Magdalenian - out of the Big Freeze

Image Source.  Bison Licking Insect Bite; 15,000–13,000 BC; antler; National Museum of Prehistory (Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, France).

The Magdalenian Culture of Palaeolithic Europe follows the big freeze of the Last Glacial Maximum and dates from 17,000 to 12,000 years ago. Climatic conditions continued to remain grim, but a warmer interstadial known as the Bølling–Allerød, lasted between 14,690 and 12,890 years ago. The Magdalenian first appears in France, where it is contemporary with the Epigravettian Culture of Italy and further east. The founder population of the Magdalenian descends from earlier West European groups, including West Gravettian / Solutrean, and Western Aurignacian.

Image Source. Photo by Karl Steel (Flickr).

Magdalenian yDNA haplogroups so far discovered are I, and one HIJK

Magdelanian  mtDNA haplogroups all U (several U8b and one U5b).

One cluster at El Muron was found to be related to West European Aurignacians of the Goyet caves of Belgium, from 20,000 years earlier, supporting that the Magdalenians were descended from earlier Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers of western Europe. However, later Western Hunter-Gatherers of the Mesolithic, were closer related to the more south eastern groups of the Epigravettian Culture.

Image Source. Flint blades from Grottes de Labastide.

Long, regular blades were struck from prepared, carinated cores. Later phases are associated with harpoons made of antler, ivory, and bone. Main prey species on the Continent was reindeer, although other groups such as those in Britain, focused on tarpan (horse). Red deer and ibex were also targeted. One study found little evidence of salmon nor saiga antelope in the diet of a Magdalenian woman. Another study has found evidence of consumption of wild plants and bolete mushrooms.

Diet of Upper Paleolithic Modern Humans: Evidence From Microwear Texture Analysis. AJPA 2014. Zaatari and Hublin.

This study found that the diet of Magdalenians was more varied, with more abrasive foods than those of earlier hunter-gatherers in Europe.

Image Source. Reproductions of some Lascaux artworks in Lascaux II.

Magdalenian Britain

Kent's Cavern

Image Source. Gough's Cave skull potentially evidencing cannibalism

The Cannibals of Gough's Cave.

Just as the climate began to improve circa 14,700 years ago, some Magdalenians sheltered in Gough's Cave Somerset. Batons and tools were left within, along with horse bones and human remains. Tarpan seem to have been their main prey, and they may have been following the horse herds north into Britain as the climate improved. The human bones had been treated in much the same way as the bones of food prey. Cut marks and incisions suggest that they were stripped of flesh, and this discovery has led to much debate about possible cannibalism. Human crania appear to have been modified into drinking cups:

'The skulls were scrupulously cleaned of soft tissue shortly after death. Marks show cutting of the lips, cheeks and tongue, and extraction of the eyes.

Then the bones of the face and the base of the skull were carefully removed. Finally the cranial vaults were meticulously shaped into cups.'

It has been suggested that a British Late Magdalenian Culture existed, called the Creswellian Technology, dating 12,000 to 10,000 years before present that is similar to a Hamburgian Culture on the Continent.