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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Solutrean Culture (Upper Palaeolithic) (Europe)
c.22,000 - 17,000 BC

This Upper Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) European culture is sometimes also labelled Epi-Palaeolithic, a term which is sometimes used amongst archaeologists and scholars for Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) sites which are located outside Europe or on the Mesolithic side of the dividing line between the two categories.

Also labelled an industry instead of a culture in its own right, the Solutrean appeared as an advanced form of the late Gravettian culture (labelled the 'Final Gravettian'). It was named for its type site, the Rock of Solutré, a limestone escarpment which lies eight kilometres to the west of Mâcon in central eastern France. A descended version of the Gravettian existed to its east in the form of the Epigravettian.

The tools of the Solutrean employed techniques which had not previously been seen and which apparently were not discovered by other groups (or rediscovered) for millennia. They exhibit finely worked, bifacial points which were produced with lithic reduction percussion and pressure flaking rather than the cruder flint-knapping method.

Knapping was carried out using antler batons, hardwood batons, and soft stone hammers. This method allowed delicate slivers of flint to produce lightweight projectiles and even elaborate barbed and tanged arrowheads. In time the culture was replaced by the Magdalenian, but not before groups had managed to enter Early Iberia, possibly (but not categorically) the first modern humans to do so.

The Solutrean hypothesis puts forward the idea that it was people of this culture who migrated to North America from Europe. It suggests that they did so by travelling by boat, following the edges of the pack ice across the North Atlantic Ocean. This is not in opposition to the general view that the Americas were populated from Asia via the Bering Straits but is instead a further route of ingress.

The Solutrean people would have brought with them their methods of making stone tools, providing the basis for the later Clovis technology which spread throughout North America. The hypothesis was suggested by comparing Solutrean and Clovis lithic (stone) technologies.

Originally proposed in the 1970s, the theory still has some support, although its detractors point out the large gap between the two cultures and the lack of European DNA in indigenous North American populations. It is also seen as being a tool of white nationalists who wish to devalue Native American claims to be the continent's indigenous people, and is further discredited due to this association.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Prehistory: A Survey, Suranas Milesaukas (Chapter 4: The Upper Paleolithic, Michael Jochim (Berlin, 2012)), from Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation, Jennifer A Raff & Deborah A Bolnick (PaleoAmerica, 2015), from Solutrian Epoch, Hugh Chisholm (Ed, Encyclopædia Britannica, Cambridge University Press, 1911), and from External Links: Rejecting the Solutrean hypothesis: the first peoples in the Americas were not from Europe, Jennifer Raff (The Guardian), and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

22,000 BC

As a successor to the Gravettian culture, the Solutrean stone-working technique first appears in the Dordogne region of France. How it gets there is somewhat disputed by scholars.

Most of the evidence indicates that it is a regional invention, which would seem to be the most likely explanation. Opposing this are a few scholars who attribute its swift appearance to the arrival of a new people and its equally swift disappearance to the destruction of the Solutrean people by another newly-arrived group.

How these new arrivals are able to cross much of Europe before leaving any sign of their new industry is not explained so this opposing theory is generally dismissed out of hand.

Solutrean tools
Solutrean stone tools exhibit finely worked, bifacial points which were produced with lithic reduction percussion and pressure flaking rather than the more crude flint-knapping method (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 3.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Unported)

The Solutrean can be sub-divided into three periods: early, middle, and late. In the early period, unifacial points (flaked on only one side) are common. Evidence exists to show the use of ornamentation, with bracelets, bead necklaces, pendants, bone pins, and coloured pigments all likely to be used for personal adornment.

Stone friezes, bas-reliefs, and paintings on stone plaques and cave walls are known. Even the stone which is to be used for tool-making is chosen for its beauty, including coloured quartz and jasper flints.

c.17,000 BC

The Solutrean fades around this time as its main replacement, the Magdalenian culture takes hold across much of Europe. This is broken down into several sub-strands which include a prelude in the form of the Badegoulian Interlude, while the Epigravettian and Azilian dominate in Southern Europe.

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