Is the Solutrean Linked to Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Upper Pleniglacial? Searching for the Drivers of the Changes in the Economy and Mobility of Solutrean Groups in Southwestern France Special Issue: The Impact of Upper Pleistocene Climatic and Environmental Change on Hominin Occupations and Landscape Use, Part 1

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Laure Fontana


In this paper, I examine the relationship between the emergence and development of the Solutrean and the climatic deterioration in western Europe from 26,500 to 22,000 cal BP. Through a study of the animal resource economy, I aim to identify potential differences in terms of prey choice, hunting and seasonality strategies, and the procurement and processing of animal resources between the Solutrean and the preceding and following cultures. My analysis of 49 faunal assemblages originating from 24 Solutrean sites in France demonstrates that there are no major differences between the Solutrean and these other cultures in terms of reindeer being the dominant prey and hunting strategies. In general, reindeer remained the dominant hunted prey from the end of the Gravettian to the end of the Middle Magdalenian. Any differences were above all regional, though the preference for reindeer was strongest in the Solutrean, at the same time as the prey diversity was the lowest. Reindeer hunting strategies remained non-selective from the Gravettian until the end of the Magdalenian, and the regions where this species was hunted year-round remained the same throughout this time. It is possible that the annual nomadic cycle was based on very low mobility during the cold season and specialized flint procurement during the warm season, but here again, this was probably not specific to the Solutrean. It thus appears that the Solutrean economic system, based on the exploitation of reindeer and lithic raw materials, was not affected by environmental constraints to the point of being significantly modified. To explain this relative economic stasis, I refer to the conditions of the Upper Pleniglacial, which, though it was extreme during the Solutrean, was very cold and dry throughout the period from 30,000 to 18,000 cal BP.

This special issue is guest-edited by William Davies (Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton) and Philip R. Nigst (Department of Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology, University of Vienna).

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