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CATEGORY: culture
DEFINITION: The final major European culture of the Upper Paleolithic period, from about 15,000-10,000 years ago; characterized by composite or specialized tools, tailored clothing, and especially geometric and representational cave art (e.g. Altamira) and for beautiful decorative work in bone and ivory (mobiliary art). The people were chiefly fishermen and reindeer hunters; they were the first known people to have used a spear thrower (of reindeer bone and antler) to increase the range, strength, and accuracy. Magdalenian stone tools include small geometrically shaped implements (e.g., triangles, semilunar blades) probably set into bone or antler handles for use, burins (a sort of chisel), scrapers, borers, backed bladelets, and shouldered and leaf-shaped projectile points. Bone was used extensively to make wedges, adzes, hammers, spearheads with link shafts, barbed points and harpoons, eyed needles, jewelry, and hooked rods probably used as spear throwers. They killed animals with spears, snares, and traps and lived in caves, rock shelters, or substantial dwellings in winter and in tents in summer. The name is derived from La Madeleine or Magdalene, the type site in the Dordogne of southwest France. Its center of origin was southwest France and the adjacent parts of Spain, but elements characteristic of the later stages are represented in Britain (Creswell Crags), and eastwards to southwest Germany and Poland. The Magdalenian culture, like that of earlier Upper Palaeolithic communities, was adapted to the cold conditions of the last (Würm) glaciation. The Magdalenian has been divided into six phases; it followed the Solutrean industry and was succeeded by the simplified Azilian. Magdalenian culture disappeared as the cool, near-glacial climate warmed at the end of the Fourth (Würm) Glacial Period (c 10,000 BC), and herd animals became scarce.

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