Shouldered Pieces: Signature of interactions around the great Adriatic plain during the LGM


This is a shouldered piece from the early Epigravettian in Arezzo. It is not necessary a shouldered point, but during the Epigravettian of Italia, shouldering was applied to several classes of artifacts.

The LGM led to the shrinking of the Adriatic Sea, opening a large land bridge, known as the Great Adriatic Plain, between Italy and the Balkans.

Mussi (2001) once described the plain as a cold, windswept flatland impoverished in game and lithic raw material that was more or less avoided by Epipalaeolithic groups until the end of the Pleistocene .

Scientific work of the last 15 years showed finally that the contrary is true. In fact the northern Adriatic Plain was a zone of high resource productivity. A zone rich in game, water, and other resources, and hence a focus for settlement by Epipalaeolithic groups.

The northern Adriatic basin around 24 k.a and 21 k.a. calBP is now perceived as an area where highly, logistically mobile  human groups, sharing a single cultural identity, built an archaeological landscape composed of discrete areas and activities, both temporally and spatially distinct. This landscape included what should be regarded as a broad residential settlement area, currently inaccessible, which probably also constituted a node for cyclical human aggregation and cultural transmission. This was surrounded by a series of provisioning areas, destinations of short-duration specialized expeditions.

It is suggested, that this newly gained territory and the worsening of environmental conditions leading to the LGM might have prompted, at the peak of glacial conditions, actual movements of human populations from the Middle Danube Basin, where well-established early Gravettian communities are known (e.g., at Willendorf II, Pavlovian sites), to the areas of southern Europe, with certain parts of the Balkans and Italy, and in particular the Great Adriatic Plain, serving as refugia for both animal, plant and human communities.

The signature of such population movement may be the spread of distinct techno- morphological traits in lithic types characteristic of the central and east European late Gravettian traditions (Willendorf 1-Nord, Willendorf 2/9, Spadiza, Moravany, Trencin, Nitra, Avdeevo, Kostenki, Chotylewo, Zaraïsk, Molodova, Mitoc)-the so called “Shouldered Point Horizon” .

Shouldered pieces during the LGM in Italy and the Balkans are most frequently points (pointes à cran), but other tool morphologies (e.g., burins, endscrapers) are also found with retouched bases.

Importantly, the production of  shouldered points is very probably linked with the introduction of new more efficient hunting tactics and projectiles. Such shouldered projectiles, used either with bows or spear-throwers, may have allowed for the targeting of prey at larger distances.

In northern Italy, industries with à cran pieces have been found at Grotta delle Arene Candide and Grotta dei Fanciulli in Liguria and at Grotta Paina in Venetia. In the south-eastern part of the peninsula the key sequence is the site of Grotta Paglicci in Puglia, which has yielded the most complete Epigravettian stratigraphic sequence for the wider Adriatic region.

At Paglicci, shouldered pieces are found in Early Epigravettian layers (from layer 18 to 10). The presence of shouldered pieces is also attested in the caves of Taurisano, Mura and Cipolliane in Salento, Grotta Niscemi and Cani- cattini Bagni in Sicily, and Riparo del Romito in Calabria. This widespread distribution suggests that shouldered pieces are well established in all southern regions of Italy.

Early Epigravettian cave settlements are also known also in the Apennine Mountains, in Marche and Abruzzo regions. Shouldered pieces are also found at the sites of Cavernette Falische (Cenciano Diruto, Lattanzi, Sambuco), Grotta del Sambuco , Cenciano Diruto , and Grotta delle Settecannelle in Lazio.

At the Balkans and in Greek a similar Epigravettian technocomplex has been dated to 21-15 k.a. BP at Sandalja, Kadar, Orphel, Kastrisa and Klisoura.

Some of the earliest sites with shouldered points in the Balkans are found in Istria, and Croatia and in western Greece (at 19 k.a. BP), but new excavations have pushed the occurrence of this tool typ in the Balkans to even earlier times. Vrbicka cave located in western Montenegro is currently under excavation.  One shouldered point was found and  AMS-dated to 23.k.a. Two shouldered pieces have also be found in western Serbia and are said to date to the same period  but the actual dates from this site have not been published yet.

The late Gravettian of Western Slovakia

Balzi Rossi (Rochers Rouges) caves and the Ligurian Epigravettian with shouldered Points

Lost and Found: Epigravettian Point from the Gargano peninsula

Moravany: Shouldered point (Willendorf-Kostenki culture)

About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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