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Geographical rangeWestern Europe
PeriodUpper Paleolithic
Datesc. 22,000 – c. 17,000 BP
Type siteParc archéologique et botanique de Solutré
Preceded byGravettian
Followed byMagdalenian in France, and Iberia; in the latter after a transition through the Badegoulien [fr]
Solutrean is located in Europe
Map of Europe showing important sites of the Solutrean (clickable map).

The Solutrean /səˈljtriən/ industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Paleolithic of the Final Gravettian, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP. Solutrean sites have been found in modern-day France, Spain and Portugal.


The term Solutrean comes from the type-site of "Cros du Charnier", dating to around 21,000 years ago and located at Solutré, in east-central France near Mâcon. The Rock of Solutré site was discovered in 1866 by the French geologist and paleontologist Henry Testot-Ferry. It is now preserved as the Parc archéologique et botanique de Solutré.

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.[1] 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 lithic reduction percussion and pressure flaking rather than flintknapping. Knapping was done using antler batons, hardwood batons and soft stone hammers. This method permitted the working of delicate slivers of flint to make light projectiles and even elaborate barbed and tanged arrowheads. Large thin spearheads; 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.[1]

The Solutrean may be seen as a transitional 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 also been made in the caves of Les Eyzies and Laugerie Haute, and in the Lower Beds of Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, England[1] (Proto-Solutrean). The industry first appeared in what is now Spain[citation needed], and disappears from the archaeological record around 17,000 BP.

Solutrean hypothesis in North American archaeology

Main article: Solutrean hypothesis

The Solutrean hypothesis argues that people from Europe may have been among the earliest settlers of the Americas.[2][3] Its notable recent proponents include Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution and Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter.[4] This hypothesis contrasts with the mainstream archaeological consensus that the North American continent was first populated by people from Asia, either by the Bering land bridge (i.e. Beringia) at least 13,500 years ago,[5] or by maritime travel along the Pacific coast, or by both. The idea of a Clovis-Solutrean link remains controversial and does not enjoy wide acceptance. The hypothesis is challenged by large gaps in time between the Clovis culture and Solutrean eras, a lack of evidence of Solutrean seafaring, lack of specific Solutrean features and tools in Clovis technology, the difficulties of the route, and other issues.[6][7]

In 2014, the autosomal DNA of a male infant (Anzick-1) from a 12,500-year-old deposit in Montana was sequenced.[8] The skeleton was found in close association with several Clovis artifacts. Comparisons showed strong affinities with DNA from Siberian sites, and virtually ruled out any close affinity of Anzick-1 with European sources. The DNA of the Anzick-1 sample showed strong affinities with sampled Native American populations, which indicated that the samples derive from an ancient population that lived in or near Siberia, the Upper Paleolithic Mal'ta population.[9]

Physical characteristics

Examination of physical remains from the Solutrean period has determined that they were of a slightly more gracile type than the preceding Gravettian culture. Males were rather tall, with some skeletons being up to 179 cm tall.[10][11][12] Volume 4 of the Portuguese Magazine of Archaeology from 2001 examined a Solutrean female individual whose physical remains are described as "having postcranial elements that derive from a relatively small and gracile individual".[13] The teeth of Solutrean individuals are described as being similar in appearance to those belonging to the people of the Gravettian.[14]


See also

Preceded byGravettian Solutrean 22,000–17,000 BP Succeeded byMagdalenian


  1. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Solutrian Epoch". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 377.
  2. ^ Bradley, Bruce; Stanford, Dennis (2004). "The North Atlantic ice-edge corridor: a possible Paleolithic route to the New World" (PDF). World Archaeology. 36 (4): 459–478. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/0043824042000303656. S2CID 161534521. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  3. ^ Carey, Bjorn (19 February 2006). "First Americans may have been European". Live Science. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  4. ^ Vastag, Brian (1 March 2012). "Theory jolts familiar view of first Americans". The Washington Post. pp. A1, A9. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  5. ^ Mann, Charles C. (Nov 2013), "The Clovis Point and the Discovery of America's First Culture," Smithsonian Magazine, [1]
  6. ^ Straus, L.G. (April 2000). "Solutrean settlement of North America? A review of reality". American Antiquity. 65 (2): 219–226. doi:10.2307/2694056. JSTOR 2694056. S2CID 162349551.
  7. ^ Westley, Kieran and Justin Dix (2008). "The Solutrean Atlantic Hypothesis: A View from the Ocean". Journal of the North Atlantic. 1: 85–98. doi:10.3721/J080527. S2CID 130294767.
  8. ^ Rasmussen M, Anzick SL, et al. (2014). "The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana". Nature. 506 (7487): 225–229. Bibcode:2014Natur.506..225R. doi:10.1038/nature13025. PMC 4878442. PMID 24522598.
  9. ^ "Ancient American's genome mapped". BBC News. 14 February 2014.
  10. ^ White, Randall (January 2008). "The Archaeology of Solvieux: An Upper Palaeolithic Open Air Site in France". American Anthropologist. 103: 228. doi:10.1525/aa.2001.103.1.228 – via researchgate.
  11. ^ Peregrine, Peter N.; Ember, Melvin, eds. (2001). Encyclopedia of Prehistory: Volume 4: Europe. Springer US. ISBN 978-0-306-46258-0.
  12. ^ Straus, L.; Morales, M. R. (2009). "A preliminary description of Solutrean occupations in El Mirón cave (Ramales de la Victoria, Cantabria)". S2CID 210020037. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Trinkaus, Erik (July 2001). "Upper Paleolithic human remains from the Gruta do Caldeirão, Tomar, Portugal" (PDF). Portuguese Magazine of Archaeology. 4: 1 – via
  14. ^ Heinrich, Hartmut (1 March 1988). "Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean during the past 130,000 years". Quaternary Research. 29 (2): 142–152. Bibcode:1988QuRes..29..142H. doi:10.1016/0033-5894(88)90057-9. ISSN 0033-5894. S2CID 129842509.