Palaeolithic Archaeology in an United Europe

By Papagianni, Dimitra | Antiquity, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Palaeolithic Archaeology in an United Europe


Papagianni, Dimitra, Antiquity


JOHN F. HOFFECKER. Desolate landscapes: Ice-Age settlement in eastern Europe. xx+298 pages, 76 figures, 19 tables. 2002. New Brunswick (NJ): Rutgers University Press; 0-8134-29913 hardback $69, 0-8135-2992-1 paperback $32.

REBECCA MILLEIL Lithic resource management during the Belgian Early Upper Paleolithic: effects of variable raw material context on lithic economy (Etudes et recherches archeologiques de l'Universite de Liege no. 91). xiv+220 pages, 45 figures, 102 tables. 2001. Liege: Liege University; paperback.

FRANCOIS BON. L'Aurignacien entre meret ocean: reflexion sur l'unite des phases anciennes de l'Aurignacien dans le sud de la France (Societe prehistorique francaise Memoir 29). 253 pages, 124 figures, 23 tables. 2002, [Paris] Societe prehistorique francaise; 2-913745-10-5 paperback 30 [euro].

ANDREAS PASTOORS. Die mittelpalaolithische Freilandstation von Salzgitter-Lebenstedt: Genese der Fundstelle und Systematik der Steinarbeitung (Salzgitter-Forschungen Vol. 3). 347 pages, 180 figures, tables. 2001. Salzgitter: Archly der Stadt Salzgitter; paperback.

BERIT VALENTIN ERIKSEN & BODIL BRATLUND (ed.). Recent studies in the final Palaeolithic of the European plain: proceedings of a UISPP Symposium, Stockholm, 14-17 October 1999. 204 pages, 132 figures, 18 tables. 2002. Hobjerg: Jutland Archaeological Society; 87-88415-12-0 (ISSN 0107-2854) hardback Kr 320.

In Palaeolithic archaeology, most of the momentous discoveries and publications of the last few years fall outside or at the boundaries of Europe. So is Europe now being relegated to the periphery of a global discipline? Despite the problems in resolution and reliability of data from old excavations, Europe is still distinguished by the richness of its evidence and a disproportionately high share of the economic and intellectual resources of Palaeolithic archaeology. This allows for the continent to act as an international intellectual arena for Palaeolithic archaeologists from all theoretical and methodological backgrounds. This multiplicity of approaches, often used to analyse and interpret the same datasets, and the continuous application of new questions, methods and ideas, enables Europe to retain its unique position within Palaeolithic archaeology, even if most of the 'hot' new finds come from elsewhere.

This picture, however, only really describes western and parts of central and northern Europe. In reality, eastern Europe and much of southern Europe are in a different sphere in terms of intensity, methodology and theoretical background of previous and current research, accessibility of results to international researchers and availability of resources. For the most part, this divide is due to the geopolitical division of Europe in the second half of the twentieth century. The lifting of barriers to communication and co-operation, and the on-going process of institutional 'unification' of western and eastern Europe under the European Union, provide a major opportunity and challenge for European Palaeolithic archaeology at the beginning of the twenty-first century: creating a true European Palaeolithic archaeology, to include access to existing evidence, availability of resources, current research practices and research agendas that move beyond constructing local sequences.

Not quite human

Hoffecker's book is the first extended anglophone synthesis of the Palaeolithic archaeology of the European part of the former Soviet Union. Hoffecker's thesis is that the unique perspective this area brings to global issues of human evolution stems from the harshness of its natural environments: 'both the spatial-temporal distribution and contents of the sites provide insights into the differences between the evolutionary ecology of modern humans and their predecessors that are less evident in other parts of the world' (p. 14). For reasons linked to environmental setting and history of research, the Palaeolithic record of this region differs substantially from that of western Europe. …

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