Franco-Cantabrian region

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The inhabitants of the Franco-Cantabrian region produced some of the finest Paleolithic mural art, such as this horse at Lascaux cave

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 southeastern 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.

This region shows intense homogeneity in the prehistorical record and possibly was the region of Europe with the densest population of humans during the Late Paleolithic.


Successively, the region experienced 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.

Map of the Franco-Cantabrian region, showing the main caves containing mural art

Glacial refugium and Late Glacial population expansion[edit]

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 that extremely cold period ended.[1]

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-colonization".[2] His demographic simulations, based in archaeological data, suggest that it was the most densely populated region of Europe through all the Upper Paleolithic. Kieran O'Hara has suggested in his book Cave Art and Climate Change that climate controlled the Franco-Cantabrian cave depictions. [3]

Dissolution of the regional homogeneity in the Neolithic[edit]

The area became culturally divided between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic subareas during the Neolithic period, losing its homogeneity as the Eastern part strongly incorporated the Cardium Pottery culture, while the Western remained less developed (subneolithic).

Arguably, Basques and Gascons are 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.

Main sites[edit]

Important cave paintings

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A. Achili et al., The Molecular Dissection of mtDNA Haplogroup H Confirms That the Franco-Cantabrian Glacial Refuge Was a Major Source for the European Gene Pool
  3. ^ O'Hara, K. (2014). Cave Art and Climate Change, Archway Publishing.