© Antropark 2006

Illustrations and text © Libor Balák

Antropark Home Page

Translated and modified by Vít Lang after discussions with the author.

This is the website of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research


The Magdalenian Culture of western and Central Europe

The era of the big European Northern-type cultures

The most recent culture of the Upper Palaeolithic (the Late Upper Palaeolithic) in western and Central Europe is the Magdalenian, 20,000 - 13,000 years ago (17,000 – 11,000 radiocarbon years before present).

The Magdalenian appeared in western Europe after the last glacial maximum. It became the dominant culture of western Europe and spread to Central Europe, including Bohemia and Moravia. It was a culture associated above all with reindeer and horses. Mammoths were disappearing, although they remained an important motif in the art. The Magdalenian is a typical culture of the Arctic-type hunters.        


A reindeer hunter (a reconstructional imitation)  

A man of the Moravian Magdalenian. He holds a spear-thrower using the principle of leverage, and a spear with a bone projectil point with saw-like razor-sharp microlites. The horses on his clothing are depicted according to a decorated object found in the Pekárna Cave (the Moravian Karst). 


A Magdalenian bone points with microlites (a reconstructional transformation)

A bone point from the Drátenická Cave in the Moravian karst. This artefact is now in the Institute Anthropos, which is a part of the Moravian Museum (Moravské zemské muzeum) in Brno. You can see (the lower part to the right) an impression of the former careful and fine binding. The reconstruction depicts the procedure of its piecing together.


A camp of reindeer hunters of Petersfels

The picture takes us to southwest Germany, the well-known site of Petersfels by Engen. The narrow valley became a trap for hunted reindeer. Reindeer were killed there on a large scale, as the remains of their bones witness. The peculiarity of this picture is that the photographic studies were not created artificially, but were made just on the site, where well-versed fans displayed their home-made clothes, tents and Magdalenian weapons. 

A hunter and his weapons  

Notice the antler heads of the throwing weapons, which were made so well that they can be compared with the artistic level of carving in butts of the recent firearms. 


In a tent of Petersfels (a reconstructional imitation)  

The bone needles found in abundance both in Petersfels and the Moravian Karst are different from those of the Gravettian. The woman in the picture is sewing a piece of clothing using an awl and a needle. The man is repairing the bone point of a weapon. He easily replaces individual broken segments of the cutting edge with new ones. To the left from him, there is his equipment, such as throwing weapons, lamps, a chieftain’s baton, a flute and bone points.


Clothing of nomadic reindeer hunters (a reconstructional imitation)  

The reconstructional imitations of clothes dating back to the era of the Magdalenian reindeer and horse hunters. The first clothing is exhibited in the Museum of Engen. You can see decorative patterns made according to an ornamented shovel-like object found in the Moravian Karst on the right clothing.

“In the trap”, a picture of a hunting scene (a reconstructional imitation) 


A spear-thrower  was ideal for hunting animals living in herds, such as horses and reindeer. It was capable of shooting a maximum amount of projectiles within a minimal period of time. The accuracy of shots at a mass of running bodies was unimportant, the work was completed by sharp points. Most likely massive stone pillars were used when driving reindeer. Reindeer avoided them in the same way as they avoided people. That is why the Magdalenians preferred such environment where limestone screes, of which they erected the pillars, were available, e.g. outcrops of limestone, which are characteristic of the karst areas. The whole life of these people was closely connected with animals living in herds, and it formed their culture. The Magdalenian settlements came to Central Europe, namely to Poland, 16,500 years ago (14,000 RCYBP) and to Moravia about 15,500 years ago (13,000 RCYBP).              

Acknowledgment: I am grateful to Jiří Červinka from Prague for the support of the realization of this reconstruction.


A Magdalenian Venus (a reconstructional transformation)

The representation of women, the unmistakable Magdalenian Venuses, was quite curious. Womens figurines hardly bore any detail, they were often just outlined, and their bottoms were always stuck out. Some small figurines had holes for hanging.

Acknowledgment: I am grateful to Jiří Červinka from Prague for the support of the realization of this reconstruction.

A Magdalenian Venus with a hairdo (a reconstructional transformation) 

One of the few Magdalenian Venuses that provided at least some information about her hairdo.

Acknowledgment: I am grateful to Jiří Červinka from Prague for the support of the realization of this reconstruction.  

A functioning model of a spear-thrower (a reconstructional imitation)  

The reconstructional work also involved testing of a typical Magdalenian weapon, i.e. a spear-thrower. It is possible that all-wooden throwers were produced in Moravia. This imitation is also made of wood.

A thrower decorated with a depiction of buffaloes. The same picture was unearthed in the Pekárna Cave in the Moravian Karst.  

The picture of grazing horses was also made according to the Pekárna Cave findings.  

Shooting with a spear-thrower is exciting. A spear is much bigger and heavier than an arrow. The weapon is quite accurate, even when shooting at a long distance. 


The most recent Upper Palaeolithic of Eastern Europe

“Miss meander", a picture of a girl with bracelets (a reconstructional imitation)


One of the well-known sites of the Late Upper Palaeolithic is Mezin in the Ukraine. The site is renowned for the usage of meander patterns. These patterns were modified in various ways and formed a whole artistic system. The depicted girl wears two decorated ivory bracelets, one of them with a meander pattern. Both bracelets are tied with small straps


The Venus of Mezin (a reconstructional transformation)  

Meander was used also for decoration of the Mezin Venuses, as the reconstructional transformation shows. This woman figurine reminds of a mixture of the Gravettian and Magdalenian styles. She stands upright as a Gravettian Venus and, at the same time, she sticks out her bottom as a Magdalenian Venus.


For the cultures of the end of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic see the website



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Illustrations © Libor Balák

Translated and modified by Vít Lang after discussions with the author.

© Antropark 2006