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Biology, pathology, and behaviours during the Gravettian: From skeletal remains to palaeoethnology – GRAVETT'OS

Submission summary

The European Upper Palaeolithic is a pivotal period in the history of humanity. Everything about the period supports the existence of highly complex societies based on profound changes in social relations that were not present in previous periods.
The GRAVETT’OS project aims to better understand these Upper Palaeolithic European populations and, in particular, the key Gravettian period, some 29 to 21,000 years ago, which is characterised by a cultural homogeneity encompassing the entirety of continental Europe that has prompted it to be called ‘the first pan-European culture’.
In France prior to the early years of the 21st century, these Gravettian populations were known only through skeletal material from the Abri Pataud and a few other fragmented and isolated bones found elsewhere. Since that time, reinterpretations of older excavations, new excavations, and new findings have combined to fill this gap in the archaeological record. This is thus a propitious time to study Gravettian human remains from France using innovative research methods at the forefront of palaeoanthropology, virtual archaeology, and conservation science that will promote better appreciation of the cultural heritage value of these remains. As part of this project human remains from four major sites from the Southwest of France, Cro-Magnon (Dordogne), Abri Pataud (Dordogne), Cussac (Dordogne) and Gargas (Hautes-Pyrénées), will be analysed using a standardized protocol.
This study will include innovative research focusing on in situ virtual analysis of fossil remains, the identification of individuals within bone assemblages, and exploration of sexual dimorphism during the Upper Palaeolithic.
The primary aim of the project is to enhance our understanding of the morphological variability of these Upper Palaeolithic populations. Analysis will also permit documentation of the behaviours and the lifestyles of these populations through the study of activity related skeletal morphologies and non-specific indicators of stress. The former reveals the types of physical activities practiced by individuals in the course of their lives, while the latter aids to identify stressful periods experienced in the course of growth and development. Equally, this project will consider funerary aspects associated with these remains, particularly the selection of individuals for inhumation (based on their age-at-death, sex, and pathological conditions, etc.) as well as potential familial relationships between individuals buried at the same site. Finally, morphological characteristics of the these Gravettian individuals from the Southwest of France will be compared with those of other samples dating from the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene to reveal biological affinities among groups that are geographically and chronologically distinct.

Project coordinator

de la Préhistoire à l'Actuel : Culture, Environnements et Anthropologie (Laboratoire public)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


de la Préhistoire à l'Actuel : Culture, Environnements et Anthropologie

Help of the ANR 210,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2015 - 36 Months

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