Microgravettes: the most successful lithic projectile points of the Paleolithic Old World

microgravette katzman aggsbachThese are some Microgravettes from the Early Gravettian at Abri Pataud at Les Eyzies.

The Gravettian / Epigravettian phenomenon is a complex biocultural system of anatomically modern humans to cold and arid glacial conditions and the evidence of their remarkable adaptive flexibility. Gravette Points are generally made from slender and narrow blades (“Gravettes”) or bladelets (“Microgravettes”). These points are characterized by a  straight or slightly curved blunted back , which is formed by very abrupt retouches. Many Gravettes have additional retouches  on the non-blunted edge, either near the point or near the base.

microgravetteMicrogravette points are by far the most common lithic projectile points in the European Upper Paleolithic, both in time and space. They are a constitutive part of Gravettian industries from Iberia to the Urals and of the Epigravettian of South and Eastern Europe. Microgravettes in Europe are more or less continuously present over a time interval of roughly 20k.a. Isolated findings occur during the Levantine Epipaleolithic and the Epipaleolithic of the Maghreb.

A good example of Levantine Early Epipalaeolithic production of Gravettes is the Nizzanian, which is confined to Negev. It features scalene triangle and some rare isosceles triangle microliths, Gravette points, Microgravettes, and abundant arched-backed blades, and makes use of the microburin technique.

The Early Gravettian site of Sire (Mirefleurs, Puy de Dôme, France; ca 30 k.a. BP) has evidenced  a large quantity of microlithic blades with a high proportion of Microgravettes. The Results of microwear analysis on 17 Microgravettes, together with a comparative study on 600 ethnographic artifacts, indicate their use as projectile points and makes it highly probable, that they were tips of arrow systems. Unfortunately postdepositional changes on flint makes it often impossible to evaluate larger samples from other important Gravettian sites with overwhelming amounts of Microgravettes (for example Pavlov- South East) by microtraceological techniques.

micro gravette detailAlthough Microgravettes are morphologically the little sisters of the classic Gravette Points from S/W-France, their use was probably differed. A sample of 1451 Gravette points deriving from ten sites in southwestern France was investigated by FB Harrold in ‎1993. He found, that many of the Gravette “points” in fact functioned as knives.

The early Gravettian in Central France: La Vigne Brun

Suggested Readings:

http://paleo.revues.org/607

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/praehist/fileadmin/template/main/res/pdf/Haendel_et_al_2009_Q56.pdf

http://www.landesmuseum.at/pdf_frei_remote/WM_19_0059-0078.pdf

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