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Magdalenian Household, The

Unraveling Domesticity

Ezra Zubrow, Françoise Audouze, James G. Enloe

Publication Year: 2010

A comprehensive investigation of household life during the Upper Paleolithic era. What was home and family like in Paleolithic Europe? How did mobile hunter-gatherer families live, work, and play together in the fourteenth millennium BP? What were the functional and spatial constraints and markers of their domesticity—the processes that create and sustain a household? Despite the long recognized absence of comprehensive archaeological data on such ancient homes and hearths, the archaeologists in this volume begin unraveling the domesticity of the Upper Paleolithic by drawing on both an immense trove of new material evidence and comparative site data, and a range of incisive and illuminating ethnographic analogies, theoretical models, and simulations. Five Late Magdalenian sites from the Paris Basin and one later Azilian site provide striking evidence of well preserved camps of short duration, situated on valley bottoms and buried by gentle floods. Of particular interest and value is the site of Verberie, rich in lithic tools, faunal remains, hearts, and other indicators of spatial organization, which has been excavated continuously for twenty-six years by the same director and provides an unparalleled source of information on Paleolithic domesticity. The first group of essays and reports look at the technology and demographic evidences of domesticity; the second set seeks clues to the spatial patterning of Paleolithic households; while the final essays draw on ethnographic analogies to reconstruct and interpret gendered divisions of labor, perishable technologies, and other activities not directly recognizable from archaeological remains.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology Distinguished Monograph Series

The Magdalenian House Hold: Unraveling Domesticity

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The Magdalenian House Hold: Unraveling Domesticity

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pp. iii


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pp. v-vii

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Prefacing the Household

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pp. ix-x

This book originated with a set of conversations that took place in Paris between Francoise Audouze and Ezra Zubrow in 2002 when Ezra Zubrow was a visiting fellow at CNRS’s Maison Rene Ginouve’ Archéologie and Ethnologie. The many glasses of wine along the quartier Saint Germain and dinners in Meudon resulted in 2003 with Ezra Zubrow receiving a grant from NSF for studying “The Origins of Domesticity in the Late Upper Paleolithic” (0314411)...

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Introduction: Domesticity Expressed

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pp. 1-8

Home and family are central to the human experience. We know little about the origins of this basic social organization for humans and the development of what we know today as domesticity. Domesticity has a very long past but archaeological evidence is missing for most of the millennia. Archaeological levels in caves represent such complex palimpsests that they cannot be used to reconstruct the spatial aspect of social life...

Part I: Technology and Demography

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Chapter One: Technology and Demographics: An Introduction

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pp. 11-14

The primary question addressed in this volume involves domestic organization in the Magdalenian of the Paris Basin. This comprises fundamental ideas about human society, how people relate to one another in economic, social, and personal ways. It implies demography, the make-up of the social group, and how we might see this from the archaeological record. Much of our knowledge about the organization of Paleolithic hunters’ campsites...

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Chapter Two: The Magdalenian Site of Verberie (Le Buisson Campin): An Overview

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pp. 15-21

Several chapters in this volume focus on the Magdalenian site of Verberie because the successive living fl oors yielded by this open-air site are particularly adapted to question domesticity in Upper Palaeolithic settlements. Both the excellent preservation of lithic and organic remains, and of the spatial organization...

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Chapter Three: Fauna and Site Structure at Verberie: Implications for Domesticity and Demography

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pp. 22-50

The content and configuration of faunal remains have been noted as having more directly readable information about the organization of direct subsistence activities activity, and signifi cant implications for the demography and social organization for performing those tasks. This chapter shall focus on that relationship, keeping in mind, however, that the integration with other classes...

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Chapter Four: Technologie Lithique

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pp. 51-75

Au terme de vingt-cinq années de fouilles minutieuses au Buisson Campin, 1 sept à huit niveaux d’occupations magdaléniennes successives ont été découverts (Audouze 2006). Datés du Bölling (entre 14000 et 12000 BP cal) l’industrie lithique est attribuable au Magdalénien fi nal. À l’instar des autres sites magdaléniens du Bassin parisien, le débitage est effectué selon un mode de production laminaire...

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Chapter Five: Utilisation et Transformation des Mati

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pp. 76-90

Cerner la nature du site, débattre de l’organisation sociale des groupes qui y ont vécu et discuter de son intégration au “schéma” magdalénien du Bassin parisien conduit à s’interroger sur la nature domestique ou spécialisée du campement. Résoudre cette question passe en partie par la prise en compte de l’abondance et de la variété des vestiges qui diffèrent selon la durée d’occupation et la diversité des activités pratiquées....

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Chapter Six: Pincevent and Verberie Rocks and Hearths: A Tentative Summary/ Preliminary Analysis

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pp. 91-102

As is often the case for the open air Paleolithic sites of the Paris Basin, at Pincevent Level IV-0 and Verberie Level II-1 heated rocks represent a large part of the remains discovered. Whether they were found alone or within fire structures, meaning “any kind of group of artifacts wearing evidence of fire damage” (Leroi-Gourhan 1973), these rocks testify to varied daily technical activities...

Part II: Social Organization

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Chapter Seven: Introduction to Domesticity and Spatial Organization

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pp. 105-108

Spatial organization is an essential entry to domesticity in hunter-gatherers’ camps since there are no buildings to materialize the family social organization. The concepts developed by Amos Rapoport (1978; 1990:11–13; 1999) are particularly adapted to our goal. He defines the inhabited spatial environment as organized by a system of activities in a system of settings that are in turn organized by fixed-feature elements (building, wall, floors)...

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Chapter Eight: Archaeology of Equality: Magdalenian Economy

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pp. 109-130

This chapter has an unusual rationale and a long genesis. Over the last several decades I have had an ancillary career in labor—first as a member, then as vice president and fi nally a year ago as the elected president of the Buffalo Center Chapter of the United University Professions. It is the largest chapter of the largest higher education union in the United States. The university is a “union shop,” which means that unlike a “closed shop”...

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Chapter Nine: GIS of Verberie: Spatial Definition of the Habitation Units

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pp. 131-144

In this chapter I will be discussing an approach that begins with small-scale intrasite studies that can be linked together to create site occupation models. Specifically, this chapter explores the utility of GIS techniques in visualizing spatial data at these various scales. The spatial structure of a Paleolithic site must be understood at various levels, ranging from the most constrained areas, the individual zones of activity, to the site as a whole...

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Chapter Ten: Domesticity and Spatial Organization at Verberie

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pp. 145-175

It is by identifying a set of activities in a set of spaces that one gets access to huntergatherers domesticity, as argued in the introduction. The previous chapters on Verberie in this volume answer decisive questions about the organization of several activities: hunting, animal food consuming and curing, and the places where they were performed (J. G. Enloe), the organization of fl int knapping and lithic tools production, the fl int workshops and refuse areas and their makers (F. Janny)...

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Chapter Eleven: Espaces et Habitats au Tardiglaciairedans le Bassin Parisien: Une Illustration avec les Gisements Magdalenien de Pincevent et Azilien du Closeau

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pp. 176-197

Depuis le d

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Chapter Twelve: Éléments d’une Organisation Sociale Magdalénienne à Étiolles Du Savoir-faireau Statut Social des Personnes

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pp. 198-212

L’organisation sociale d’un groupe de chasseurs-cueilleurs paléolithiques, tels les Magdaléniens d’Étiolles (Essonne, France), semble de prime abord assez peu accessible. Certes, mais outre que l’on peut déjà dessiner à grands traits le cadre interprétatif par analogie actualiste, celui d’une société nomade et présumée égalitaire, les recherches de ces dernières décennies ont néanmoins développé des approches méthodologiques aptes à saisir au moins des éléments de cette organisation. Mieux, nous proposons, dans ce chapitre, de montrer que cette restriction autorise pourtant une interprétation moins élémentaire qu’il n’y paraît...

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Chapter Thirteen: Comparing Social Organizations of Magdalenian Hunter-Gatherers: A Swiss Example

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pp. 213-221

Who were the Magdalenians who repeatedly came and lived at the sites of Champr

Part III: From Today to Yesterday: Ethnographic Comparisons

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Chapter Fourteen: Introduction to the Ethnographic Section: Focusing on Interpreting the Magdalenian Sites of the Paris Basin

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pp. 225-226

This short introduction only intends to locate the four chapters in this section within the context of this volume. All four have been selected to help interpret the Magdalenian sites of the Paris Basin. Although empirical analysis and knapping experimentations provide extensive proof of the presence of children and adolescents in these sites, we do not have any empirical proof of the presence of women at Verberie based on the archaeological data...

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Chapter Fifteen: The Probable Sexual Division of Labor in Magdalenian Hide: Working Ethnological Evidence

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pp. 227-234

One of the most interesting discussions at the Goutelas Conference concerned the sexual division of labor in hide working. The issue can be reduced to the question of whether one can infer that women did the hide working during the Paris Basin Magdalenian or that it is impossible to make any such inference. That hide working took place on a site is signaled by the presence of used endscrapers recovered in situ, as microwear analysis has determined from numerous sites in many places and time periods...

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Chapter Sixteen: The Roles of Perishable Technologies in Upper Paleolithic Lives

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pp. 235-244

While it is clear that Upper Paleolithic lives were lived by a diverse set of actors doing a great variety of things, our past research has privileged just one segment of people— namely, prime age males. It has also focused on a finite set of activities performed by this minority—specifically killing and processing animals, preferably large in size. This focus has impacted not only what archaeological materials were studied but also the methods used to recover them...

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Chapter Seventeen: Slaughter and Carcass Processing of Reindeer in Siberia: Patterns and Distribution of Tasks—Comparisons Between Prehistoric and Ethnoarchaeological Cases

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pp. 245-268

Verberie and Pincevent are reindeer kill sites, for hunts during the autumn migrations. Installed along the river banks, Magdalenian nomads went there 12,000 years ago to encounter wild herds migrating toward warmer regions for the winter. Joined by this common thread, they present nonetheless variations in the representation of different categories of bones: the presence of ribs and numerous vertebrae at Verberie, which are almost absent at Pincevent....

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Chapter Eighteen: M

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pp. 269-282

En 1941, dans la première édition de L’Homme et la Matière , A. Leroi-Gourhan (1971) a démontré qu’un outil ne pouvait être appréhendé exclusivement à travers sa partie active. La majorité des outils n’acquièrent toute leur effi cacité que par leur insertion dans un manche. En 1957, en posant les fondements de la tracéologie, S. A. Semenov (Semenov 1964), à la suite de nombreuses expérimentations, confortait cette idée. En 1987, la conférence organisée par D. Stordeur (Stordeur 1987)...

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Conclusion: Domesticity Re-expressed

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pp. 283-297

This volume has incorporated ideas and analyses from numerous sources, at a variety of scales, which are both broadly viewed and narrowly focused. We have called upon researchers of demography and social organization on a global scale (Zubrow), ethnoarchaeologists of modern hunter-gatherers (Beyries and Rots, David, Karlin and D’iachenko, Keeley), those interested in Paleolithic hunters and gatherers (Soffer and Adovasio)...

English-French Index

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pp. 298-335

E-ISBN-13: 9781438433684
E-ISBN-10: 1438433689
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438433677
Print-ISBN-10: 1438433670

Page Count: 345
Illustrations: 24 tables, 120 figures
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1
Series Title: The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology Distinguished Monograph Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Verberie Site (France).
  • Social archaeology -- France -- Paris Basin.
  • Paris Basin (France) -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- France -- Paris Basin.
  • Magdalenian culture -- France -- Paris Basin.
  • Tools, Prehistoric -- France -- Paris Basin.
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