The Uluzzian in the north of Italy: insights around the new evidence at Riparo Broion

Abstract

In attempt to enlighten the debate on the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, this work contributes new data from a yet unpublished site, Riparo Broion in the north-east of Italy. Studies confirm the presence of the Uluzzian technocomplex embedded in an archaeological sequence which includes Mousterian, Gravettian and Epigravettian. These layers have yielded finds of bone and lithic technology, shell beads, engraved portable art and the use of red mineral pigments, which make this archive a unique case for evaluating the implications of cultural dynamics in Northern Italy 44.0–42.4 ky BP. The diversity of the faunal assemblage recovered in layers 1f and 1g is representative of the different environments surrounding the site, with ungulates being targeted for hunting and consumption. The lithic assemblage records a high fragmentation rate due to the extensive use of the bipolar knapping technique, responsible for a large variety of splintered pieces and associated chips which also affected the backed pieces, lunates and end-scrapers. The features of the bone tools, as well as those of the marine and freshwater beads, echo the technique used in the Uluzzian in the south of Italy, confirming the geographic spread of this technocomplex in the North Adriatic region, as previously envisaged at Grotta Fumane. However, comparisons between these two sites stimulate a discussion around the possible driving forces responsible for the differences observed in technological, typological and structural lithic assemblages. A definitive scenario for the Middle Palaeolithic–Upper Palaeolithic transition in this region of Southern Europe is ongoing and Riparo Broion is adding key contributions.

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Acknowledgments

Microscopic observations using Leica S6D Green Ough stereomicroscope have been done at the L.A.T., Laboratory of Zooarchaeology and Taphonomy of the University of Ferrara. Research at Riparo Broion is coordinated by the Ferrara University in the framework of a project supported by the Ministry of Culture—Veneto Archaeological Superintendency, public institutions (Veneto Region—Department for Cultural Heritage, Longare Municipality), institutions (Leakey Foundation, Spring 2015 Grant; Fondazione CariVerona; Istituto Italiano Preistoria e Protostoria, progetto Saperi Condivisi), associations and private companies. The authors are grateful to two anonymous reviewers and associate editor for constructive suggestions and to Lauren Bell and Tumi Markan Jones for improving the English language.

Funding

This study and excavation campaigns 2017-2019 have received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant agreement no. 724046—SUCCESS http://www.erc-success.eu).

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M.P. and M.R. designed the research; S.Ber., D.D., M.P. and M.R. analysed the data; M.P., S.Ber., D.D. and M.R. wrote the paper with imput by S.Ben.

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Correspondence to Marco Peresani.

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Peresani, M., Bertola, S., Delpiano, D. et al. The Uluzzian in the north of Italy: insights around the new evidence at Riparo Broion. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11, 3503–3536 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-018-0770-z

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Keywords

  • Palaeolithic
  • Uluzzian
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Bead
  • Rockshelter
  • Italy