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Two Gravette points, a tool characteristic of the Gravettian
Geographical range Europe
Period Upper Paleolithic
Dates 33,000[1] to 17,000 BP (most inclusive)[a]
Type site La Gravette
Major sites Dordogne
Preceded by Aurignacian
Followed by Solutrean, Epigravettian
Defined by Dorothy Garrod, 1938[3]
The Paleolithic
Pliocene (before Homo)
Lower Paleolithic
(c. 3.3 Ma – 300 ka)
Middle Paleolithic
(300–45 ka)
Upper Paleolithic
(50–10 ka)
Stone Age
A replica of the Gravettian Venus of Lespugue. The Gravettians produced a large number of Venus figurines.
Gravettian burin

The Gravettian was an archaeological industry of the European Upper Paleolithic that succeeded the Aurignacian c. 33,000 BP.[1][4]

It is archaeologically the last European culture many consider unified,[5] and had mostly disappeared by c. 22,000 BP, close to the Last Glacial Maximum, although some elements lasted longer, until c. 17,000 BP.[2]

At this point, it was replaced abruptly by the Solutrean in France and Spain, and developed into or continued as the Epigravettian in Italy, the Balkans, Ukraine,[6] and Russia.[7]

The origins of the Gravettian people are not clear; they seem to appear simultaneously all over Europe.[8] To a greater extent than their Aurignacian predecessors, they are known for their Venus figurines.

The culture was first identified at the site of La Gravette in Southwestern France.


One typical artefact of the industry, once considered diagnostic, is a small pointed blade with a straight blunt back, known as the Gravette point. These were used to hunt big game including bison, horse, reindeer and mammoth. Gravettians also used nets to hunt small game.

Regional variants

Archaeologists usually describe two regional variants: the western Gravettian, known mainly from cave sites in France, Spain and Britain, and the eastern Gravettian in Central Europe and Russia. The eastern Gravettians, which include the Pavlovian culture, were specialized mammoth hunters, whose remains are usually found not in caves but in open air sites.

In modern literature

The Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures are featured in Earth's Children, a series of novels set in prehistory. In this piece of fiction, the Venus figurines play a particularly important role at the center of a fertility rite.

See also

Preceded by
33,000–24,000 cal BP
Succeeded by


  1. ^ This is with the most inclusive definition, based on anything that may be considered Gravettian (burials, venus statues, lithics)[2]


  1. ^ a b Jacobi, R.M.; Higham, T.F.G.; Haesaerts, P.; Jadin, I.; Basell, L.S. (2015). "Radiocarbon chronology for the Early Gravettian of northern Europe: New AMS determinations for Maisières-Canal, Belgium". Antiquity. 84 (323): 26–40. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00099749. 
  2. ^ a b Pesesse, Damien (2013). "Le Gravettien existe-t-il? Le prisme du système technique lithique" [Does the Gravettian exist? The prism of the lithic technical system]. In Marcel Otte. Les Gravettiens. Civilisations et cultures (in French). Paris: Éditions errance. pp. 66–104. ISBN 978-2877725095. D'ailleurs selon les auteurs et les thèmes abordés, la définition et donc les contours du Gravettien varient, parfois considérablement. Tantôt certains ensembles de la plaine russe seront intégrés sur la base des témoignages funéraires, tantôt les statuettes féminines serviront d'argument pour annexer les rives du lac Baïkal à cette supra-entité. De même, le Gravettien débuterait vers 31,000 BP ou 27,000 BP selon les régions pour finir parfois à 22,000 BP, parfois à 17,000 BP. Ce ne sont pas là de menues différences. [Besides, depending on the authors and the subjects at hand, the definition and therefore the borders of the Gravettian vary, sometimes considerably. Sometimes, certain assemblages of the Russian plains are integrated on the basis of funerary customs, other times feminine statuettes are used to annex the shores of Lake Baikal to this supra-entity. Likewise, the Gravettian would start around 31,000 or 27,000 BP depending on the regions and finish sometimes at 22,000 BP, sometimes at 17,000 BP. These are not small differences.] 
  3. ^ Garrod, D. A. E. (2014). "The Upper Palaeolithic in the Light of Recent Discovery". Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 4 (1): 1–26. doi:10.1017/S0079497X00021113. 
  4. ^ Pike, A. W. G.; Hoffmann, D. L.; Garcia-Diez, M.; Pettitt, P. B.; Alcolea, J.; De Balbin, R.; Gonzalez-Sainz, C.; De Las Heras, C.; Lasheras, J. A.; Montes, R.; Zilhao, J. (2012). "U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain". Science. 336 (6087): 1409–13. Bibcode:2012Sci...336.1409P. doi:10.1126/science.1219957. PMID 22700921. 
  5. ^ Noiret, Pierre (2013). "De quoi Gravettien est-il le nom?" [Gravettian is the name of what?]. In Marcel Otte. Les Gravettiens. Civilisations et cultures (in French). Paris: Éditions errance. pp. 28–64. ISBN 978-2877725095. 
  6. ^ Marquer, L.; Lebreton, V.; Otto, T.; Valladas, H.; Haesaerts, P.; Messager, E.; Nuzhnyi, D.; Péan, S. (2012). "Charcoal scarcity in Epigravettian settlements with mammoth bone dwellings: The taphonomic evidence from Mezhyrich (Ukraine)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 39 (1): 109–20. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.09.008. 
  7. ^ Germonpré, Mietje; Sablin, Mikhail; Khlopachev, Gennady Adolfovich; Grigorieva, Galina Vasilievna (2008). "Possible evidence of mammoth hunting during the Epigravettian at Yudinovo, Russian Plain". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 27 (4): 475–92. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2008.07.003. 
  8. ^ F. Djindjian; J. Koslowski; M. Otte (1999). Le Paléolithique supérieur en Europe (in French). Paris: Armand Colin. p. 205. ISBN 978-2200251079. 

External links

  • Picture Gallery of the Paleolithic (reconstructional palaeoethnology), Libor Balák at the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research
  • Cave sites in France
  • 20,000-year-old Gravettian stone pendant found in Piatra Neamţ, Romania
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