Pavlov VI: An Upper Palaeolithic Living Unit

Article excerpt


One of the characteristics of the Danubian Gravettian (Pavlovian) period is that its sites are found in clusters (Gamble 1999; Roebroeks et al. 2000; Svoboda & Sedlackova 2004). These may be intensive occupations, resulting from repeated human activities at one place, (for example the Dolni Vestonice I and Pavlov I sites) or extensive spreads of individual occupations over a wide area (for example Dolni Vestonice II). In each case the sites are composed of individual settlement units, consisting of a central hearth surrounded by various pits, large bones and artefact scatters.

Among the best explored examples are the sites in the Dolni Vestonice-Pavlov area in the Czech Republic (Svoboda 1994, 1997, 2005) where individual sites may also show a hierarchy of importance and size. This paper reports a new single-occupation site located about 1km east of Pavlov I and named Pavlov VI (Figures 1 and 2). Pavlov VI has clear stratigraphy, radiocarbon dates, several pits, faunal and floral remains, transported rocks and tertiary shells, stone and bone artefacts, decorative items and ochre. It has also produced 12 pieces of ceramics, including some with zoomorphic forms and some with the impressions of human epidermal ridges, animal hair and textile structures.


Stratigraphy and [sup.14]C dating

Pavlov VI was discovered on 27 June 2007, when a canal ditch being dug between the villages of Milovice and Pavlov cut a dark lens of humic sediments 4-5m long at an altitude of 205m asl (a typical location for all Pavlovian sites in the area). The cultural layer was deposited below 0.8m of arable soil and 0.6-0.7m of light calcareous loess (with microlayers of loess loams redeposited by gelifluction). It took the form of a lens with a maximum thickness of 0.35m made of humic calcareous silt, with limonitic bands containing charcoal and artefacts. It lay on silty subsoil 0.5m deep which was calcareous and contained charcoal but no anthropogenic material. Below this lay the gravels of the Dyje River.

Four samples for radiocarbon dating were collected at regular depth intervals from within the thick cultural layer, but the uppermost and lowermost ones failed to produce reliable dates due to low carbon content. The two dates from the middle of the layer are 25950 [+ or -] 110 BP (GrA-37627) and 26110 [+ or -] 130 BP (GrA-37628). Their calibrated ages using the CalPal-2007 Hulu data set and CalPal program (Weninger & Joris 2004; Weninger et al. 2007) are 28930 [+ or -] 270 cal BC and 29070 [+ or -] 270 cal BC. These two dates fit well into a larger series of 11 dates from the nearby large site of Pavlov I (Svoboda 2005: Table 1).


The spatial distribution of remains

A 5 x 3m area of the cultural layer was uncovered in the southern part of the opened area, separated into 1m squares numbered A-E and 1-3 (Figure 3). All of the recovered sediments were wet-sieved. The nearby control trenches did not show a continuation of the cultural layer. The horizontal distribution of the artefacts (Figure 3) demonstrates that the site was produced by a unique, spatially isolated settlement unit with a diameter of 4-5m.

An oval-shaped pit measuring 1.2 x 0.8m, and 0.35m deep, was located in the centre. The shape of this depression, originally regular, was slightly deformed by post-depositional slope movement of the overlying layers. It was filled with dark humic sediments, rich in charcoal pieces and fragments, burnt stones and their fragments, and smaller bone fragments. The central pit was surrounded by several adjacent smaller pits, 0.15-0.25m in diameter and about 0.15m deep. Their infill was either identical to that of the central hearth or was a browner version. The central pit and the surrounding pits were probably used to prepare food. We interpret the smaller pits as boiling pits. Analogous features, and in similar associations, were noted at Pavlov I, Dolni Vestonice II, as well as at the north Bohemian Mesolithic sites (Svoboda et al. …