Late Magdalenian Feminine Flint Plaquettes from Poland

Article excerpt

Introduction

Flat schematic statuettes of ivory, bone or stone (Figure 1), with stylised outlines suggesting curvaceous womanly shapes with prominent buttocks, and dating roughly between 16 and 14 000 cal BP, are well known from many western and central European Late Magdalenian sites. Cave and open-air sites comprising the Late Magdalenian lithic technology associated with portable, naturalistic engraved portrayals of animals and schematic female figurines and engravings stretch out over a considerable portion of western and central Europe: from France with Gare de Couze in Dordogne (Otte 1990: 193) and Abri Murat, Lot (Lorblanchet & Welte 1990: 47), in the south-west; Germany with Gonnersdorf (Bosinski & Fischer 1974) and Nebra (Mania 1999: Plate 80) in the north; to Pekarna, Moravia (Absolon 1949), in the Czech Republic, in the south-east; and Wilczyce in Poland (Fiedorczuk & Schild 2002), farthest to the east. These engravings and figurines strictly adhere to a style depicting feminine silhouettes with over-represented buttocks, extending well beyond the axis of symmetry, long beheaded trunks and only occasionally marked breasts and/or hands (Bosinski & Fischer 1974: Figure 17). Sometimes, this style of small portable art is referred to as Lalinde/Gonnersdorf type (Lorblanchet & Welte 1990: 47). It has been proposed that they reflect a common symbolic expression of societies which shared technological templates preserved from the time of reoccupation of north-western and central Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum (Otte 1990: 189).

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Female figurines from Wilczyce

A new class of Lalinde/Gonnersdorf style figurines has recently been identified at a Late Magdalenian site near the village of Wilczyce, central Poland (Fiedorczuk 2001; 2002) (Figure 2). The stylised voluptuous female outlines (Figure 3) are cut out of flint flakes and blades by the means of a dorsal, steep to semi-steep, sometimes slightly invasive, retouch, the same that has been used to produce common retouched tools. Although retouched feminine silhouettes may vaguely recall the so-called 'strangled' blades, their clear asymmetric outlines, and--after all--strict observance of the art canons (Bosinski & Fischer 1974: Figure 17) place them well within the Late Magdalenian stylistic and symbolic family. Around 30 retouched female silhouettes have been recovered at Wilczyce so far.

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A sample of four well preserved unpatinated or slightly patinated, unbroken flint figurines has been examined under the stereomicroscope (Olympus) at the magnifications of 25 x, 100 x and 200 x by Dr Malgorzata Winiarska-Kabaciriska, at the Poznan Archaeological Museum, for the traces of micro wear. Both faces of all of them show mint conditions and no traces of use (Figure 3: 4-5, 7-8). One of the figurines (Figure 3: 7), however, bears visible marks of slight polishing of the retouch shaping the head, perhaps a technical step in precise forming this part of the flint cut-out.

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The site of Wilczyce

The site of Wilczyce was discovered in 1993. It is located approximately 10km north-west of Sandomierz, c. 200m above mean sea level, on top of a prominent hill that is a part of the northern escarpment of a widened, deep cul-de-sac section of the Opatowka valley, a western tributary of the Vistula. Excavations during 1993 and subsequently during the 1998-2000, 2002 and 2004-06 seasons yielded abundant faunal remains, a lithic assemblage containing well over 10 000 artefacts, as well as numerous bone and antler tools (Fiedorczuk & Schild 2002), mainly needles and bevelled-base points. Horse, followed by woolly rhinoceros, arctic fox and hare, dominates the faunal assemblage. Birds are also present represented by grouse, herring-gull and lesser black-backed gull (Bratlund 2002). The remains of a human foetus were also discovered (identification by Bodil Bratlund and Joel D. …