After 150 years of research, the Middle Magdalenian in S/W-France and Cantabria (formerly Magdalenian III of the classification of H. Breuil) can be characterized by an enormous diversity of archaeological remains, and by ideas and objects that circulated over long distances.
At the very end of the Palaeolithic, symbolic productions (portable and cave art, ornaments) allow, together with the lithic and bone industries, to define precise chrono-geographical groups.The early middle Magdalenian in S/W France is characterized by three prominent “facies”: the
- Magdalenian with navettes,
- the Magdalenian with Lussac-Angles points
- and the Magdalenian with scalenes .
The 5,7 cm long point (Figure 1 and 2), shown in this post, was found during the early 20th century at Laugerie haute and is a typical Lussac-Angles point from the “Magdalenien III” , which was first defined at this site.
Lussac-Angles points, first described by Mortillet in “Musee Prehistorique,” as early as 1881, are strictly defined as relatively short and wide single-beveled points (length: usually ~5,5-80 mm) with a triangular or quadrangular cross-section, a longitudinal groove on the upper side and sometimes a second one on the lower side, no decoration, a bevel without hafting striations, and mesial proportions that often result in the distal end showing a “carinated” profile (Figure3). Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler is the primary raw material utilised in the manufacture of these items.
These points characterize the early phases of the Middle Magdalenian (c. 19–17 k.a. cal. BP or 15,5-14,5 k.a. BP), between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the rapid climatic deterioration of the Heinrich 1 event). This particular point showed an especially wide diffusion encompassing a large part of the Middle Magdalenian cultural area—from Tito Bustillo (Spain) in the west to Gazel (France) in the east and to Roc-aux-Sorciers (France) in the north. Till now, Lussac-Angles points have been recognized in 22 sites from the Cantabrian coast, the northern Pyrenees, and the western margins of the Massif Central. Important sites are Le Roc-aux-Sorciers à Angles-sur-l’Anglin (Vienne) et La Marche at Lussac-les-Châteaux (Vienne).
Of course, single and double-beveled points are also components of the Magdalenian III weaponry, but they have a wider chronological meaning. Half round rods (“baguettes demi-rondes’”) become important only after the Magdalenian with Lussac-Angles points- phase of the Middle Magdalenian, but have occasionally found in some sites of this facies , also.
The symbolic production from the Middle Magdalenian is very original, too. We find Mammoth ivory beads called “stomach beads” Engraved horse incisors covered with fine geometric engravings and other animal teeth which were drilled and engraved.
The Magdalenian is by far the most important cultural unit of the European Upper Paleolithic offering various and outstanding examples of parietal and mobile art. As for the latter, the cave site of La Marche in Lussac-les-Châteaux, Vienne, offers about 1500 of engraved stones . What is exceptional, that human figures, which are rare in Paleolithic art production, were found in about 140 cases. Whereas human representations in Palaeolithic art often bear stereotype characters, the engravings of La Marche show personal streaks, as if the artists wanted to create portraits of specific individuals. The engravings were clearly from the Magdalenian III of the site, where traces of a late Magdalenian were also present.
Roc-aux-Sorciers: The sculpted frieze on the walls of the rock shelter of Roc-aux-Sorciers was discovered in 1950. Unfortunately, this extraordinary frieze, featuring animals (Ibex, horses,Bison) and human figures (among them small faces or masks and a series of realistic but headless woman bodies with clearly defined pubic triangles), carved in relief, is not open to the public for conservation reasons.
What are the technological Hallmarks of Lithics, normally in focus at Aggsbachs blog, during the Middle Magdalenian? The reconstruction of the chaînes opératoires always highlights a dissociation of the blade and bladelet production. Blades are intended for the manufacture of domestic tools (Scrapers, Burins, Becs). Bladelets are used as blanks for backed hunting weapons (truncated backed bladelets, scalene bladelets, backed points,Figure 4).
Meticulous techno-typological analyses revealed much more interesting details: The middle Magdalenian site of the “Rocher-de-la-Caille” which is located in the high valley of the river Loire, and part of the sites, that were flooded to make way for the Villerest dam has revealed an early example of pressure flaking in Europe. Pressure debitage was clearly used in the production of certain bladelets preferably on translucent blond flint blade blanks imported from the Cher valley. The technique used the arrises of the upper side of laminar blanks diversely retouched in this intention of bladelet production, specially by an inverse truncation to be used as the pressure platform.
The same debitage method, but using percussion, was identified in the Early Middle Magdalenian from the Roc-au-Sorcier and at La Marche. The debitage method from the Rocher-de-la-Caille appears as another cultural marker within the Middle Magdalenian of the centre of France.