The Diversity of Hunting Camps
in the Pyrenean Gravettian

Aurélien SIMONET

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In the Pyrenean Gravettian, several types of sites that vary in terms of their technical elements and/or the density of their assemblages can be interpreted as hunting camps. How can this archaeological diversity contribute to social and economic interpretations of the human groups that occupied these sites? It appears that in the context of a centralized organization of the Pyrenean territory, in which Brassempouy and Isturitz played key economic, social and spiritual roles, the concept of a hunting camp applies to several types of sites specialized in hunting related activities, and at which other activities sometimes also took place. “Simple hunting camps”, which best correspond to the accepted definition, would thus have coexisted with “complex hunting camps”, at which flint knapping activities were performed along with hunting and butchery activities. Finally, there are other potential hunting camps whose assemblages include artistic representations. The identification of hunting camps therefore contributes to our understanding of the occupation strategies of a territory. Their diversity, high degree of specialization and the significant difference that exists between the low density of their assemblages and the high density of those of certain large occupation sites, represents a socio-economic coherence that seems to traverse the European continent. In effect, this tendency of hunting camps toward diversification and ultra-specialization accompanies the appearance the first large habitatsanctuaries with numerous female statuettes, associated with Modern Humans, such as Brassempouy, Laussel, Les Balzi Rossi and Willendorf in Western Europe. Hunting camps thus constitute an important element in reflections on the nature of cultural identity since they corroborate the idea of a phenomenon of double-polarization of human communities between 28000 and 22000 BP, which characterizes the Gravettian: relative to the Aurignacian tradition, Gravettian occupations appear to be more oriented toward the plains and large alluvial basins. In addition, within these more densely occupied zones, certain sites themselves are more densely occupied, and it is these that are generally associated the large assemblages of female statuettes: Brassempouy, Laussel, Les Balzi Rossi, Willendorf, Dolní Vĕstonice, Pavlov, Předmosti, Kostienki, Gagarino, Avdeevo and Zaraisk.

To cite this article

Simonet A., 2011 – The Diversity of Hunting Camps in the Pyrenean Gravettian, in Bon F., Costamagno S., Valdeyron N. (eds.), Hunting Camps in Prehistory. Current Archaeological Approaches, Proceedings of the International Symposium, May 13-15 2009, University Toulouse II – Le Mirail, P@lethnology, 3, 183-210.