1473 , here: 1640 , here: 1296 , here: 1374 , and here: 1014

It seems to be time to ajust some of my earlier posts about this topic, mainly because C-14 dating has became more sophisticated and because the simple dichotomy of a Pavlovian followed by the Willendorf-Kostenkien became more and more implausible after in depth studies of local late Gravettian clusters.

The Central European Gravettian is currently dated to ~ 34–24 k.a.CalBP. If these data are correct, the Gravettian may temporally overlap with the late Aurignacian and comes to an end at the Beginning of the LGM.

Figure 2
Overall, Central European Gravettian subsidence strategies, especially during the Middle and Late stages have a lot in common.

The most significant mark is the importance of hunting Mammoths and other large Herbivores which exceeds the importance of smaller animals.

Although the Term Pavlovian was not generally accepted after it was introduced by Klima during the 1950ies, it is now widely used as the designation of one local Gravettian Variant within the Lower Austrian – Moravian – South Polish corridor.

The Pavlovian is now dated to ~31–28 k.a. CalBP and is the most sophisticated variant of the Central European Middle Gravettian.

Its name is derived from the Megasites at Pavlov (Pavlov 1-6), a village on a slope of the Pavlov Hills, next to Dolní Věstonice (Dolni Vestonice 1-3) in southern Moravia.

According to Oliva 2019 there may a cluster of "Early Pavlovian" (?), around 27 k.a. B.P. (32 k.a. cal. B.P.) detected at the sites of Dolní Vestonice II and Pavlov II, but the majority of dates from the largest sites- Dolní Vestonice I and Pavlov I- fall into the "Evolved Pavlovian", dated 27–25 k.a. B.P. (31–30 k.a. cal. B.P.), and a few dates are even later.

Another important Pavlovian site remains Předmostí, at the Moravanian gate. This Megasite, which has never been adequately excavated, was certainly multilayered and contained a Middle Paleolithic, Aurignacian, Pavlovian and late Gravettian Material. A Leafpoint component has strong similarities with the Trencin B site (see below) and with the sophisticated Leafpoints of Szeletta Cave (Lengyel et al. 2016).

Skrdla recently described important Pavlovian findings in the Jarosov micro-region with a high Microlithic component. Microliths are one Halmark of the Gravettian (lunates, saws, truncations..).

In Poland, clusters are known around the Cracovie and Częstochowa regions and from Lower Austria, parts of the multilayered site of Willendorf (Willendorf 2, AH8), Krems-Wachtberg 1 and 2, Krems-Hundssteig and Gobelsburg at the Wagram belong to this tradition.

The Pavlovian industry is characterized by backed implements including backed points (Gravette points)- see 1296 , „Micro-saws“- see 1486 , "Points de Pavlov"-see 2131 , steeply retouched backed bladelets, by a high prevalence of burins (Figure 9) over end scrapers, and the manufacture of thin narrow, straight blades from advanced prismatic cores.

Some sites are characterized by non-geometric and geometric microliths while others by large pointed retouched blades. Gravette Points are more often Microgravettes, while "normal sized" examples are rare.

Figure 3
Compared to the Aurignacian, the blades were more often detached from bidirectional cores which led to a straighter profile of the blanks (Figure 3).

Subsequent exploitation of these cores after the detachment of larger blades or alternatively the use of thick flakes for the production of bladelets was quite common at Dolní Věstonice I.

The typical features of the Pavlovian are:

  • Formation of large and (semi)-permanent settlements, huts, combined with a stable economy, sufficient food supply and a prosperous society


  • Focus on the hunt and scavenging of mammoths and, on the other hand, also of smaller animals such as hares


  • Greater tendency to inhumation of the dead- the most prominent example is a tripple grave from Dolni Vestonice, a single male grave with a figurine carved from ivory from Brno, the famous „mass grave“ from Predmosti , already found during the 19th century and the Baby graves from Krems Wachtberg


  • An incredible richness in the production of organic Symbolic and Domestic artifacts


  • The rise of innovations based on fibre-based technology, basketry, grinding of plant food and possibly the production of nets


  • The serial production of ceramic figurines: so called "Venuses" and A wealth of different animals


  • A variety of symbolic ornaments, painted and incised- for example at the Pavlov Hills and Krems


Figure 4
The Early Gravettian is known only from single sites in the Swabian Jura (Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels) and Lower Austria (Willendorf II/5) and dated to ~34–30 k.a.CalBP (Moreau, 2009).

If the non diagnostic artifacts from the lowest layers at Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov really represent an early Pavlovian remains dubious.

The well-dated stratigraphic sequence of Willendorf II is a reference site for the Upper Paleolithic in general and the Gravettian in particular.

At Willendorf II/2 only a limited number of non-diagnostic Upper Paleolithic artifacts were found. Willendorf II/3 is clearly a very early Aurignacian 43 k.a CalBP and Willendorf 2/IV (about 35 k.a CalBP) a classical Aurignacian.

The Gravettian of Willendorf II begins with layer 5 (about 30,5 k.a BP; ca 35-34 k.a. CalBP) and the sequence ends with a "Willendorf-Kostienkian" around 25 k.a. CalBP (Layer 9).

AH5 is is dominated by burins, Microgravettes, large pointed blades with lateral retouches and endscrapers. The number of other microliths, and especially geometric microliths, is low.

This industry is chronologically and typologically clearly not a "Pavlovian" sensu Klima / Swoboda (Figure 3).

A joint team from the Institute Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique and the University of Vienna carried out excavations at Willendorf in 1993.

Detailed techno-typological analysis of the material revealed, that the Gravettian of AH6- which resembles AH5 belongs to an early Gravettian (Figure 4), while AH8 can be assumed as Pavlovian. It is characterized by Gravettes, pointed and retouched blades and some "rectangles" (see below)- foreshadowing the Late Gravettian.

A similar age of ca 34 k.a. CalBP has been determined for the basal Gravettian of the Geißenklösterle and Hohle Fels in the Swabian Jura.

The lithic inventory is quite different compared with the Willendorf Gravettian and points to networks with regions further South (Rhône Saône axis) and even to the South- West France.

The Swabian Gravettian assemblages contain a wealth of Gravettes / backed tools such as Gravette points, Microgravette points, Fléchettes and Font-Robert points.

The excavators were astonished by the quick transition from the Aurignacian to the Gravettian, again raising questions of temporal overlap and the local origin of these two technocomplexes.

Figure 5
Remarks on Aggsbach and Grub-Kranawettberg: Together with Milovice in the Pavlov Hills, these sites have not adequately described in Aggsbachs Blog yet-therefore some additional remarks.

Unfortunately the important site of Aggsbach in the Wachau / Lower Austria was not the focus of new investigations since 100 years- regarding the very special character of Aggsbach renewed excavations of the site remain an important dissertation for Prehistory.

You find a description of the known material in Otte's thesis and here: 1374

Grub-Kranawetberg is located ca. 40 km north-east of Vienna in Lower Austria near the Slovakian border and is situated on a flat upland crest overlooking the Mach (Morava) river valley.

From the base to the top four archaeological horizons were present: AH4 to AH1. The lowermost, AH4, represents richest cultural layer.

It contained two repeatedly used hearths surrounded by pits that have been interpreted as the remains of dwelling structures.

Away from these hearths a sharp decrease in artefact density was observed, underlining this interpretation.

Twenty meters west from the hearths, concentrations of large mammal bones (mainly rhino, giant deer, mammoth) were uncovered.

This features were interpreted as a dumping area for carcasses of hunted animals. The people of the site were well adapted to the Mammoth Steppe.

AHIII is located only ca 10 cm above AH4, was deposited after a Loess storm and was possibly formed just about 100 years after AH IV. Here no combustion structures were detected.

AHIV and III revealed a rich lithic industry: Backed lamelles, Microgravettes, some shouldered points, large pointed blades, a variety of bone tools and adornments made from Mammoth ivory (selectively in AH IV) and mollusks (AH IV and III).

Comparison of raw material, lithics, adornments and bone material from AH4 and AH3 led to the theory that they were made by different groups, characterized by different raw material preferences, settlement patterns, subsidence strategies and tool kits. A Monograph of this important site is urgently awaited.

The upper two archaeological horizons, AH1 and 2, currently consist only of scattered finds, located ca. 5–10 cm above AH3. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal from AH4 and AH3 range from 30-29 k.a. k.a.Cal BP. These data are contemporaneous with the Pavlovian in Moravia.

Remarks on Milovice I :

Figure 6
The Gravettian site, Milovice I (Sector G) located near Pavlov, is dated between 30.1 and 29.2 k.a. Cal BP. It reveals large mammoth bone deposits and was among other tasks a large Mammoth hunting site.

There are several other nearby sites (Milovice II-IV) -While Milovice II and III revealed only some unstratified artifacts, the mammoth hunter site site of Milovice IV, which was detected after an old wine-cellar collapsed, is even slightly older than Milovice I and dated around 31-30 k.a. Cal BP..

The lithics of Milovice IV were different from Milovice I and belonged more to the domestic sphere (Burins and Scraper), although a lot of backed bladelets were also present.

The lithics of Milovice I, although temporally and geographically closely connected with the large agglomerations such as Dolní Vestonice I and Pavlov I, show a quite different design: Flechettes, Double backed leaf-shaped or almost needle like Microgravettes (Figure 6), Gravettes with extensive ventral flat covering retouches beside large pointed blades, shouldered points and some non-geometric microliths. Typologically they represent a "Late Gravettian", while the Calibrated C-14 dates are contemporaneous with the Pavlovian.

Wilczynski et al (2019) suggest three possible explanations: (1) the Pavlovian did overlap the beginning of the Late Gravettian; or

(2) the Dolní Věstonice I human occupation recovered in the early- and mid-20th century was a palimpsest deposit that included both Pavlovian and Late Gravettian remains; or

(3) the Pavlovian occupations were finely stratified, as shown by the new excavations (Svoboda 2016), and the resolution of the field methods of the early- and mid-20th century was unable to notice tiny archaeological layers. An admixture of Late Gravettian and Pavlovian was noted earlier regarding the Pavlov I site


The last member of the Gravettian culture is Central Europe is the Late Gravettian, also called Willendorf–Kostenkian or shouldered points horizon, which occupied Eastern Central Europe between 28–24 k.a.CalBP BP (Figure 7).

It has to be remembered that:

  • Shouldered Points (Figure 7) are rather rare during this Phase -2-5% of all finished Artifacts


  • Shouldered Points already appeared earlier in the Central and West European Gravettian


  • Shouldered Points of Moldavia and Kostenki are quite different from the Middle European types


  • Shouldered Points are rarely found in a stratigraphic context


  • Atypical" Shouldered points may often be broken Gravettes


  • Shouldered points may often be preforms for other tools


  • We do not know if "Pièces gibbeuses à dos abattu", are really preforms of Shouldered Points as suggested by some researchers


Figure 7
The Lithics of the Late Gravettian of Central Europe are much more diversified to define them only by one "fossil directeur" -the Shouldered Point- and therefore it may be prudent to abandon the term: Willendorf-Kostenki -Culture.

During the last years other specific artifacts from the Late Gravettian have recognized: "rectangles"-Figure 8; bi-truncated and backed retouched bladelets alongside with bi- ventral truncated bladelets, which are known from Willendorf II/9, Petřkovice and Predmosti in Moravia, Moravani-Novini, and from Area A at Trenčianske Bohuslavice in Slovakia.

A lot of these artifacts are displayed in O. Zaar's Dissertation about the 1980ies excavations of the site, but unfortunately Zaar did not described the different areas separately (see external link).

Bifacial leaf points were known from Predmost since more than 100 years (Zotz and Freund 1951-see external link) resemble those from a late Gravettian context from Area B at Trenčianske Bohuslavice and from Szeletta in Hungary. There is also an increasing number of such characteristic leaf points from surface scatters near Trenčianske.

Near the LGM , small groups of Foragers retreated from the Pavlovian territory to microclimatic more favorable regions in Middle Europe and the Balkans.

Willendorf II/9 is the last emanation of the Gravettian in the Middle Danube Valley. Other emigration events occurred towards Western Slovakia.

The first findings in Slovakia were made during the 1930ies in the Vah-valley near Moravany nad Vahom at Lopata and Banka, Noviny, Podkovica, Banka-Kopanica and Banka-Horné farské role.

Figure 8
Unfortunately most of the material from these early excavations was lost and dispersed by local collectors.

Stratigraphic valid observation were first made by Lothar Zotz, but essentially started not before the 1950ies.

Since the 1930ies the late Gravettian sites (about 50) were plundered by illicit diggings. As a consequence of these confusing conditions valid C-14 data and geo stratigraphic observations often remained unclear.

Consequently new excavation moved to other nearby and "untouched" regions, with better preservation, namely to the the nearby Trencin-region.

The Trenčín Basin is situated in the western part of Slovakia and surrounded by highlands. The most important axis of the Trenčín Basin is the river Váh.

Here late Gravettian scatters are known from Trenčianske Stankovce I-VI, Trenčianska Turná I-IV, Trenčianska Turná-Hámre, Mníchova Lehota I, Trenčianske Bohuslavice and Zamarovce. (Ľubomíra Kaminská 2016)

The most interesting site: Trenčianske Bohuslavice was repeatedly excavated during the last years with convincing results.

First excavations at this mulitilayered site were carried by the doyen of postwar Paleolithic Archaeology in Slovakia J. Barta between 1981-86. He opened three areas A, B, and C. In 1983, area A2, west of area A1 was opened.

Figure 7
A single stratum with sophisticated ("Solutrian-like") Leaf Points was found in Area B only 75 m apart from the other areas, while the other areas revealed Gravettian material.

At this time it was neither possible to establish stratigraphic correlations between the areas nor to produce reliable C-14 dates.

It needed about 35 years to get the whole picture- an astonishing and reliable dated succession of the Late Gravettian in this area with a richness only comperable with Willendorf II and Mitoc - Malu Galben in Moldavia, not included in this post.

The results were recently described by Wilczyński et al. They described 5 layers- which are reviewed here in short from the oldest to the uppermost strata:

B2: ca 35-38 k.a.CalBP: undiagnostic tools, maybe Aurignacian

A2-3: ca 28-30 k.a.CalBP: abundant fauna charcoals and and lithics. Domestic tools made from blades like Scrapers and Burins, Armatures comprise Gravettes and Microgravettes. According to my opinion a Middle Gravettian, but the authors call it Upper Gravettian

A2-2: ca 27-28k.a.CalBP: a rather poor stratum but with Vachons (or "Pavlov") points, Rectangles (Definition see above). The authors call the ensemble a late Gravettian concordant to their own definition

TB1: ca 26-27 k.a.CalBP with some uncertainties. The stratum with the bifacial Leaf Points. Therefore no Szeletian, Bohunician, LIncombian-Ranissian

A2-1: ca 26 k.a. -maybe an initial Epigravettian with no lithic armatures and dominated by domestic tools such as end-scrapers, and burins).

One of the most important Upper Paleolithic open-air sites in Poland is Kraków Spadzista. It yielded Aurignacian, late Gravettian and Epigravettian sites.

For this post it is important that the Gravettian at Kraków Spadzista, layer 6, was a large area where mammoths were killed and dismembered.The fauna is represented mainly by the woolly mammoth and Arctic fox, while other game is rare.

The late Gravettian lithics inventories, date to a time span between 28.6 - 27 k.a. cal BP. (24.5–20.0 k.a. BP). Combined the with extensive taphonomic and serial C-14 analyses it is now suggested that the site was occupied in succession in a number of recurrent episodes of rather short-term duration

The fieldwork led to the discovery of a significant accumulation of mammoth remains and a rich Gravettian stone inventory.

The mammoth bone accumulation was initially interpreted as the remains of dwellings but later detailed analysis of the material disproved this hypothesis.

The lithic inventory is mostly made from local Jurassic flint and characterized by an unusual high number of shouldered points and backed pieces (up to 25% ).

These implements were, according to microtraceologic studies, mainly used as projectiles (Wilczynski 2015).

To be discussed:

The Gravettian technocomplex was present in Europe from more than 30,000 years ago until the Last Glacial Maximum, but the source of this industry and the people who manufactured it remains unsettled.

We use genome-wide analysis of a ~36,000-year-old Eastern European individual (BuranKaya3A) from Buran-Kaya III in Crimea, the earliest documented occurrence of the Gravettian, to investigate relationships between population structures of 26 Upper Paleolithic Europe and the origin and spread of the culture.

We show Buran Kaya 3A to be genetically close to both contemporary occupants of the Eastern European plain and the producers of the classical Gravettian of Central Europe 6,000 years later.

These results support an Eastern European origin of an Early Gravettian industry practiced by members of a distinct population, who contributed ancestry to individuals from much later Gravettian sites to the west
(Bennett et al. 2019)

The stratum Buran Kaya 3A Stratum 6-1, where the human bones of AHMs were found overlies an Aurignacian, which is itself stratified above a Streletskaya stratum, dating around 40 k.a CalBP.

Buran Kaya 3A layer 6-1 is about 31 k.a. old (uncalibrated), which translates into 38-34 k.a. cal BP. These facts would fit to a very early Gravettian or another Pre-Gravettian industry

The sparse Lithics of Layer 6-1 are delicate and microlithic. The retouche of such thin Bladelets is necessarily non "backed" in the common sense but are usually called: "marginal". This features is similar to Industry from Vigne Brun- see 1718 - a classic Gravettian on very thin blades with the same characteristics in "backing".

What is also of interest, that pearls made from Mammoth ivory have the same appearance that can be found in several Gravettian strata of the Swabian Jura

Anyhow, hard diagnostic features for a Gravettian (typical Gravettes, Microgravettes, Flechettes, shouldered points, rectangles…) are missing.

Therefore layer 6-1 could be a very early Gravettian, but it could be something else- for example a laminar Aurignacian or even an Ahmarian-derived industry. The topic remains hot!

Suggested Reading:

Fritz Felgenhauer: Willendorf in der Wachau, Monographie der Paläolith-Funstellen I-VII : Mitteilungen der prähistorischen Kommission der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, VIII. und IX. Band, 1-3 Wien 1956-1959.

Karel Absolon: Die Erforschung der diluvialen Mammutjäger-Station von Unter-Wisternitz an den Pollauer Bergen in Mähren. Arbeitsbericht über das zweite Jahr 1925. Studien aus dem Gebiet der allgemeinen Karstforschung, der wissenschaftlichen Höhlenkunde, der Eiszeitforschung und den Nachbargebieten, C. Palaeontologische Serie Nr. 6, Brünn 1938.

Bohuslav Klima: Die jungpaläolithischen Mammutjäger-Siedlungen Dolní Vĕstonice und Pavlov in Südmähren – ČSFR. In: Archäologie und Museum. Band 23 (= Berichte aus der Arbeit des Amtes für Museen und Archäologie des Kantons Baselland). Liestal 1991 (zur Ausstellung „Mensch und Mammut“ im Museum im Alten Zeughaus in Liestal).

Marcel Otte, Le Gravettien en Europe Centrale. Vol I and II. Dissertationes Archaeologicae Gandenses 20. De Tempel, Brügge 1981 - a landmark Publikation!- If you see it just buy it- you will not be disappointed.

Marcel Otte er al: Les Gravettiens. Editions Errance 2013.

Philip R. Nigst: The Early Upper Palaeolithic of the Middle Danube Region. Leiden University Press 2012

Martin Oliva (ed.). Sídliště mamutího lidu, u Milovic pod Pálavou: otázka strukturs mamutími kostmi/Milovice, site of the mammoth people below the Pavlov hills: the question of mammoth bone structures (Studies in Anthropology, Palaeoethnology and Quaternary Geology 27, ns 19). Brno 2009.

Martin Oliva: Dolní Věstonice I (1922–1942) Hans Freising – Karel Absolon – Assien Bohmers. Anthropos Studies in Anthropology, Paleoethnology, Palaeonthology and Quaternary Geology Vol. 37/N. S. 29/2014, Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno 2014.

Martin Oliva: Die Kunst des Gravettien/Pavlovien in Mähren. In: Harald Meller, Thomas Puttkammer (Hrsg.): Klimagewalten – Treibende Kraft der Evolution. Theiss-Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2017, S. 338–359.

Jiří Svoboda: Dolní Věstonice II. Chronostratigraphy, Paleoethnology, Paleoanthropology. The Dolní Věstonice Studies, Volume 21/2016. Institute of Archaeology, Brno 2016.

Jiri Swoboda et al. Dolní Vestonice-Pavlov: Explaining Paleolithic Settlements in Central Europe (Peopling of the Americas Publications) 2020.

Jiří Svoboda: Dolní Věstonice II. Chronostratigraphy, Paleoethnology, Paleoanthropology. The Dolní Věstonice Studies, Volume 21/2016 Brno.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I Southeast – A Window Into the Gravettin Lifestyles. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 14). Brno 2005.

Vladimir Slasek, Eric Trinkaus, Simon W. Hillson, Trenton W. Holliday: The people of the Pavlovian – Skeletal Catalogue and Osteometrics of the Gravettian Fossil Hominids from Dolní Věstonice and Pavlov. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 5). Brno 2000.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I Northwest – The upper paleolithic burial and its settlement context. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 4). Brno 1997.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I – Excavations 1952–1953. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 2). Liège 1994.




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