Nardò (LE) - Puglia

Grotta del Cavallo, located in the Uluzzo Bay on the Ionian coast of Salento, gave back one of the most important in Southern Italy stratigraphic sequences which essentially includes three major units:
-Mousterian, divided into several levels
-Early Upper Paleolithic, Uluzzian facies, with an important sequence of in three phases
-Final Epigravettian, Romanellian facies, that probably crosses the limit of Mesolithic.
Minor are some sporadic Neolithic evidence on the top of the sequence.
The site was discovered and excavated by Arturo Palma Cesnola in the '960s and, after a long pause, systematic research has been taken in the early '980s by Lucia Sarti (University of Siena) in the Mousterian deposit and by Lucia Sarti and Fabio Martini (University of Florence) in Epigravettian deposit. The excavations are underway.

By layer F (Final Mousterian) come three limestone little rocks engraved with generic linear signs, uniform in the arrangement and organization. The provenance levels are the horizons FIIId (stone Cav 56), FIIIc (stone Cav 57), FII (stone Cav 58). A fourth block with similar carvings was recovered in secondary context. A radiometric dating to the top of the F layer points to about 42,000 years ago.

Dating from the Upper Paleolithic, the portable engraved evidence from the Grotta del Cavallo, about seventy in all, were found during the numerous investigations. Presented here is a significant sample illustrating the figurative characteristics. The engraved blocks date the human activity at the cave back to the period during the final passing from Epigravettian to the Mesolithic (layer B). A large quantity have been recovered in secondary context.
The iconographic structure of the engraved stones is very similar to that of Grotta Romanelli. The naturalistic figures (zoomorphic, and one anthropomorphic) are in the minority compared to the non-naturalistic. Predominately there are those zoomorphic partial (of which only the head is shown). The non-naturalistic motifs are divided into the linear (organized and unorganized) and, more rarely, geometric.

Historical framework
Middle Paleolithic

The end of this period delimits the Paleolithic phase in which the species Homonea nderthalensis 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.


Upper Paleolithic

Coinciding with the arrival of the species Homo sapiens in Europe was the most recent phase of the Paleolithic (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.


Final Epigravettian

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