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Space and time in the Upper Palaeolithic: a mixed traditions approach to the study of prehistory

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The goal of archaeological research throughout the “history of prehistory” was chronology. While the construction of refined culture histories in any study area is necessary, it confines us to a diachronic vision that limits the construction of synchronic, and ultimately human, interpretations. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s two figures, Binford in North America and Leroi-Gourhan in France, turned archaeology on its side rather than on its head; diachronic process was not forgotten, but horizontal surface excavation, spatial analysis and palethnographic interpretation, as well as experimental and ethnoarchaeological research, removed the blinders from prehistory. This allowed archaeologists to start synchronically investigating prehistoric cultures rather than prehistoric timelines. The time has come to combine synchrony and diachrony and investigate the evolution of behaviours throughout the entirety of the Upper Palaeolithic. This symposium will thus highlight horizontal approaches to the Upper Palaeolithic, which often use spatial analysis at local and regional scales. This will allow us to evaluate progress made since Binford and Leroi-Gourhan, and highlight international research and projects integrating spatial, experimental, and ethnoarchaeological data. It will provide a first sketch of a synchronic and diachronic Upper Palaeolithic, and present ways for advancing in the marriage of these two concepts of time.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)


  • The Aurignacian open-air campsite of Régismont-le-Haut (Hérault, France) (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395394] François Bon. Romain Mensan. Lars Anderson. Mathieu Lejay. Hélène Salomon.

    Régismont-le-Haut (Hérault, France) counts among the rare open-air Aurignacian campsites in southwestern France having both spatially conserved activity areas and explicit traces of a constructed living space. This minimally disturbed single habitation occupies two perpendicular paleochannels, whose geometry separates the site into two main zones. Throughout its excavation numerous combustion structures (27), all being surrounded by differentially diffuse archaeological material, have been...

  • Domestic space or burial space? Interrogating the Final Gravettian at the abri Pataud (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395389] Roland Nespoulet. Dominique Henry-Gambier. Laurent Chiotti.

    The status and significance of the assemblage of human remains in the Final Gravettian of the Abri Pataud (level 2, 22 kya) had never really been broached during the excavations of H.L. Movius (1958, 1963). A three-pronged approach (archive analysis, study of old collections, and targeted excavation), started in 2005, allows us to propose a new interpretation of these remains as well the entirety of level 2. This study takes into account the natural configuration of the rock shelter, its...

  • Fireplace Variability in the Aurignacian: a Multiscale Analysis at the Open-air Campsite of Régismont-le-Haut (Hérault, France) (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395391] Mathieu Lejay. Farid Sellami. Marie Alexis. Romain Mensan. François Bon.

    Through the study of several contemporary fireplaces at the Aurignacian open-air site of Régismont-le-Haut we will distinguish differences in the function and operation of a common-place form of archaeological vestige. To achieve this goal we rely on multiscale examination of hearths, which consists of classic planimetric and stratigraphic observation coupled with both micromorphological and geochemical analyses. Results are also compared with experimental hearths analyzed using the same...

  • From Palethnography to Paleohistory: following a Magdalenian group through three successive occupations at Etiolles (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395387] Elisa Caron-Laviolette.

    Since the 1980s, spatially oriented techno-economical lithic studies of a few key open-air sites in the Paris basin have been essential to our comprehension of Upper Palaeolithic behavioral patterns. While these analyses have largely been synchronic in focus, and many others evaluate diachrony on the long-term, we hope to now bridge these two approaches through a study of the mid-term. One of the only Palaeolithic contexts that allow for such an approach is the three-level sequence that...

  • Graphic narration  and Spatial Organization in the Grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395396] Marc Azéma.

    The Aurignacian site of Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc (Ardèche, ca. 37,000 calBP) signals the origin of figurative art, with nearly 500 stylistically uniform parietal decorations. Images of animals are composed in a spectacular fashion, especially in the Secteur des Chevaux and the Salle du Fond. The latter, the end of the cave’s passages, is the clearest example of the management of subterranean space by Paleolithic artists in the interest of achieving their ultimate intention: to narrate by image....

  • The Gravettian open air site of la Vigne Brun (Loire valley, France). Shedding new light on a famous unknown site (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395390] Jean-Pierre Bracco. Damien Pesesse.

    Excavated especially in the late 70s and early 80s, the site of la Vigne Brun provided numerous dwelling structures unique in Western Europe. Each structure is a circular excavation of 6 m in diameter, is coated with ochre, and has a central hearth. This site is generally interpreted as the result of a single occupation and all the dwelling structures of are considered contemporary. New research by a multidisciplinary team shows that site formation processes are much more complicated and...

  • Nomadism in the Magdalenian groups of Monruz and Champréveyres (Switzerland) (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395388] Marie-Isabelle Cattin.

    Located in a region where flint is of mediocre quality, the Magdalenian sites of Monruz and Champréveyres (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) show the introduction of a high proportion of good quality flint from sometimes very distant (up to 200 km) regions. For this reason we can argue that flint was not a constraining factor on the selection of camp location. It is certain that favorable hunting grounds, as well as the proximity to water sources and combustible materials, were more important. The...

  • Paleoethnographic and chronostratigraphic perspectives on the Aurignacian of the Vézère Valley : Abri Castanet, Abri Blanchard, Abri Cellier (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395392] Randall White. Romain Mensan. Amy E. Clark.

    New excavations at three historically important Vézère Valley sites provide insight into the spatial organization of Early Aurignacian campsites and the nature of the late Pleistocene landscapes surrounding them. These excavations provide new and robust data on fire-use, activity areas and the context of the production and use of symbolic materials (graphic imagery and personal ornaments) among early modern humans in SW Europe. Molecular filtration dates raise new questions about the chronology...

  • Palethnographic interpretation of the Gravettian site of La Picardie (Indre-et-Loire, France): a difficult path (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395393] Laurent Klaric.

    After nine years of excavations (1998-2008) the site of La Picardie has delivered a major lithic collection (more than 13 000 artifacts piece plotted) chronologically related to the "Raysse burin" Gravettian (second phase of Middle Gravettian ca. 24 ky BP uncalibrated). Through the study of lithic material several major results have been brought to light (chronological attribution, description of a new retouched bladelet type, reconstruction of the flint knapping process for blade and bladelet...

  • Towards a synchronic view of Aurignacian lithic economy (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395386] Lars Anderson.

    The Aurignacian is considered a product of the first modern human groups in Western Europe. Nevertheless, we have approached this important moment in Prehistory with a diachronic vision, ultimately inhibiting us from investigating the synchronic organization of this archaeological culture. By enlarging our field of vision to several sites in southwestern France we hope to characterize the variability of Aurignacian lithic industries on two scales: the inter- and the intra-site. At the intra-site...

  • Upper Paleolithic Use of Space at Riparo Bombrini (Balzi Rossi, Italy) (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT [ID: 395395] Julien Riel-Salvatore. Ingrid Ludeke. Fabio Negrino.

    We present an analysis of the spatial distribution of various features (hearths, dripline, etc.) and of four broad artifact classes (lithics, fauna, ochre, shell) in the proto-Aurignacian levels of Riparo Bombrini. The site is a collapsed rockshelter in the Balzi Rossi site complex and is interesting in part for having yielded very late Mousterian and very early proto-Aurignacian levels. The site thus offers an ideal setting in which to study behavioral differences between late Neanderthals and...

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America