At the Eve of the Last Glaciation, Mammoth Hunters in Central Europe

Whereas the Aurignacian corresponds to the first unification of Europe after the modern human colonization around 40 ky BP, the Gravettian represents a remarkable stage of social and technological transformation around 30 ky BP. Anatomically, the Gravettian skeletons still conserve a high and robust “tropical” stature and a pronounced sexual dimorphism. Some have recently provided their genomes. Whereas the genetic diversity of pioneering immigrant vawes to Europe around 45-37 ky BP still remains mostly unknown, after this date, genomes of the majority of Gravettian and other contemporary individuals represent several clusters consistent with descending from a single founder population.

Spatially, the European Gravettian occupies a variety of environments, from relatively milder Mediterranean and western Europe to cold and dry open steppes of central and eastern Europe, but always under the instability of interpleniglacial climates. Under the changing conditions, the Gravettian “unity” displais a demographic dynamics and cultural patterning in the individual regions and subregions. The development was not static but occured in conditions of population mobility, probably in relationship to climate differences between south and north of the continent.

As an example, the Pavlovian, culminating around 30 ky BP in central Europe, represents a case supported by anthropological and paleogenetical evidence showing a specific lifestyle as regards site location strategy (formation of open-air mega-sites such as Dolní Věstonice, Pavlov or Předmostí), resource exploitation (orientation on mammoths, small game, birds, fishes vegetational resources), long-distance lithic transport, and symbolism. Distribution of various types of hunter´s  sites in the landscape and formation of extensive mammoth bone deposits nearby may be correlated with the river valley geomorphology and used to address the hotly debated questions of Paleolithic mammoth hunting. In this context, some complex patterns engraved on mammoth tusks (Pavlov, Předmostí) are interpreted as possible „field maps“ related to optimal hunting strategies and planning.

Due to its complexity and central location, the Pavlovian system evidently was more sensitive to impact of the LGM climatic change than other Gravettian groups elsewhere in Europe.