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Adaptive Trade-offs Towards the Last Glacial Maximum in North-Western Europe: a Multidisciplinary View from Walou Cave

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Draily, Christelle 
Cordy, Jean-Marie 
Boyle, Katherine 
Buckley, Michael 


Abstract: The impact of deteriorating climatic conditions on variability in the archaeological record towards the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) remains uncertain. Partly as a result of poor-quality data, previous studies on Upper Palaeolithic (UP) societies of North-Western Europe prior to the LGM have focused on techno-typological traditions and diversification to outline the diachronic processes through which assemblage composition changed. This study addresses the adaptive trade-offs brought about by the general climatic downturn towards the LGM in North-Western Europe, by investigating the impact of local climate and habitat characteristics on the behavioural variability that characterises Gravettian technological organisation compared to the previous Aurignacian, based on two assemblages from Walou Cave, Belgium. This site is one of the rare well-stratified sites in North-Western Europe with evidence for multiple occupation events accompanied by a fine-grained palaeoenvironmental record. We use a combination of analytical techniques (AMS, LA-ICP-MS and ZooMS) to evaluate questions about hunter-gatherer adaptations. Faunal remains at Walou Cave mirror the faunal diversity documented at numerous other Aurignacian and Gravettian sites in the broader European context, which is similar between both periods. The overall picture presented here, using multiple lines of evidence, is not entirely clear; nonetheless, the results suggest that Gravettian technologies are unlikely to solely be a product of heightened risk in relation to a significant reshuffling of food resources compared to the previous Aurignacian. Future research of the factors structuring assemblage variability prior to the LGM will have to assess whether Aurignacian and Gravettian technologies indeed offer no relative material advantage over one another, a phenomenon called ‘technological equivalence’.



Article, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Technological organisation, Faunal diversity, Human ecology

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Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology

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Springer International Publishing
H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (654927)
Natural Environment Research Council (NF/2016/2/12)