Magdalenian Culture

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Magdalenian Culture


the most recent Paleolithic culture (15,000-8000 B.C.); it superseded the Solutrean culture and preceded the Azilian culture of the early Mesolithic period. The culture was first recognized by the French archaeologist G. de Mortillet in the late 1860’s and was named after the cave of La Madeleine on the right bank of the Vezere River in the department of Dordogne, France. The culture was widespread in France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the German Democratic Republic and had numerous regional variants. The culture occurred at the same time as the concluding stages of the last Wiirm glaciation.

At the time of the transition to the Magdalenian culture, the Solutrean flint points and the technique of retouching used in the working of flint were disappearing. Various flint gravers, awls, and scrapers predominated. The working of bone became highly developed. Harpoons, spearheads, dart points, spear-throwers, batons de commandement, needles, and other implements made of reindeer antler, of ivory (from mammoths), and of bone became widespread. Engraved representations on antler and bone are typical, as are sculptures from antler, ivory, and bone and monochrome and polychrome drawings on the walls and ceilings of caves. In a later stage of the Magdalenian culture, small geometrically shaped flint tools became widespread, representing a gradual transition to the geometric microliths.

The Magdalenian hunters primarily lived in caves; sometimes they lived in dwellings made of bones and skins. They often led a nomadic existence, pursuing herds of reindeer. The Magdalenian culture dates to a comparatively early stage of the primitive communal system, probably to the era of the matrilineal clan community. The terms “Magdalenian culture” and “Magdalenian epoch” are also used in a broad sense to designate the concluding stage of the development of the Upper Paleolithic culture of the entire European glacial region from France to the Urals. However, the remains that have been found in this region dating from the end of the Upper Paleolithic period, in actuality differ greatly from one another and belong to different cultures.


Efimenko, P. P. Pervobytnoe obshchestvo, 3rd ed. Kiev, 1953.
Bordes, F. Le Paleolithique dans le monde. Paris, 1968.