The Aurignacian culture (// or //) is an archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic, located in Europe and southwest Asia. It lasted broadly within the period from ca. 45,000 to 35,000 years ago (about 37,000 to 27,000 years ago on the uncalibrated radiocarbon timescale; between ca. 47,000 and 41,000 years ago using the most recent calibration of the radiocarbon timescale). The name originates from the type site of Aurignac in the Haute-Garonne area of France.
The oldest known example of figurative art, the Venus of Hohle Fels, comes from this culture. It was discovered in September 2008 in a cave at Schelklingen in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The Bacho Kiro site is one of the earliest known Aurignacian burials.
The Aurignacian tool industry is characterized by worked bone or antler points with grooves cut in the bottom. Their flint tools include fine blades and bladelets struck from prepared cores rather than using crude flakes. The people of this culture also produced some of the earliest known cave art, such as the animal engravings at Aldène and the paintings at Chauvet cave in southern France. They also made pendants, bracelets and ivory beads, and three-dimensional figurines. Perforated rods, thought to be spear throwers or shaft wrenches, are also found at their sites.
Association with modern humans
This sophistication and self-awareness led archaeologists to consider the makers of Aurignacian artifacts the first modern humans in Europe. Human remains and Late Aurignacian artifacts found in juxtaposition support this inference. Although finds of human skeletal remains in direct association with Early Aurignacian technologies are scarce in Europe, the few available are also probably modern human. The best dated association between Aurignacian industries and human remains are those of at least five individuals from the Mladec cave in the Czech Republic, dated by direct radiocarbon measurements on the skeletal remains themselves to at least 31,000–32,000 years old. At least three robust but typically anatomically modern individuals from the Peștera cu Oase cave in Romania, were dated directly on the bones to ca. 35,000–36,000 BP. Although not associated directly with archeological material, these finds are within the chronological and geographical range of the earlier Aurignacian in southeastern Europe.
Aurignacian figurines have been found depicting faunal representations of the time period associated with now-extinct mammals, including mammoths, rhinoceros, and Tarpan, along with anthropomorphized depictions that could be inferred as some of the earliest evidence of religion.
In June 2007, a 35,000 year old figurine of a mammoth was discovered in the Vogelherd cave. Currently being studied by the University of Tübingen, the figurine embodies the intricate and complex artistic characteristics of Aurignacian culture. One of the horses, amongst six tiny mammoth and horse ivory figures found previously at Vogelherd, was sculpted as skillfully as any piece found throughout the Upper Paleolithic. The production of ivory beads for body ornamentation was also important during the Aurignacian. There is a notable absence of painted caves, which begin to appear within the Solutrean.
Statuettes of women are called Venus figurines. They emphasize the hips and other body parts associated with fertility. Feet and arms are lacking or minimized. One of the most ancient figurines was discovered in 2008 in the Hohle Fels cave Germany. The figurine has been dated to 35,000 years ago.
Aurignacian finds include bone flutes. The oldest undisputed musical instrument was the Hohle Fels Flute discovered in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany's Swabian Alb in 2008. The flute is made from a vulture's wing bone perforated with five finger holes, and dates to approximately 35,000 years ago. A flute was also found at the Abri Blanchard in southwestern France.
Stone tools from the Aurignacian culture are known as Mode 4, characterized by blades (rather than flakes, typical of mode 2 Acheulean and mode 3 Mousterian) from prepared cores. Also seen throughout the Upper Paleolithic is a greater degree of tool standardization and the use of bone and antler for tools. Based on the research of scrapers reduction and paleoenvironment, early Aurignacian group moves seasonally over greater distance to procure reindeer herds within cold and open environment.
- Lebanon/Palestine/Israel region
- Contained within an atratigraphic column, along with other cultures.
- Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures
- Ksar Akil
- Venus figurines
- Bacho Kiro cave
↓ Stone Age
- P.Mellars, Archeology and the Dispersal of Modern Humans in Europe: Deconstructing the Aurignacian, Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 15 (2006), pp. 167–182.
- Milisauskas, Sarunas (74). European Prehistory: A Survey. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4419-6633-9. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
One of the earliest dates for an Aurignacian assemblage is greater than 43,000 BP from Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria ...Check date values in:
- Debeljak, Irena; Turk, Matija. "Potočka zijalka". In Šmid Hribar, Mateja. Torkar, Gregor. Golež, Mateja. Podjed, Dan. Drago Kladnik, Drago. Erhartič, Bojan. Pavlin, Primož. Jerele, Ines. Enciklopedija naravne in kulturne dediščine na Slovenskem – DEDI (in Slovene). Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- Finds from the Vogelherd cave
- Richard Leakey & Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (1992)
- Conard, Nicholas (2009). "A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany". Nature 459 (7244): 248–52. doi:10.1038/nature07995. PMID 19444215.
- Henderson, Mark (2009-05-14). "Prehistoric female figure 'earliest piece of erotic art uncovered'". London: The Times Online.
- Wilford, John N. (June 24, 2009). "Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music". The New York Times 459 (7244): 248–52. doi:10.1038/nature07995. PMID 19444215. Retrieved June 29, 2009.
- Blades, B. 2003 End scraper reduction and hunter-gatherer mobility. American Antiquity 68:141-156
- Langer, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN 0-395-13592-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aurignacian.|
- Picture Gallery of the Paleolithic (reconstructional palaeoethnology), Libor Balák at the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research
- The Aurignacian and the Origins of Art in Europe
- Aurignacian Stone Tools Industry