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Franco-Cantabrian region: Wikis


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The inhabitants of the Franco-Cantabrian region produced some of the finest Paleolithic mural art, as this horse at Lascaux cave

The Franco-Cantabrian region (also Franco-Cantabric region) is a term applied in Archaeology and History to refer to an area that stretches from Asturias, in northern Spain, to Provence in SE France. It includes the southern half of France and the northern strip of Spain looking at the Bay of Biscay (known as Cantabrian Sea in Spanish, hence the name). Northern Catalonia is sometimes included as well.

This region shows intense homogeneity in the prehistorical record and was possibly the most densely populated region of Europe in the Late Paleolithic.



It experienced successively the Chatelperronian, Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian, Azilian and post Azilian geometric cultures, with their respective cultural expressions, noticeably the most famous mural art. Solutrean, Magdalenian and Azilian cultures evolved locally in this area.

Map of the Franco-Cantabrian region, showing the main caves with mural art

Glacial refugium and Late Glacial population expansion

The region may have been a major refugium for Paleolithic peoples during the Last Glacial Maximum, apparently playing a major role as source for the repopulation of Europe after this extremely cold period ended[1].

From an archaeological viewpoint, Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel has argued that there are grounds for considering that the Aquitaine and French-Cantabrian refuge zone, may have been the principal source of Late Glacial re-colonisation[2]. His demographic simulations, based in archaeological data, suggest that it was by large the most densely populated region of Europe through all the Upper Paleolithic.

Dissolution of the regional homogeneity in the Neolithic

The area became culturally divided between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic subareas in the Neolithic period losing its homogeneity as the Eastern part incorporated strongly the Cardium Pottery culture, while the West remained less developed (subneolithic). Basques and Gascons are arguably the direct descendants of the peoples of the Atlantic area, who remained more closed (relatively) to the new tendencies from the Mediterranean and Central Europe.

Main sites

See also


  1. ^ A. Achili et al., The Molecular Dissection of mtDNA Haplogroup H Confirms That the Franco-Cantabrian Glacial Refuge Was a Major Source for the European Gene Pool


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