Reconstructing technology, mobility and land use via intra- and inter-site refits from the Gravettian of the Swabian Jura


The Swabian Gravettian, which is often equated with the Middle Upper Palaeolithic in the German research tradition (e.g. Bosinski, 2008), is limited to a small number of cave sites in a restricted area of the Middle and Eastern Swabian Jura, namely in the Ach and—possibly—Lone valleys. These caves, however, are an important part of Central European prehistory, since the sites yielded early radiocarbon ages covering the timespan from 35 to 31 ka cal. BP (Conard and Bolus 2003; Moreau, 2009a; Higham et al. 2012; Taller and Conard 2016). Technologically and typologically, the lithic assemblages also reflect an early Gravettian. Refits of lithic artefacts are known from Brillenhöhle (Lauxmann and Scheer 1986) and Geißenklösterle (Moreau 2009a), as well as Hohle Fels (Floss and Kieselbach 2004). These refits are vital for our understanding of the taphonomy and stratigraphy of the sites as well as for the technological analysis of lithic blank production. Here, the main focus on intra-site refits will be on Hohle Fels. Thus far no refits are known from the Gravettian of the Lone Valley. Moreover, the question is, whether the supposed Gravettian remains from the sites of Vogelherd and Bockstein-Törle do actually reflect Middle Upper Palaeolthic occupations. A remarkable feature of the Ach Valley Gravettian are refits between the sites of Brillenhöhle, Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels and possibly also Sirgenstein (Scheer 1990; Moreau 2009a), which inform us on land use and settlement patterns in the Middle Upper Palaeolithic of Central Europe. Refits from the Ach Valley document a contemporaneous use of at least three of the four caves with Gravettian deposits, while intra-site refits facilitate the study of site formation processes and the spatial use of these important caves. With this paper, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of Gravettian lithic technology, hunter-gatherer mobility and land-use patterns in Swabia as well as the taphonomy of the sites discussed.

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We would like to thank the DFG for funding AT’s research (DFG - GZ TA 1039/3 - 1). For further support, thanks are due to the State Office of Cultural Heritage Baden Württemberg as well as the Alb-Donau-Kreis. Dr. Guido Bataille contributed in many valuable discussions, and Alexander Janas and Maria Malina were, as always, very helpful with technical questions; A. Janas further improved the plots considerably. Anna Rösch made a great last-minute-drawing, and finally Armando Falcucci helped with the editing of some of the illustrations. For the last 22 years, the excavations of Hohle Fels have been supported by the Heidelberger Cement Company, the DFG, the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften and the University of Tübingen. The workshop “The Big Puzzle 30 years after: A multidisciplinary, shared, Palaeolithic perspective” was kindly supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation Ref: Gr CONF-737.

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Taller, A., Kieselbach, P. & Conard, N.J. Reconstructing technology, mobility and land use via intra- and inter-site refits from the Gravettian of the Swabian Jura. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11, 4423–4435 (2019).

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  • Upper Palaeolithic
  • Gravettian
  • Middle Upper Palaeolithic
  • Swabian Jura
  • Central Europe
  • Lithic refits
  • Lithic technology
  • Gravettian settlement patterns