The Magdalenian cultures (also Madelenian; French: Magdalénien) are later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic in western Europe. They date from around 17,000 to 12,000 years ago.[a][is this date calibrated?] It is named after the type site of La Madeleine, a rock shelter located in the Vézère valley, commune of Tursac, in France's Dordogne department.

Édouard Lartet and Henry Christy originally termed the period L'âge du renne (the Age of the Reindeer). They conducted the first systematic excavators of the type site, publishing in 1875. The Magdalenian epoch is associated with reindeer hunters, although Magdalenian sites contain extensive evidence for the hunting of red deer, horses, and other large mammals present in Europe toward the end of the last glacial period. The culture was geographically widespread, and later Magdalenian sites stretched from Portugal in the west to Poland in the east, and as far north as France, the Channel Islands, England, and Wales. It is the third epoch of Gabriel de Mortillet's cave chronology system, corresponding roughly to the Late Pleistocene. Besides La Madeleine, the chief stations of the epoch are Les Eyzies, Laugerie-Basse, and Gorges d'Enfer in the Dordogne; Grotte du Placard in Charente and others in south-west France.

Period biology

The Magdalenian epoch is represented by numerous sites, whose contents show progress in arts and culture. It was characterized by a cold and dry climate, humans in association with the reindeer, and the extinction of the mammoth. The use of bone and ivory as implements, begun in the preceding Solutrean epoch, increased, making the period essentially a bone period. Bone instruments are quite varied: spear-points, harpoon-heads, borers, hooks and needles.

The fauna of the Magdalenian epoch seems to have included tigers and other tropical species along with reindeer, blue foxes, Arctic hares, and other polar creatures. Magdalenian humans appear to have been of short stature, dolichocephalic, with a low retreating forehead and prominent brow ridges.


Magdalenian tools and weapons, 17,000–9,000 BCE, Abri de la Madeleine, Tursac, Dordogne, France
Magdalenian people dwelt not just in caves, but also in tents such as this one of Pincevent (France) that dates to 12,000 years ago.[is this date calibrated?]

The culture spans from approximately 17,000 to 12,000 BP,[is this date calibrated?] toward the end of the most recent ice age. Magdalenian tool culture is characterised by regular blade industries struck from carinated cores.

The Magdalenian epoch is divided into six phases generally agreed to have chronological significance (Magdalenian I through VI, I being the earliest and VI being the latest). The earliest phases are recognised by the varying proportion of blades and specific varieties of scrapers, the middle phases marked by the emergence of a microlithic component (particularly the distinctive denticulated microliths), and the later phases by the presence of uniserial (phase 5) and biserial 'harpoons' (phase 6) made of bone, antler and ivory.Africa: