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The Stone Age

‚ÜĎ before Homo (Pliocene)


Lower Paleolithic
control of fire, stone tools
Middle Paleolithic
Homo neanderthalensis
Homo sapiens
out of Africa
Upper Paleolithic, Late Stone Age
behavioral modernity, atlatl, dog


microliths, bow, canoe


Pre-Pottery Neolithic
farming, animal husbandry, polished stone tools
Pottery Neolithic
metallurgy, horse, wheel
‚Üď Bronze Age
The Solutrean toolkit includes the world's first identifiable needles

The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic.



Solutrean is named after the type-site of Solutr√© in the M√Ęcon district, Sa√īne-et-Loire, eastern France, and appeared around 19,000 BCE. The Solutr√© site was discovered in 1866 by the French geologist and paleontologist Henry Testot-Ferry (second son of Napoleon's famous cavalryman, General Claude Testot-Ferry, Baron of the Empire). It is now preserved as the Parc arch√©ologique et botanique de Solutr√©.

The industry was named by Gabriel de Mortillet to describe the second stage of his system of cave chronology, following the Mousterian, and he considered it synchronous with the third division of the Quaternary period. The era's finds include tools, ornamental beads, and bone pins as well as prehistoric art.

Solutrean tool-making employed techniques not seen before and not rediscovered for millennia. The Solutrean has relatively finely worked, bifacial points made with pressure flaking rather than cruder flint knapping. This method permitted the working of delicate slivers of flint to make light projectiles and even elaborate barbed and tanged arrowheads. Large thin spear-heads; scrapers with edge not on the side but on the end; flint knives and saws, but all still chipped, not ground or polished; long spear-points, with tang and shoulder on one side only, are also characteristic implements of this industry. Bone and antler were used as well.

The Solutrean may be seen as a transitory stage between the flint implements of the Mousterian and the bone implements of the Magdalenian epochs. Faunal finds include horse, reindeer, mammoth, cave lion, rhinoceros, bear and aurochs. Solutrean finds have been also made in the caves of Les Eyzies and Laugerie Haute, and in the Lower Beds of Cresswell Crags in Derbyshire, England. The industry first appeared in modern-day Spain and disappears from the archaeological record around 15,000 BCE.

The Solutrean Hypothesis in North American archaeology

The Solutrean hypothesis claims similarities between the Solutrean industry and the later Clovis culture / Clovis points of North America, and suggests that people with Solutrean tool technology crossed the Ice Age Atlantic by moving along the pack ice edge, using survival skills similar to that of modern Eskimo people. The migrants arrived in northeastern North America and served as the donor culture for what eventually developed into Clovis tool-making technology. Sites such as Cactus Hill, Virginia, have yielded artifacts which appear to bridge the temporal and technological gap between Solutrean and Clovis cultures.

James M. Adovasio found stone blades and cores near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which he dated to 16,000BP[1]. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley concluded that the Clovis point did not derive from any stoneworking tradition from Asia known from the archaeological record. Instead, they traced a line of stone artefact development starting with the points of the Solutrean culture of southern France (19,000BP) to the Cactus Hill points of Virginia (16,000BP) to the Clovis point[2][1]. This would mean that people would have had to move from the Bay of Biscay across the edge of the Atlantic ice sheet to North America. This journey appears to be feasible using traditional Eskimo techniques still in use today, technology which would have been available to the Solutrean people.[1]

In addition, certain mtDNA anomalies in pre-Columbian Amerind populations leave open the possibility of alternate migration patterns into the Americas. Geneticist Douglas Wallace of Emory University, studying the mitochondrial DNA of Native Americans, found an mtDNA type called X. Geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer reports that X occurs 'only among Europeans and Native Americans, with a single report from southern Siberia, but the link between the Old and New Worlds is up to 30,000 years old'[3]. However, the most recent study of complete genomes suggests a single founding population, including type X, arriving via the Beringia route from Asia.[4]

In short, the idea of a Clovis-Solutrean link remains rather controversial and does not enjoy wide acceptance. The hypothesis is challenged by large gaps in time between the Clovis and Solutrean eras, a lack of evidence of Solutrean seafaring, lack of specific Solutrean features in Clovis technology, and other issues.

See also


  1. ^ a b c BBC - Science & Nature - Horizon - Stone Age Columbus
  2. ^ The North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: a possible Palaeolithic route to the New World. Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford. World Archaeology 2004 Vol. 36(4): 459 ‚Äď 478.
  3. ^ Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World, Stephen Oppenheimer, Constable & Robinson, 2003, ISBN 978-184119-894-1
  4. ^ Nelson J.R. Fagundes et al. Mitochondrial Population Genomics Supports a Single Pre-Clovis Origin with a Coastal Route for the Peopling of the Americas in The American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 82 no. 3 (28 Feb 2008), pp583-592

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