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.

Notes on Göbekli Tepe and Anatolia's Pre-Pottery Neolithic


This isn't a genuine attempt at a history. It is just me collecting notes in order to start trying to make some sort of sense out of all of the new sites in Anatolia, SE Turkey.

Post glacial cities of Stone Age hunter-gatherers? Evidence of an Ice Age Civilisation? Fred Flintstone metros? The Worlds oldest temple? Proof of alien involvement? Religion came before farming?

I'm just starting to get an image of Anatolia and Levant 13,000 to 6,000 years ago. It is difficult, because there is so much more excavation to undertake. Typically these sites have been discovered only in recent years, and a small percentage of each site has been investigated. Cutting edge archaeology with new excavations each season. 

Natufian Culture - Epipalaeolithic hunter-gatherers in the Levant / Syria, were forming larger populations and becoming semi-sedentary, by harvesting wild cereals, and good gazelle / onager hunting situation as climate warmed from Late Glacial Maximum, presenting favourable conditions. The Younger Dryas cold event interrupted, and possibly then stimulated changes in the local economies and settlement patterns.

Following the Younger Dryas climatic event, the focus may have shifted further north into Southern and Eastern Anatolia. Again, hunter-gatherers here could crowd together in either permanent or semi permanent (perhaps bands seasonally) 'settlements'. They again, exploited gazelle, onager, pig, aurochs, wild sheep. Anatolia hills were particularly rich and also presented copious wild cereals for foraging. In order to settle, they learned to store foods.

They built 'communal, 'special use' buildings. These have been popularised as the world's first 'temples'. They created courses and cisterns to collect rain-water. They may have even built sewers. Their communal buildings may at first have been built using low stone walls and posts of timber. Later, the stone pillars carved out of the bed rock, then the tall often sculptured T-pillars. They entered these semi-subterranean buildings through the roof. Celebrated many images of wild species of animals. Some animals appeared favoured at different sites such as scorpions or leopards, or foxes. Skulls and horns of animals often set into walls. There is evidence of vast periods of use if not habitation at these sites. Lots of reuse and modification in the communal buildings, over many centuries.

Some of the people lived around these communal buildings in houses that might also be sunken feature, or stone walled and above ground. Roof access into buildings remained a common feature in SW Asia for thousands of years. Round or oval stone walled with corridors, hearths, quern-stones, other domestic artefacts. Some sites appear to be surrounded by large numbers of houses, that if contemporary, could suggest large settlements. Sometimes they buried their dead were buried underneath the houses. Later, their skulls might be collected (ancestor worship?). Death brought out to join the Living. There is evidence at one site of bead production on a large scale, and of working raw copper to make ornamental pieces. There is evidence of pierced earrings and lip rings. Tentative evidence of fabrics and garments. Obsidian imported hundreds of miles. Organised labour to move heavy pillars.

Were the central communal buildings 'temples'? That depends on definitions of what a temple is. Was it to celebrate a religion? Again, the symbols all over them suggest forms of animism, possibly shamanistic totems? Sometimes phallic, a celebration of male virility within Nature? Were they the cities of an incredibly old civilisation? Although clearly they involved large numbers of people to construct, and we have evidence of domestic housing on some sites, many people could have continued to roam seasonally and follow wild herds, but used the sites as centres for special celebrations. The incredible complexity of some buildings may be down to being used and reused over many generations. But yes, I can see that these sites were urbanising., and large numbers of people residing at least seasonally if not permanently around them. That does not make them true cities such as those of early Sumer in what is now southern Iraq.

Göbekli Tepe still provides no evidence of agriculture and maintains its status as built-by-hunter-gatherers. Although large stone vessels found there could be hinting at improved storage of food. This has caused some controversy. It might be prejudice that dictates that such an economy could not have accomplished such feats. We may need to reassess hunter-gatherer societies across the world. They were clearly able to build large monuments and to create such a culture, organising labour to move, sculpt, and to raise large megaliths.

Yet these sites would have provided an ideal situation for a Neolithic Revolution. It seems very likely that it was on sites such as these, that the Anatolian Neolithic arose. Changes in relationship between these people, and a number of both plant and animal species would seem very likely. We know that by the end of this period, that wheats, barley, rye, lentils, pigs, sheep, cattle, goats had entered agriculture. Then we see urban 'townships' like the beehive settlement of Çatalhöyük. Later, the early cities of Eridu and Uruk on the Tigris / Euphrates floodplain.

The ancestors of the Anatolian Neolithic Farmers? They were certainly among them. If so, were the European Neolithic farmers later descendants?

Later Epipaleolithic 

13,500 BCE - 9,800 BCE

Natufian at sites such as Abu Hureyra, Syria and Jericho, Israel, and on the West Bank they hunted gazelle, gathered wild cereals. First evidences of gathering wild grass seeds to grind. They are settling into semi-permanent settlements, until the cold weather interrupts this:

Younger Dryas Climatic Event (COLD)

10,900 BCE - 9,700 BCE

Abu Hureyra I

11,300 BCE- 10,000 BCE

Now in Syria. See Natufian. Sedentary hunter-gatherers. Cultivating rye from about 11,000 BCE? Permanent year round settlement of a few hundred. Small round huts with wooden posts cut into bedrock. Houses subterranean pit dwellings.Climate change of the Younger Dryas impacted, eventually killing off the settlement.


11,000 BCE

SE turkey. Oldest sculptured narrative. The masturbating man being watched by two big cats, while another shakes a snake or rattle at an aurochs bull! On a stone bench.

Boncuklu Tarla

9,900 BCE - 6,000 BCE

SE Anatolia, Turkey. Far to the east of Göbekli Tepe.

Starts in Epipalaeolithic, mainly Pre Pottery Neolithic A/B

Centralised living. 30 houses, 6 public structures. Many beads. During / after Younger Dryas. Many human remains. Beads of raw copper. Central ‘Rectangular temple’ Heads of bulls left inside. 10 m wide = 7 communal buildings.

Bull horns. Limestone blocks. Wall Buttresses. Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Columns like Göbekli Tepe. Probably religious. First Window. 2012. Small city more than village. Early in excavation. East of other sites in Eastern Anatolia. SE Turkey.  Excavations ongoing. Spans Younger Dryas. Occupied until 6,000 BCE. 4000 year long occupation. 100 km from Göbekli Tepe in the east. Discovered 2008. 2012 excavations on. So far 5% / 3 hectares so far investigated! 100,000 beads. Shapes of animals, scorpions, 2000 copper beads / ornaments, scorpions popular. Earrings, lip rings. Earliest Piercings!  7 Communal buildings are subterranean. sunk into the ground, accessed through roofs. Surface houses (domestic) above.

(Buried beneath houses. Couples together in embrace. 3 children together. Remove skulls.) Skulls are used to 7000 BCE in other places. 11,800 year old sewer. 

Evidence textiles (weaving).  130 human burials. T pillars Tunics and skirts depicted at other sites? Garments?

Wadi Faynan (WF16)

10,000 BCE - 8000 BCE

PPN A. This is NOT in Anatolia, but far south in Jordan. Provides evidence that the culture may have spread far into Levant, with several correlations. These people were gathering wild cereals, and hunting wild goats. Semi subterranean buildings again, rising through the ages, becoming above ground above ground by close and PPN B. Includes a 'theatre' or arena. Lots of buzzard or similar raptor bones. Human burials with skulls taken, painted / wrapped, moved. Similar lithic points (El Khaim points) to Anatolia. Middens of wild goat bones. Roofs were made of barley straw conglomerates as tough as concrete. Local working of stone and raw copper. Bones suggest careful selection proto management of wild goats. Decorated stone vessels.


9,900 BCE - 8,000 BCE

Nizip, Turkey. Not large 150 metres dia. 2021 ex. Building. Channel encircling. Steps into. Limestone. Building 10 large oval. Postholes. Wooden before T pillars. Seen as a precursor. Climate change. Trees may have become more scarce. No partitions. One building. Stone AND wood before Göbekli Tepe. No small artefacts. Filled in.  Oval planned stone walls. Thought tent of animal skins above low stone walls. Pit shelters, semi subterranean. 

Karahan Tepe

10,000 BCE - 9500 BCE

Turkey. Excavations: Different constructions to Göbekli Tepe. Carved out of bedrock. Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. 

Permanent settlement? Vantage point like Göbekli Tepe. Different climate. Large cistern? Rainwater collection again. Drainage channels. Serpent on bench. Penis room. Penis shaped pillars out of bedrock. Leopard carvings. Fertility, phallic. Head overlooking penis room.

Water channels everywhere. Dwellings proven. Not just ceremonial. A few graves. 5% only again. Benches. Pillars Leopard print on a human. Leopards are very common here. 

Totem pole sculpture (stone figure. Man with a leopard on his back. Bones of crocodiles, bears. Here or trade? Obsidian tools - from at least 200 miles away. New pillar like Göbekli Tepe as a human but with 8 finger hands. Lots of flint lithics. Biface.


10,000 BCE - 9,500 BCE

Palestine. Natufian Hunter-gatherers settlement.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A

9,800 BCE - 8,800 BCE

Göbekli Tepe

9,500 BCE - 8,000 BCE

SE Anatolia, Turkey. The big site and showcase. Still no evidence of farming, despite lots of mortar stones. Foxes are common here. Totem pole of several humans on stone sculpture. 3 metre high T pillars.Lots flint-work. H patterns. Water-coursing. A cistern. Vast amounts of grinding stones. Shaft straighteners. Beads.

Special Use Buildings subterranean. Also houses and domestic. A lot of material has been used, moved, reused over a very long period. Contrary to early proposals, there is evidence that the site was not purposely filled in as a closing ritual, but was covered through natural inundation. The infills are multi phase and sedentary. This process had long been happening before the site was finally abandoned by 8000 BCE during Pre Pottery Neolithic B:

Pre Pottery Neolithic B

8,800 BCE - 6,500 BCE

Nevalı Çori

8,400 BCE - 8,100 BCE

SE Anatolia, Turkey. Rectangular houses. Pillars built into dry stone walls. A 'cult-complex'


7,500 BCE - 6,400 BCE

Southern Anatolia, Turkey. Famous beehive settlement. Shrines inside houses. Dead buried beneath. Access through roofs. Urban. Dead buried beneath houses. Later skulls taken. Some plastered. Spinning whorls.

Other sites  to be investigated at:

  • Hamzan Tepe
  • Karahan Tepe
  • Sefer Tepe
  • Taşli Tepe
  • Nevalt Çori
  • Kilisik Tepe
  • Urfa
  • Körtik Tepe

And several more!

No aliens, little green men, Atlanteans or Ayran master race encountered in this investigation. Only tremendous respect for the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Anatolians. I will take much more of an interest in them from now on. Pretty sure that we can all count them within our ancestry.