GROTTA DELLE VENERI

Parabita (LE) - Puglia

This important Paleolithic site was excavated by A.M. Radmilli (Pisa University) in the late 1960's. It contains a sequence with levels of Gravettian, Early Epigravettian and the transition to the Mesolithic.
It has rendered up one burial, many objects of portable art engraved and two "Venuses".

A rich complex of portable engravings, on supports of both stone and bone, was uncovered in a deposit outside of the cave in an Epiromanellian layer, in the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. It is the most abundant context of portable artifacts in Italy: in total there are 505 etched supports, 389 on stone and 116 on bone and horn. Those on stone (small block, slab, pebble, cortical surfaces) are small to medium in size and the incisions affect one or both sides. Traces of red ocher were found on some thirty stones. Some objects have also been used as strikers. Many carved objects were intentionally fractured after the incisions were made, leading to the hypothesis of symbolic-ritualistic behavior. The supports in bone and horn are almost entirely remains of deer and the engravings are not always legible, the decoration is more simple in respect to those of stone.

Historical framework
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.

Cultures

Ancient Epigravettian
Final Epigravettian
Mesolithic

The end of the Pleistocene coincided with the end of the last glaciation, and what came to follow was the Holocene - the geological epoch in which we now live. 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.

A specialisation in the schematic and geometric-linear style came to characterise figurative productions, accentuating schemes and compositions which had already been elaborated at the end of the Epigravettian.

Cultures

Generic Mesolithic

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