An Early Aurignacian or Proto-Aurignacian stage is dated between about 43,000 and 37,000 years ago. The Aurignacian proper lasts from about 37,000 to 33,000 years ago. A Late Aurignacian phase transitional with the Gravettian dates to about 33,000 to 26,000 years ago.
The type site is the Cave of Aurignac, Haute-Garonne, south-west France. The main preceding period is the Mousterian of the Neanderthals.
A "Levantine Aurignacian" culture is known from the Levant, with a type of blade technology very similar to the European Aurignacian, following chronologically the Emiran and Early Ahmarian in the same area of the Near East, and also closely related to them. The Levantine Aurignacian may have preceded European Aurignacian, but there is a possibility that the Levantine Aurignacian was rather the result of reverse influence from the European Aurignacian: this remains unsettled.
The Aurignacian tool industry is characterized by worked bone or antler points with grooves cut in the bottom. Their flint tools include fine blades and bladelets struck from prepared cores rather than using crude flakes. The people of this culture also produced some of the earliest known cave art, such as the animal engravings at Trois Freres and the paintings at Chauvet cave in southern France. They also made pendants, bracelets, and ivory beads, as well as three-dimensional figurines. Perforated rods, thought to be spear throwers or shaft wrenches, also are found at their sites.
The sophistication and self-awareness demonstrated in the work led archaeologists to consider the makers of Aurignacian artifacts the first modern humans in Europe. Human remains and Late Aurignacian artifacts found in juxtaposition support this inference. Although finds of human skeletal remains in direct association with Proto-Aurignacian technologies are scarce in Europe, the few available are also probably modern human. The best dated association between Aurignacian industries and human remains are those of at least five individuals from the Mladeč caves in the Czech Republic, dated by direct radiocarbon measurements of the skeletal remains to at least 31,000–32,000 years old.
At least three robust, but typically anatomically-modern individuals from the Peștera cu Oase cave in Romania, were dated directly from the bones to ca. 35,000–36,000 BP. Although not associated directly with archaeological material, these finds are within the chronological and geographical range of the Early Aurignacian in southeastern Europe. On genetic evidence it has been argued that both Aurignacian and the Dabba culture of North Africa came from an earlier big game huntingLevantine Aurignacian culture of the Levant.
Many 35,000-year-old animal figurines were discovered in the Vogelherd Cave in Germany. One of the horses, amongst six tiny mammoth and horse ivory figures found previously at Vogelherd, was sculpted as skillfully as any piece found throughout the Upper Paleolithic. The production of ivory beads for body ornamentation was also important during the Aurignacian. The famous paintings in Chauvet cave date from this period.
Typical statuettes consist of women that are called Venus figurines. They emphasize the hips, breasts, and other body parts associated with fertility. Feet and arms are lacking or minimized. One of the most ancient figurines is the Venus of Hohle Fels, discovered in 2008 in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany. The figurine has been dated to 35,000 years ago and is the earliest known, undisputed example of a depiction of a human being in prehistoric art. The Lion-man of Hohlenstein-Stadel, found in the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave of Germany's Swabian Alb and dated to 40,000 years ago, is the oldest known anthropomorphic animal figurine in the world.
Aurignacian finds include bone flutes. The oldest undisputed musical instrument was the Hohle Fels Flute discovered in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany's Swabian Alb in 2008. The flute is made from a vulture's wing bone perforated with five finger holes, and dates to approximately 35,000-40,000 years ago. A flute was also found at the Abri Blanchard in southwestern France.
Possible musical bow from Geisenklösterle, Germany
Venus of Hohle Fels
Stone tools from the Aurignacian culture are known as Mode 4, characterized by blades (rather than flakes, typical of mode 2 Acheulean and mode 3 Mousterian) from prepared cores. Also seen throughout the Upper Paleolithic is a greater degree of tool standardization and the use of bone and antler for tools. Based on the research of scraper reduction and paleoenvironment, the early Aurignacian group moved seasonally over greater distances to procure reindeer herds within cold and open environments than those of the earlier tool cultures.
In a genetic study published in Nature in May 2016, the remains of an early Aurignacian individual from modern-day Belgium were examined. He belonged to the paternal haplogroup C1a and the maternal haplogroup M.Haplogroups identified in other Aurignacian samples are the paternal haplogroups IJ and K2a;[note 1] and mt-DNA haplogroupN, R, and U.[note 2]Haplogroup I emerged about 35 to 30 thousand years ago, either in Europe or Western Asia. Haplogroup I appears to have arisen in Europe, so far being found in Palaeolithic sites throughout Europe. Mt-haplogroup U5 arose in Europe just prior to the LGM, between 35 and 25 thousand years ago.
The entrance to the Potočka Zijalka, a cave in the Eastern Karavanke, where the remains of a human residence dated to the Aurignacian (40,000 to 30,000 BP) were found by Srečko Brodar in the 1920s and 1930s. It was the first high-altitude Aurignacian site to be discovered that significantly influenced the knowledge of the culture
^H. Martin (1906). "Industrie Moustérienne perfectionnée. Station de La Quina (Charente)". Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique de France (in French). 3 (6): 233–239. doi:10.3406/bspf.1906.7784. JSTOR27906750.(subscription required)
^Williams, John K. (2006). "The Levantine Aurignacian: a closer look"(PDF). Lisbon: Instituto Português de Arqueologia (Trabalhos de Arqueologia Bar-Yosef O, Zilhão J, Editors. Towards a Definition of the Aurignacian. 45): 317–352.
^ abcMellars, P. (2006). "Archeology and the Dispersal of Modern Humans in Europe: Deconstructing the Aurignacian". Evolutionary Anthropology. 15 (5): 167–182. doi:10.1002/evan.20103. S2CID85316570.
^Bocquet-Appel, J.-P.; Demars, P.-Y.; Noiret, L.; Dobrowsky, D. (2005). "Estimates of Upper Palaeolithic meta-population size in Europe from archaeological data". Journal of Archaeological Science. 32 (11): 1656–1668. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2005.05.006.
^Forster, P.; Romano, V.; Olivieri, A.; Achilli, A.; Pala, M.; Battaglia, V.; Fornarino, S.; Al-Zahery, N.; Scozzari, R.; Cruciani, F.; Behar, D. M.; Dugoujon, J.-M.; Coudray, C.; Santachiara-Benerecetti, A. S.; Semino, O.; Bandelt, H.-J.; Torroni, A. (2007). "Timing of a Back-Migration into Africa". Science. 316 (5821): 50–53. doi:10.1126/science.316.5821.50. PMID17412938. S2CID34614953., "Sequencing of 81 entire human mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) belonging to haplogroups M1 and U6 reveals that these predominantly North African clades arose in southwestern Asia and moved together to Africa about 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. Their arrival temporally overlaps with the event(s) that led to the peopling of Europe by modern humans and was most likely the result of the same change in climate conditions that allowed humans to enter the Levant, opening the way to the colonization of both Europe and North Africa. Thus, the early Upper Palaeolithic population(s) carrying M1 and U6 did not return to Africa along the southern coastal route of the "out of Africa" exit, but from the Mediterranean area; and the North African Dabban and European Aurignacian industries derived from a common Levantine source."
^Debeljak, Irena; Turk, Matija. "Potočka zijalka". In Šmid Hribar, Mateja; Torkar, Gregor; Golež, Mateja; et al. (eds.). Enciklopedija naravne in kulturne dediščine na Slovenskem – DEDI (in Slovenian). Archived from the original on 2012-05-15. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
^ abLanger, William L., ed. (1972). An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 9. ISBN978-0-395-13592-1.