Here you can find a glossary useful for understanding technical and scientific terms. Click on an item to view its explanation.

Ancient Epigravettian

This was the first phase of the Epigravettian in Italy (around 19-17,000 years ago), and resulted from influxes in technical knowledge - and, therefore, in the production of lithic instruments - from Central and Eastern Europe. Following the course of the European tradition, it was still linked to the Gravettian with the addition of other original and innovative aspects.


It's the culture of the first Homo sapiens in Europe, who between around 40,000 and 30,000 years ago spread from the East across the European continent. Within a few millennia, they occupied all habitable areas up to the Atlantic. Characterising Homo sapiens was a more articulate language than that used by the Neanderthals, a greater technical knowledge, and their initiation of a series of non-verbal languages (art, music and dance) which deepened their capacity for communication. Aurignacian was a very homogenous culture, and the diverse aspects to their way of life found repetition in similar ways across various continental areas, giving origin to a real "first Europe".

Azilian art

The "azilian" production is a highly specialized trend of Pyrenean origin that spread in some areas of Europe at the end of Palaeolithic age and Early Mesolithic. It refers to specific type of graphic production on pebbles and cobblestones, decorated with paintings, both schematic and linear.


Mesolithic facies appeared after the Sauvetterian and diffused across Europe. The presence of some traditional elements are notable in the production of its lithic instruments, such as the use of armatures. However, their typologies underwent change, adapting to more functional and efficient purposes; points and triangles were substituted for trapezoid armatures which, inserted into a shaft, could be driven into hunted animals to induce a greater loss of blood.


Post-gravettian culture (from 19,000 to 10,000 years ago) which encompassed the Mediterranean area of the continent from Provence up to Balkans and the Black Sea. It is related to a development of progressive regionalisation appeared in Europe as a result of the Second Pleniglacial. The central-eastern regions, up to the Atlantic and the Iberian Peninsula, maintained their cultural physiognomy with aspects which, in that part of Europe, have been termed Solutrean, Magdalenian and Azilian. Italy distanced itselfculturally from this sphere, the peninsula take part in the wide province of the Epigravettian.


Mesolithic facies representing into the Early Holocene the continuity with the Romanellian, an Epigravettian facies. Its presence - within a geographically circumscribed area - was coeval to that of the Sauveterrian.

Evolved Epigravettian

Short period of the Epigravettian (around 17-15,000 years ago) which, on the basis of its knowledge and behaviour, was still linked to the preceding phases with the introduction of technical and symbolic innovations. This entailed the development of certain aspects within a territorially limited area.

Final Epigravettian

It was the end of the last glacial period, between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago, that brought the Palaeolithic to a close. Italy, like other European areas, witnessed the formation of well-defined regional areas, with elements of heterogeneity within the lithic production. Behavioural practices that weren't by nature utilitarian – that is to say those associated with funerary practices and artistic experience – occurred cross-regionally.

Franco-Cantabrian style

Originated and diffused across Europe from the Aurignacian onwards, it is associated with naturalistic representations of the Franco-Iberian area. Its chief characteristics are its adherence to the anatomic proportions of the subject, its realism and its attention paid to anatomic detail


Gravettian culture (30-20,000 years ago) was also characterised by a homogenous physiognomy, along the same lines as the Aurignacian. Patterns of settlement differed according to variations in the geographical areas and landscapes, naturally influencing hunting strategies, but lithic productions and symbolic features (art, burials, ornamentations etc.) are homogeneous. The homogeneity of this culture is remarkable. There were instances of regional originality, but this takes nothing away from the overall uniformity of the European Gravettian.

Graziosi, Paolo

Paolo Graziosi (1906-1988), palaeologist and anthropologist at the University of Florence, and the founder of the Museo e Istituto Fiorentino di Preistoria. He further developed prehistoric art as a branch of research. To him we owe numerous studies and inquiries which, from the first decades of the twentieth century onwards, brought eminence to Italian representational heritage, both within the country and abroad. Having emerged as a figure of authority in his field, and acquired fame in all of Europe, Graziosi would always support his fellow archaeologists in their endeavour of deepening and consolidating the study of prehistoric art.

Homo neanderthalensis

Recent species of Homo genus (300-35.000 year ago) who lìved prevalently in Europe. He introduced the burial practices and the first graphic compositions. Homo neanderthalensis does not depict recognizable subjects but realizes uniquely linear signs. Its evidence are limited to rare fragments of rock or bone on which appear linear engravings both precise and organized.
They do not attest to a complex representational system, but rather a beginning of a very simple symbolic process that accompanies the primitive search for the "sense of beauty".

Homo sapiens

The most recent species of Homo genus (from 200.000 years ago in Africa). Homo sapiens arrived in Europe ca. 40,000 years ago and significant cultural changes occurred in lifestyle, material productions and funeral rites, especially about symbolic behaviours (art, dance, gestures).

Mediterranean style

A definition coined by Paolo Graziosi in 1956 to describe a naturalistic, though rather simple style widely used in Southern Europe, from Spain to South Italy. Its main features are schematic profiles of animals without any anatomic details which exhibit a few distinctive graphic tendencies (e.g. the bovines' horns are pointed to the front and their extremities are left unclosed). Towards the end of the Palaeolithic, the figures became more schematic and rigid and a new geometrical and linear style emerged, which, ca. 10,000 years ago, replaced the naturalistic zoomorphic component.


The chrono-cultural phase that proceeded the Palaeolithic is called the Mesolithic, and it represents the period between 10,000 and around 6,500 years ago. During this period, hunter-gatherers belonging to the Palaeolithic culture were forced to adapt to their new climactic, postglacial environments.
Mesolithic cultures were still inextricably linked to the preceding tradition; no profound alterations or transformations to their way of life are observable, instead cultural activities seem to have continued with suitable modality, adapting to the new ecological situation. For example, regarding the subsistence patterns, the hunting of small mammals and birds increased, as did the consumption of fish of the utilisation of all available marine resources. Funerary rites of this period underwent no significant changes.

Middle Palaeolithic

The end of this period delimits the Paleolithic phase in which the species Homo neanderthalensis and their culture, the Mousterian, spread throughout Europe and the Near East. The chronology has been debated, especially concerning the beginning of the phase. Conventionally, however, it has come to be located between 250,000 and 40,000 years ago.


The Mousterian is the culture Neanderthal Man, which varied across Europe on a micro and macro-regional basis. Above all, variabilities are to be found in the lithic production, although varying behavioural features - resulting from different environments and climactic districts - also existed in strategies related to hunting and settlement. In the overall picture of cultural evolution, amongst the great acquisitions of the Mousterian were the beginning of burial practices and the first evidence of graphic experience. The Neanderthals went extinct around 30,000 years ago.

Recent Epigravettian

This term carries diverse meaning, and has been applied by some scholars to phases of the evolved and final Epigravettian.


Termed from the site of Grotta Romanelli in Apulia, Romanellian is one of the regional aspects that came to light with the final Epigravettian, diffusing into Salento and Liguria.


Facies of the Ancient Mesolithic, found across Europe and characterised by the intensive production of peculiar small instruments (with a length of around 1-2 cm). Of a geometric form, called "armatures" or "microliths", these instruments were used not only as arrowheads, but they were also inserted into the sides of wooden shafts.

Undifferentiated Epipaleolithic

The Mesolithic saw the development of more cultural facies. Other than the armatures (Sauveterrian and Castelnovian) and the Epiromanellian, there was a diffusion of the Undifferentiated Epipalaeolithic in the central-southern area of the peninsula. Differentiating this facies was an altogether original character with regard to the lithic productions. The human groups in existence at this time are to be considered the first to undertake the navigation of the Mediterranean.

Upper Palaeolithic

Coinciding with the arrival of the species Homo sapiens in Europe was the most recent phase of the Palaeolithic (between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago). Here, we see a break with the previous cultural traditions of the Neanderthals, and the beginning of a series of utilitarian and symbolic practices which developed in the millennia leading up to the arrival of the Neolithic. The presence of strategically located settlements, subsistence practices based on hunting and gathering, the modality of funerary rites and the beginning of the figurative art allow us to follow the transformation of the earliest sapiens cultures.


The so-called “Venuses” are small statuettes depicting pregnant women. The body mass of the woman becomes conceptually disassembled and reassembled emphasizing only parts (breasts, abdomen, buttocks, thighs), those which more than others recall motherhood.

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