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The Upper Palaeolithic in the Light of Recent Discovery*

  • D. A. E. Garrod

The last twelve years have seen a new impetus given to prehistoric studies by the multiplication of researches outside Europe. Excavations in Africa, the Near East, Asiatic Russia and China have opened up a new field for speculation, and at the same time have revealed the unsuspected complexity of many problems which to De Mortillet and other pioneers seemed relatively simple. Gone for ever is the straightforward succession of Palaeolithic cultures from Chellian to Magdalenian as laid down in the Musée Préhistorique. Even as early as 1912, when Breuil produced his classic paper on the subdivisions of the Upper Palaeolithic its foundations were sapped, and the discoveries of the last decade have merely completed its demolition as a system of world-wide application.

I need not insist that De Mortillet's scheme, as corrected by Breuil, who first pointed out the true position of the Aurignacian in western Europe, was the best that could be devised given the very incomplete information, relating to a very limited area, possessed by workers at that date. The fault of De Mortillet's disciples lay in their canonisation of a system which could only be applied locally, and which in any case contained enormous gaps.

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page 7 note 1 This is also the opinion of Breuil.

page 9 note 1 The animal figures found by Dr Absolon at Vistonice in Moravia come from a true Upper Aurignacian level.

page 9 note 2 Of the type of the French Magdalenian via.

page 14 note 1 Even in Western Europe the arrival of the blade-cultures is foreshadowed at an early stage; Breuil notes the existence of curved blunted-back points in Acheulean v, and of two levels with blades, one in the last interglacial (Levalloisian III–IV), the other in the upper part of the younger loess (Levalloisian VI–VII).

page 18 note 1 In the original version of this paper I stated that there was no evidence that the microlithic facies appeared earlier in Africa than in Europe; I have changed my opinion after discussing this point with the Abbé Breuil.

page 20 note 1 Private information from the Abbé Breuil.

page 20 note 2 Abbé Breuil has drawn my attention to the fact that forms suggesting the Aurignacian proper exist in the Palaeolithic of the Shuitungkou river (Teilhard and Licent).

page 23 note 1 At Sireuil and Brassempouy female statuettes were apparently associated with the Aurignacian proper; these two isolated instances suggest a possible early intrusion frorn an already established Upper Gravettian province in the East.

* This paper is based on my Presidential Address to Section H of the British Association, delivered at Blackpool in 1936. It has been to some extent re-written, and a certain amount of additional matter has been added. I have to thank the Council of the British Association for permission to use it in this way.

I am much indebted to Professor Breuil for a detailed criticism of the original address, which has been most valuable to me in the preparation of this version.

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Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
  • ISSN: 0079-497X
  • EISSN: 2050-2729
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-prehistoric-society
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