Recent additions, changes and updates to Don's Maps
All is well with me. After a trip to Europe in 2018 I have tens of thousands of photographs and much text to research, make ready for publication, and upload, as well as new discoveries as they become available.
Photo: Me in Paris, on top of the Mus√©e de l'Homme.
The Makapansgat pebble, or the pebble of many faces, is a 260-gram jasperite cobble with natural chipping and wear patterns that make it look like a crude rendition of a human face. The pebble is interesting in that it was found some distance from any possible natural source, in the context of Australopithecus africanus remains in South Africa.
An addition has been made showing the origin of the term 'pebble of many faces' noted by Dart in 1974. My thanks to Ralph Frenken for bringing this to my attention.
Last updated Sunday 13 October 2019
Qesem is a pre-Mousterian cave in Israel which was found in October 2000 when road construction destroyed its ceiling. This led to two rescue excavations in 2001. At present the site is protected, covered, and fenced, and subject to on-going excavations. The inhabitants stored the long bones of their kill for up to eight weeks, in order to be able to later consume the bone marrow preserved in it.
Last updated Sunday 13 October 2019
The Venus of ObŇāazowa, from the Nowy Targ district in Poland, is a Lalinde/G√∂nnersdorf figurine. These are strictly stylised and considered as evident female forms, with over-sized buttocks, long trunks, small or missing breasts, and no heads. This small stylised plaquette is 53 mm long, 32 mm wide and 7 mm thick. It was made of a flat pebble of flysch sandstone.
Last updated Monday 07 October 2019
The complete alphabetical list of venus figures has been completely reorganised, with the important addition of where the original venus is now held, and its catalog number where this is known. My thanks to Lana Thurman for suggesting this improvement.
Last updated Monday 07 October 2019
The Venus of Frasassi was carved from a piece of stalactite in the Upper Paleolithic, between 28 thousand and 20 thousand years ago. Its colour is pearl white.The face is barely shown. Breasts are large, and placed high on the chest. A navel is shown on the full abdomen, and the vulva is clearly shown in relief. Better photographs and more text have been added. My thanks to Ralph Frenken for access to an important paper on the venus.
Last updated Wednesday 02 October 2019
Castel-Merle, Vallon des Roches. The Vallon des Roches has a unique geological formation. It consists of high parallel cliffs closer than 100 metres across the little valley and comprising six shelters spread over 400 metres, giving one of the highest concentrations of prehistoric settlements of Aquitaine, from Neanderthals to the Magdalenian. The overhanging parts of these shelters have collapsed, mainly towards the end of the last glaciation, and thus ensured very good protection for the archaeological layers. More photos and text have been added.
Last updated Wednesday 25 September 2019
La Grotte de Marsoulas, near Salies (Haute-Garonne), is formed by layers of limestone raised vertically against other layers which then buttress each other. It is the result of a fault. The cave has been explored thoroughly, and has revealed paintings and engravings of bison and horses on the walls, as well as artefacts from the ice age, and a huge Triton bailer shell from the sea 300 km away. My thanks to Ralph Frenken for his photographs of the restored main panel. Photos and text from other sources have also been added.
Last updated Tuesday 24 September 2019
This is an overview of all the hominin species (ancestors of humans), apart from Homo sapiens, collected together in one place, arranged in approximate age. It is meant to be a short introduction to each of these hominins, in order, to give the reader the overall picture of the evolution of hominins.
Last updated Wednesday 18 September 2019
The walls of Pech Merle Cave are painted with dramatic murals dating from the Gravettian culture (25 000 BP). The walls of seven of the chambers at Pech Merle have fresh, lifelike images of a woolly mammoth, spotted horses, bovids, reindeer, handprints, and some human figures. Footprints of children, preserved in what was once clay, have been found more than a kilometre underground. More photographs and text have been added, my thanks to Ralph Frenken.
Last updated Sunday 08 September 2019
A number of world-wide famous caves, such as the Geissenkl√∂sterle, Brillenh√∂hle, Grosse Grotte, Sirgenstein and Hohle Fels cave, can be reached from Blaubeuren on a signed hiking path. I visited the area in the summer of 2018, and have added many photographs and a lot of extra text.
Last updated Monday 02 September 2019
Kapova Cave is a famous Russian Palaeolithic cave. It has painted mammoths, rhinos, horses and a bison on its walls. Alexey Solodey and his colleagues have now discovered a new complex of images, which are engraved on the ceiling of the low passage right before the Hall of Kupol, the first decorated hall of the ground floor of the cave. Most of the images were made with bare fingers in the soft substratum on the ceiling, with artistically used natural forms of the relief of the rock ‚Äď natural or corrected by humans.
Last updated Friday 23 August 2019
Petersfels is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe with an enormous number of important artefacts. It was a settlement towards the end of the last ice age, during the period 15 500-14 000 BP. The main activity here was reindeer hunting in autumn. The page has been reorganised, and many more photos and much text has been added from my visit to the site in 2018.
Last updated Saturday 17 August 2019
Burial mounds in the Rossosh area, south of the major city of Voronezh in Russia, have yielded evidence of several bronze age cultures including the pit-grave culture, the catacomb-grave culture, the Srubnaya culture, and the Sarmatian culture.
Last updated Thursday 06 June 2019
Kostenki is a very important Paleolithic site on the Don River in the Ukraine. It was a settlement which contained venus figures, dwellings made of mammoth bones, and many flint tools and bone implements. More photos and text to do with Kostenki 21 have been added.
Last updated Sunday 30 June 2019
Lascaux Cave is famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The paintings are estimated to be 17 300 years old. They primarily consist of images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948. Rooms in the cave include The Hall of the Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber of Felines. A better map of the cave has been added.
Last updated Wednesday 09 October 2019
Gudenush√∂hle (Gudenus cave) is a very important Neanderthal site situated 20 km northwest of the city of Krems. The site is close to the River Danube. The cave is 22 m long with a width of 2 to 3 m. The archaeological deposit has yielded bones of numerous animals, including Woolly mammoth, Woolly rhinoceros, Aurochs, Chamois, Reindeer, and Red deer. Human artefacts include numerous flint implements beginning with the Mousterian (i.e. Neanderthals) of the Middle Palaeolithic, although there is no certainty as to the dating. There is also an Upper Palaeolithic, Magdalenian, assemblage including an engraved reindeer bone, and a fragment of a bone flute dated to about 18 000 ‚Äď 12 000 BP.
Last updated Sunday 26 May 2019
Life along the River Don from the recent past. Stories from Dmitry Nikonorovich, born in 1927. These are an invaluable historical record of the life of a man who lived through the 1941 invasion of Russia by the Germans, and went on to a very successful life. I have updated the story about one of his escapades while a young man in the village where he grew up on the Russian steppe. Dmitry Nikonorovich served in the Russian army and navy for 12 years, and has many stories to tell of that time.
Last updated Saturday 18 May 2019
Of all the ancient peoples that have been studied by scientists, none has set puzzles quite so profound as those left behind by the Denisovans. Up to 6% of the genes now found in modern New Guineans and 3-5% of the DNA of aboriginal Australians is made up of Denisovan DNA, scientists have discovered. The gene that allows Tibetan people to survive high altitudes is also believed to have been inherited from them. In important news, half of a lower jaw has been found in Tibet. This 160 000 year old fossil, comprising a powerful jaw and unusually large teeth, suggests these early relatives would have looked something like the earliest Neanderthals. The discovery also shows that Denisovans lived at extremely high altitude and, through interbreeding, may have passed on gene adaptations for this lifestyle to modern-day Sherpas in the region.
Last updated Thursday 26 September 2019
In 1891, when excavations for a sewerage system were taking place in Brno, Czech Republic, the skeleton of an old adult male was found covered by a mammoth scapula, in ochre stained sediment within the sandy deposits of a river terrace. Included in the grave were a now famous marionette made of mammoth ivory, as well as other grave goods, including a broken drum stick, rondelles shaped like vulvas, and more than 600 Dentalium fossil sea shells. He is believed to be a shaman, who overcame pain from congenital bone inflammation to become an important member of society.
Last updated Tuesday 23 April 2019
The complex of Gravettian stations near Milovice lies in a side valley without a view of the Dyje (Thaya) River, aside from the main settlement area, below P√°lava. The stations are part of the complex including Pavlov and Doln√≠ Vńõstonice. The site is notable for the huge amount of accumulated bones of mammoths for which the valley provided extremely suitable conditions for hunting.
Last updated Tuesday 23 April 2019
The original Neanderthal skeleton found in 1856 in the Neander Valley in Germany consisted of a skull cap, two femora, three bones from the right arm, two from the left arm, part of the left ilium, fragments of a scapula, and ribs. The workers who recovered this material originally thought it to be the remains of a bear. This discovery is now considered the beginning of paleoanthropology. These and other discoveries led to the idea these remains were from ancient Europeans who had played an important role in modern human origins. More photographs and text have been added.
Last updated Sunday 14 April 2019
The Naracoorte Caves are in an area of limestone in which ground water has dissolved some of the limestone, creating the caves. Holes in the roof opened up creating traps for the unwary. Mammals and other land creatures, including the Tasmanian Tiger have fallen into the sink holes and have become fossilised. Images of the Tasmanian Tiger by Ralph Frenken have been added.
Last updated Thursday 04 April 2019
The open-air site of G√∂nnersdorf was discovered in 1968, during the construction of a cellar for a private house. After digging through the pumice, bones and stone slabs appeared and it became clear that it was a location of the late ice age. A wonderful inventory of ice age life was unearthed: pulverised red hematite, a fireplace, evidence of habitation constructions, a lithic industry, statuettes of ivory and antler, engraved slate plaquettes, jet beads, perforated animal teeth and a well preserved faunal record. More photographs have been added.
Last updated Thursday 26 September 2019
In 1914 stone quarry workers in Bonn-Oberkassel discovered two human skeletons, bones from a dog, and two works of art made of bones and antlers. The combination of a double burial for humans and art and one of the oldest domestic dogs in the world, unique in Central Europe of around 14 000 years ago, makes this ensemble of findings one of the most important sources for the late Ice Age. More photographs have been added.
Last updated Sunday 03 March 2019
Ice Age Hunters become farmers: Schleswig-Holstein on the way to the Neolithic. The Schleswig-Holstein region has a long history of settlement, from neanderthal times to the present day. The period from that of the reindeer hunters, who advanced into the area after the ice started to retreat after 20 000 BP, through to the end of the Mesolithic, was particularly interesting.
Last updated Monday 17 June 2019
The earliest evidence of human life in Schleswig-Holstein occurred 120 000 years ago. At Drelsdorf in the district of Nordfriesland, the stone tools of a group of Neanderthals, who camped here 120 000 years ago, were discovered. In the subsequent ice age, the site was located in front of the ice sheet edge. The extremely cold climatic conditions have changed the surface of the artefacts in a characteristic way, giving them a patina they would not otherwise have.
Last updated Thursday 23 May 2019
The Cycladic culture flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from circa 3 300 - 1 100 BC. Cycladic art comprises one of the three main branches of Aegean art. The best known type of artwork that has survived is the marble figurine, most commonly a single full-length female figure with arms folded across the front. Apart from a sharply-defined nose, the faces are a smooth blank, although there is evidence on some that they were originally painted. More photos and text from the Louvre have been added.
Last updated Thursday 17 January 2019
La Gravette, the type site for the Gravettian - The Gravettian toolmaking culture is named after the type site of La Gravette in the Dordogne region of France where its characteristic tools were first found and studied. It dates from between 28 000 and 22 000 years ago. Artistic achievements of the Gravettian cultural stage include the hundreds of Venus figurines, which are widely distributed in Europe. More photos have been added.
Last updated Saturday 08 December 2018
The Ch√Ętelperronian is a proposed industry of the Upper Palaeolithic, the existence of which is debated. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des F√©es, in Ch√Ętelperron, Allier, France. It is preceded by the Mousterian industry, and lasted from circa 45 000 to circa 40 000 BP. The industry produced denticulate stone tools and also a distinctive flint knife with a single cutting edge and a blunt, curved back. It is followed by the Aurignacian industry. Scholars who question its existence claim that it is an archaeological mix of Mousterian and Aurignacian layers.
Last updated Saturday 05 October 2019
Other Mousterian (Neanderthal) Sites, including la Roche-Cotard, Biache-Saint-Vaast, Grotte de loup, Les Pradelles/Marillac, Gorham's Cave, Arcy-sur-Cure, Grotte du Lazaret, and Molodova. More images from Biache-Saint-Vaast have been added.
Last updated Saturday 05 October 2019
There have been many musical instruments found from the Palaeolithic, including from Neanderthals. This page shows some of them. Recently included is this Neanderthal flute on display at the Museum Ljubljana, photographed by Ralph Frenken.
Last updated Sunday 21 July 2019
The Bohunician is an Initial Upper Palaeolithic culture, incorporating elements of the Mousterian with the lower Aurignacian. The term 'Bohunician' is derived from the word Bohunice, the name of a suburb in the western part of the city of Brno, where this specific industry was first investigated. The stone tools often were produced from Levallois blade cores with hard-hammer percussion and include many forms considered typical of Upper Paleolithic industries associated with modern humans (that is, end scrapers and simple burins), as well as Levallois points and side scrapers. Some assemblages also contain bifacial leaf-shaped points (more common in the northern sites).
Last updated Monday 15 April 2019
The Mousterian of Eastern Europe - Mousterian hand axes were found at Kadova u Mor, Krumlov, Urńćic u Prostńõjov and Lubn√° u KromńõŇô√≠Ňĺe in the Czech Republic, and KŇĮlna Cave in the Moravian Karst is an important site. The full range of Mousterian tools are found in this area, including tools with notches and teeth, of the type known as the Denticulate Mousterian.
Last updated Friday 23 November 2018
The Szeletian culture is an outgrowth of the Mousterian, similar to the Ch√Ętelperronian, an industry with elements of both the Mousterian and the Aurignacian. The Szeletian culture was widespread in what is now Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and southwestern Poland, and its influence can also be seen at a number of places in Romania and Bulgaria. Named after the Szeleta cave in the B√ľkk mountain massif in northern Hungary, the Szeletian culture developed mainly from the local Mousterian culture and for a time was contemporaneous with the Aurignacian culture. It was succeeded by the Gravettian cultures. The Szeletian culture is characterized by leaf-shaped, bifacially flaked flint spearheads, Mousterian side-scrapers, and vestiges of the Levalloisian flaking technique.
Last updated Tuesday 20 November 2018
Pekarna Cave, Moravia, Czech Republic is famous for its stylised venus figure in the G√∂nnersdorf tradition, as well as several other engravings and art works. More photographs of the cave, art works, and text have been added.
Last updated Friday 19 April 2019
Homo Habilis lived between 2.1 and 1.5 million years ago. The type specimen is OH 7, discovered in 1960 at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, associated with the Oldowan lithic industry. Homo Habilis is the least similar to modern humans of all species in the genus Homo. More photographs and text from the Brno Anthropos Museum in the Czech Republic have been added.
Last updated Friday 13 September 2019
La Ferrassie rock shelter yielded skeletons from eight Neanderthal individuals, including adults, children, infants, and two fetuses. Today the skeleton of La Ferrassie 1 is considered the classic example of Neanderthal anatomy. More photographs of bone and flint tools and accompanying text have been added.
Last updated Sunday 11 November 2018
La Madeleine is a rock shelter located in the V√©z√®re valley, in the Dordogne, France. In 1926 the skeleton of a three year old child was discovered, with exquisite shell jewellery, dating from the end of the Magdalenian period. It is a treasure house of art and knowledge about the people of the Magdalenian. Much of this art is on display at the Mus√©e National de Pr√©histoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. Extra images and text have been added.
Last updated Sunday 14 April 2019
Les Grottes d'Isturitz et d'Oxocelhaya- The Caves of Isturitz and Oxocelhaya date back to the Mousterian, about 80 000 BC, and there is evidence of Neanderthals living there, but occupation extended to almost the end of the ice age in 10 000 BC. It is in the Atlantic Pyrennees region. Better images and more text have been added.
Last updated Thursday 01 November 2018
La Salle Piette contains a fabulous collection of prehistoric artefacts, tools and weapons discovered in the 19th century by √Čdouard Piette during excavations in the Pyrenees. Many masterpieces are exhibited, including several famous 'venus' figures. The set design is unchanged since the 19th century at the express request of Edward Piette who bequeathed his collection to the state on conditions defined by him, and unchanging over time. More photos and text have been added.
Last updated Monday 09 September 2019
The Acheulian is named after the eponymous site of Saint Acheul. There are a series of sites in the lower Somme valley of Pleistocene deposits containing the distinctive large hand axes of the period. These artefacts were in terraces which resulted from alternating cycles of stream deposition and down-cutting allied to changes in climate and sea level that accompanied the alternating glacial and interglacial stages of Pleistocene times. I have added a more detailed map, and redone most of the images with higher resolution examples.
Pasiega Cave in Spain was of mostly academic interest until the discovery that some of the art in the cave was put there by Neandertals. This is a revolution in our understanding of the Neandertals. Here is the background to that discovery, with many drawings of the art of the cave from the old master himself, Breuil.
It is sometimes forgotten that Britain has had a long history of hominin occupation, reaching back to possibly one million years BP or earlier.
This page shows a few of these Mousterian and pre-Mousterian tools and sites from Britain.
The Abri Pataud rock shelter was occupied by Cro Magnon man ( Homo sapiens sapiens ) for a period of 15 000 years, from 35 000 BP to 20 000 BP, which corresponds to the recent W√ľrm period, and the cultures of the Aurignacian, Gravettian and Solutrian. More photographs have been added to the page.
La Grotte Vaufrey is one of 22 caves and rock shelters known to dot the limestone cliff on the east side of the C√©ou River just south of its junction with the Dordogne River in Southwestern France. Excavated under the direction of Jean-Philippe Rigaud between 1969 and 1982, this site proved to contain a remarkable sequence of Acheulean and Mousterian occupations distributed across 12 major depositional units, couches I - XII.
The Salisbury axe quarry is in the Armidale/Uralla area of northern NSW Australia, and consists of an outcrop of vitrified (welded) tuff which has been used as a quarry for the blanks for ground axe heads by the local indigenous population for ten thousand years, since the end of the last ice age. The method of quarrying was thermal shock using fire to spall off large blanks which were subsequently worked into rough axe heads by knapping techniques, and then ground to a final shape and edge.
The Sungir - Sunghir site near Moscow - About 24 000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried their dead - including two boys with physical conditions - using the utmost care. The roughly 10 and 12 year-old boys were buried head to head in a long, slender grave filled with riches, including more than 10 000 mammoth ivory beads, more than 20 armbands, about 300 pierced fox teeth, 16 ivory mammoth spears, carved artwork, deer antlers and two human fibulas laid across the boys' chests, the researchers said.
When Neandertals were first described on the basis of skeletons found in the Neander Valley in Germany, they were presented as not quite human. Steadily, evidence has grown that Neandertals had most of the cultural abilities of anatomically modern humans. What has been missing up until now is evidence of their artistic ability, in particular art on the walls of caves, such as is much in evidence for anatomically modern humans, such as those from the Magdalenian. Finally this lack has been rectified, with discoveries of Neandertal paintings in three separate caves in Spain.
Three small ivory fragments from Breitenbach, which are only between 14 mm and 18 mm in size seem to be very inconspicuous at first glance, but have been carefully worked and polished on the surface, and can be fitted effortlessly into completely preserved figures such as those known from the 'Hohle Fels' in the Swabian Alb. Breitenbach represents one of the northernmost sites of the Aurignacian.
The Gorge d'Enfer is on the right bank of the V√©z√®re River near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, and contains L'Abri Poisson. The shelter was discovered in 1892 by Paul Girod, and dates from the Aurignacian. In 1912 Jean Marsan identified the fish carved in the ceiling of a small abri that made the site famous. More photos, in particular of the Grand Abri, have been added.
The Le Piage deposit is part of a set of caves and shelters opening at the base of a cliff 8 km from the Dordogne valley, just north of Gourdon. One of the richest collections in the world of artefacts from the Protoaurignacian has been excavated there.
The site of Combe Sauni√®re consists of an ensemble of caves, the principal one containing a long sequence of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic deposits. The cave is situated in an open environment with small valleys and a few low cliffs with habitable caves dispersed along the river edges. The Solutrean levels are dated to approximately 19 000 BP. The oldest known propulseur or spear thrower, dating from the upper Solutrean, was discovered in layer 4 of Combe-Sauni√®re.
l'abri Villepin lies just downstream of the important site of l'abri de la Madeleine, itself just downstream of the Medieval village of La Madeleine. L'abri Villepin serves as the reference site for the definition of the end of the Magdalenian, and includes both Magdalenian and Azilian deposits and artefacts, including double barbed harpoon heads, double bevelled spear points, and works of art engraved on pebbles.
The small Grotte de la For√™t lies between Moustier and Tursac. It is at the junction of the valley of Fontpeyrine and the V√©z√®re, between the cliffs of Reignac upstream and Lespinasse downstream. It houses a magnificently engraved reindeer, with its head erect, the antlers thrown backwards, the limbs in vertical extension. Details abound: eye underlined with a curved line, lower lip slightly turned down, nostrils, punctuated flank, as well as an abundant mane shown by parallel streaks, attributes of a male subject.
Avdeevo - Venus figures and other finds from this important archaeological site. Two large venus figures made of mammoth metapodia have been added. The Avdeevo venus figures are quite variable, but most depict mature women in various stages of the reproductive cycle.
Coptic textiles, whose production began in the third and fourth centuries AD in Egypt, were hand woven with unbleached linen warps and dyed wool wefts and frequently featured woollen tapestry decoration. Men's garments were done in sedate colours with monochrome interlace motifs while women favoured floral and figural decorations.
Baguettes demi-rondes are a two-part composite projectile point technology usually manufactured from antler. This method of point construction allowed the Magdalenian toolmaker to construct a projectile point of much larger proportions, with high stiffness and strength, than the physical constraints imposed by the raw material usually allowed.
There are a lot of things to learn about photography in museums, the problems are like no other area of photography. Here I try to explain the basics, and the pitfalls involved, and give an indication of what I think is an ideal camera for the situation.
The Solutrean takes its name from the Crôt du Charnier site in Solutr√©-Pouilly, in Saône-et-Loire. During all the upper Paleolithic, Solutr√© was a site which specialised in the hunting of horses, where prehistoric men returned periodically. It does not include living areas occupied for long periods, but there are specialised areas of activity, especially the processing of game after the hunt. Some tools - pointes à face plane, laurel leaves, shouldered points - were made by a sophisticated retouch that was obtained by a new technique called pressure flaking, on flint which had been heat treated to make it much more workable.
Spy Cave is the site of an important discovery of Neanderthal remains, in particular the skeleton of Spy 2, a young male. They are the youngest Neanderthal remains in Europe, at around 40 000 BP. Almost 12 000 faunal remains of the Pleistocene were discovered in the cave, including mammoth, horse, cave hyena, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer, and cave bear bones.
Heidenschmiede - below the castle in Heidenheim, the rock face 35 metres above the valley floor forms a small overhang just large enough to create an 8 square metre abri, or rock shelter. In spite of its small size, this rock shelter was a place our ancestors went to time and again. This may have been because of the splendid view across the wide, open valley of the Brenz River, which provided an excellent hunting ground.
Many more tools, from those manufactured millions of years ago to those manufactured towards the end of the ice ages, have been added, as a result of my trip to the major museums of Europe in 2015. There are many more still to be added as time permits.
A venus figure carved in mammoth ivory, from circa 23 000 BP, has been discovered at the East Gravettian Khotylevo 2 site by Dr Konstantin N. Gavrilov, from the Institute of Archaeology, RAS. The Upper Paleolithic site of Khotylevo 2 is situated 400 km SSW of Moscow and 25 km NW of Bryansk.
In a stunning discovery, a team of archaeologists in Australia has found extensive remains of a sophisticated human community living 50 000 years ago in Warratyi Rock Shelter. Packed with a range of tools, decorative pigments, and animal bones, the shelter is a wide, roomy space located in the Flinders Ranges, which are the ancestral lands of the Adnyamathanha. The find overturns previous hypotheses of how humans colonised Australia, and it also proves that they interacted with now-extinct megafauna that ranged across the continent.