It probably dates to the period of the Allerød Oscillation around 12,000 years ago (uncalibrated) and followed the Magdalenian culture. Archaeologists think the Azilian represents the tail end of the Magdalenian as the warming climate brought about changes in human behaviour in the area. The effects of melting ice sheets would have diminished the food supply and probably impoverished the previously well-fed Magdalenian manufacturers. As a result, Azilian tools and art were cruder and less expansive than their Ice Age predecessors - or simply different.
Diagnostic artifacts from the culture include Azilian points (microliths with rounded retouched backs), crude flat bone harpoons and pebbles with abstract decoration. The latter were first found in the River Arize at the type-site for the culture, Le Mas-d'Azil in the French Pyrenees. 145 are known from the Swiss site of Birsmatten-Eremitage. Compared with the late Magdelanian, the number of microliths increases.
The Azilian co-existed with similar early Mesolithic European cultures such as the Tjongerian and the Ahrensburg culture of Northern Europe, the Swiderian of North-Eastern Europe, and the Creswellian in Britain.
In its late phase, it experienced strong influences from neighbouring Tardenoisian, reflected in the presence of many geometrical microliths persisted until the arrival of the Neolithic, that in some western areas was only adopted very late, almost in the Chalcolithic era.
In Southern Iberia
A culture very similar to the Azilian spread as well into Mediterranean Spain and southern Portugal. Because it lacked bone industry it is named distinctively as Iberian microlaminar microlithism. It was replaced by the so-called geometrical microlithism related to Tardenoisian culture.
- Franco-Cantabrian region
- Neolithic Europe
- Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures
- Prehistoric France
- Prehistoric Iberia
- Logan Museum of Anthropology
- A. Moure, El origen del hombre, 1999. ISBN 84-7679-127-5
- F. Jordá Cerdá et al., Historia de España 1: Prehistoria, 1989. ISBN 84-249-1015-X
- X. Peñalver, Euskal Herria en la Prehistoria, 1996. ISBN 84-89077-5-4