Spatial distribution of the principal Aurignacian fireplaces © Valérie Feruglio

The Aurignacian culture occupied a vast geographic range, with concentrations in the High-Danube region of Germany, in Austria, in the Moravian region of Slovakia, and in the Santander region of Spain. In France, Aurignacian peoples occupied small valleys in the Dordogne region (around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac), and in the piedmonts of the Pyrenean mountains. Other than the cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc, the presence of the Aurignacian culture is very discrete in the Ardèche region. In the gorges of the Ardèche River, a few Aurignacian flint artifacts have been found in the cave of Figuier (Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche) and the small rock-shelter of Les Pêcheurs (Casteljau). In the neighboring department of the Gard, Aurignacian artifacts have been found at the cave of Ouilins, and especially at the site of Esquicho-Crapaou (Sainte-Anastasie), which has been dated to 34,000 to 32,000 BP.
Early Aurignacian blade from the Grande Grotte de Bize (Aude, France) © Dominique SachiThe Aurignacian is distinguished from preceding cultures by several innovations in flint knapping techniques, a diversification of tool types, and significant innovations in other domains. Flint tools are now made on blades rather than flakes. The tool types are more standardized and include end-scrapers for preparing animal skins, and burins for working wood and engraving. Projectile points for hunting were made from antler, bone and ivory. Aurignacian hunters did not use spearthrowers (atatls) or the bow and arrow. No eyed needles have been found, so their clothes may have been less finely made than in more recent periods.
Among the significant innovations of the Aurignacians is the development of body ornamentation, including pierced shells and teeth, carved bone pendants, bracelets, and ivory beads.
Meanwhile, the sudden explosion of monumental art, brilliantly demonstrated by the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave, is certainly among the most significant inventions of this culture.



Pendants from the Cro-Magnon rock-shelter
© J. Oster
Musée de l'Homme