Monday, October 30, 2006

New paper on Paglicci's EUP levels

The latest L'anthropologie is dedicated to the Upper Paleolithic and contains a paper by A. Palma di Cesnola (U of Siena) on the proto-Aurignacian and early Gravettian layers (24-22) of Grotta Paglicci, on the Gargano Promontory in Apulia, Italy. The site is important for a number of reasons, including the fact that it contains the earliest Aurignacian assemblage in southern Italy (ca. 34,000 BP, uncalibrated). This paper is a summary (in French, with an abstract and figure captions in English) of a the results of the excavations at Paglicci by the Prehistoric Ecology Section of the University of Siena in the 80's and 90's, recently published as a full-length monograph in Italian (Palma di Cesnola 2003a).

Palma di Cesnola (2006) provides a largely typological description of the lithic industries from levels 24-22 along with summary description of their chronological, sedimentary and zooarchaeological records. This is done using G. Laplace's analytical typology. There is unfortunately little information about the debitage or cores of those series, or about the raw materials exploited for their manufacture, although it seems fair to assume, on the basis of information provided in the monograph (i.e., Palma di Cesnola 2003b) that the only exploited lithotype comes from outcrops located about 30 km away from the site. Overall, the Aurignacian levels appear relatively poor in retouched tools compared to the abundant assemblages from the early Gravettian, although it bears emphasizing that those levels appear to have so far only been excavated over an area of about 7-8 square meters (Boscato 2003: Figure 4).

Of interest in the paper is the description of the Paglicci-type (or "PA 24 A1"-type) retouched bladelet that characterizes the backed bladelets of the top of the proto-Aurignacian sequence at Paglicci, while the base of the sequence is characterized by more classic Dufour types. This is interesting because Palma di Cesnola attributes the development of this new bladelet type to the result of proto-Aurignacian (or more precisely what he terms the "marginally backed bladelet Aurignacian") groups who originally made Dufour bladelets settling in "peculiar" contexts in meridional Italy where "under conditions of relative isolation, they would have created specialized and completely new tools" (2006: 366). He sees the Castelcivita sequence (Gambassini 1997) corroborating such an interpretation since at that site too, a Dufour level is overlain by a proto-Aurignacian level characterized by a distinct bladelet type, in that case the "Castelcivita bladelet," which has also been identified at the comparatively recent open-air Aurignacian site of Serino (Accorsi et al. 1979).

Palma di Cesnola also describes Paglicci's rich early Gravettian industries that date back to about 28,000 BP (uncalibrated) and he subsequently presents an overview of the earliest Gravettian in Italy, mentioning that unpublished dates now show the Gravettian to have been present in the Veneto about 30-31,000 BP uncalibrated (Palma di Cesnola 2006: 368). These data suggest that the issue of the origins and diffusion of the Gravettian in Italy will be an interesting topic to keep track of , and that some previous ideas about these processes might well have to be rethought in the coming years.

Overall, the paper's a good summary of those important assemblages, though it's a pity that information on the debitage and cores is missing. For anyone wanting to get an in-depth perspective on those assemblages, I highly recommend consulting the edited site report which comprises detailed analyses of pretty much all aspects of the archaeological record of layers 24-22 (Palma di Cesnola 2003a).


Accorsi, C., E. Aiello, C. Bartolini, L. Casteletti, G. Rodolfi, and A. Ronchitelli. 1979. Il Giacimento di Serino (Avellino): Stratigrafia, Ambienti, e Paletnologia. Atti della Società Toscana di Scienze Naturali A 86:435-487.

Boscato, P. 2003. I macromammiferi dell'Aurignaziano e del Gravettiano antico di Grotta Paglicci. In Paglicci. LÂ’Aurignaziano e il Gravettiano antico (A. Palma di Cesnola, ed.), pp. 49-62. Claudio Grenzi Editore, Foggia, Italy.

Gambassini, P. (editor). 1997. Il Paleolitico di Castelcivita, culture e ambiente. Materiae no.5. Electa, Naples.

Palma di Cesnola, A. (editor). 2003a. Paglicci. L'Aurignaziano e il Gravettiano antico. Claudio Grenzi Editore, Foggia, Italy.

Palma di Cesnola, A. 2003b. Il sito. In Paglicci. LÂ’Aurignaziano e il Gravettiano antico (A. Palma di Cesnola, ed.), pp. 13-14. Claudio Grenzi Editore, Foggia, Italy.

Palma di Cesnola, A. 2003c. LÂ’Aurignaziano dello strato 24. In Paglicci. LÂ’Aurignaziano e il Gravettiano antico (A. Palma di Cesnola, ed.), pp. 111-138. Claudio Grenzi Editore, Foggia, Italy.

Palma di Cesnola, A. 2006. LÂ’Aurignacien et le Gravettien ancien
de la grotte Paglicci au Mont Gargano. L’anthropologie 110: 355–370.

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