Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Once thought to have emerged in a sudden, “Big Bang” moment of cultural evolution, the origins of symbolic material culture are now understood to be complex and mosaic, emerging and intensifying under specific conditions and various moments over our species’ long evolutionary history. One of these moments of intensified artistic production is the Aurignacian period of Palaeolithic France, as early Homo sapiens populations established themselves on the landscape, eventually to the demise of our Neanderthal cousins. Touching on major debates in prehistory, such as the capacity of Neanderthals to make art and the role of art in the success of our species, this lecture focuses on the economic advantages of symbolic material production. This lecture leverages evidence from recent, cutting-edge research in geochemical and morphometric analysis of mammoth-ivory ornaments, arguing that the emergence of specialist producers and expansion of long-distance trade networks gave our early Homo sapiens explorers a distinct advantage in establishing a foothold in the Pleistocene landscapes of Europe.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Heckel, C. 2018. Reconsidering production organization in the Early Upper Paleolithic: the case for specialized production of Aurignacian beads. Quaternary International 491: 11-20.
Heckel, C. 2016. Digital morphometric analysis of Upper Paleolithic beads: assessing artifact variability with user-friendly freeware. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 893-902.
Reiche, I., Heckel, C., Müller, K., White, R., Conard, N., Normand, C., Jöris, O., Matthies, T. 2018. Combined non-invasive PIXE/PIGE analyses of mammoth ivory from Aurignacian archaeological sites. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 57(25): 7428-7432.