The Franco-Cantabrian region (also Franco-Cantabric region) is a term applied in Archaeology and History to refer to an area that stretches from Asturias, in northern Spain, to Provence in SE France. It includes the southern half of France and the northern strip of Spain looking at the Bay of Biscay (known as Cantabrian Sea in Spanish, hence the name). Northern Catalonia is sometimes included as well.
It experienced successively the Chatelperronian, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian, Azilian and post Azilian geometric cultures, with their respective cultural expressions, noticeably the most famous mural art. Solutrean, Magdalenian and Azilian cultures evolved locally in this area.
Glacial refugium and Late Glacial population expansion
The region may have been a major refugium for Paleolithic peoples during the Last Glacial Maximum, apparently playing a major role as source for the repopulation of Europe after this extremely cold period ended.
From an archaeological viewpoint, Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel has argued that there are grounds for considering that the Aquitaine and French-Cantabrian refuge zone, may have been the principal source of Late Glacial re-colonisation. His demographic simulations, based in archaeological data, suggest that it was by large the most densely populated region of Europe through all the Upper Paleolithic.
Dissolution of the regional homogeneity in the Neolithic
The area became culturally divided between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic subareas in the Neolithic period losing its homogeneity as the Eastern part incorporated strongly the Cardium Pottery culture, while the West remained less developed (subneolithic). Basques and Gascons are arguably the direct descendants of the peoples of the Atlantic area, who remained more closed (relatively) to the new tendencies from the Mediterranean and Central Europe.
- Altamira, Cantabria, Spain. Important cave paintings
- Aurignac, France
- Lascaux, France
- La Madeleine, France
- Santimamiñe, Basque Country, Spain
- Grotte Chauvet, France