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325The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
This paper presents a brief review of the present state of research on the Late Magdalenian site of Gönnersdorf. It
attempts to provide an improved, synthetic and ‘holistic’ interpretation of the site, with a focus on its spatial data
and the rich body of its ‘artistic’ expression. The ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions serve as
the backbone of a diachronic and supra-regional comparison of Late Upper Palaeolithic anthropomorphic depictions.
Between ~ 19,000 and 14,000 cal BP “headlessness” appears to have been an important subject that was shared
between different Late Upper Palaeolithic societies of Europe and its neighbours. The geographic and diachronic vari-
ability and the cultural contexts of these depictions, however, imply that different worldviews and / or belief systems
are reected in the different styles of anthropomorphic representations. The observed homogenisation that accounts
for the Late Magdalenian ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions is argued to have enhanced social
interconnectedness and cohesion on supra-regional scale and that the establishment of newly organized social-cultural
systems has supported the successful colonization of central Europe from ~ 16,000 cal BP onwards.
Palaeolithic art, headless anthropomorphic depictions, Late Magdalenian, socio-cultural rules and regulations, base
When I rst visited what is today the MONREPOS Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human
Behavioural Evolution, I got to know Elaine and Martin, who welcomed me in the castle’s Jagdhaus. It didn’t
take me long to realize that both of them were essentially humanized reference books of Prehistoric archae-
ology, and I probably learned more from each of them than I did from university. Over the course of the past
decades Elaine and Martin were deeply engaged in numerous research projects in which they addressed a
plethora of topics within Pleistocene and Early Holocene archaeology. But they were always united in their
joint interest in zooarchaeology and its contributions to understanding how past human groups coped with
the challenges of their everyday lives and consequently managed to survive. Probably, one of the most im-
pressive analyses Elaine and Martin jointly published is the monographic presentation of their research on
“The Faunal Remains from Gönnersdorf” (Street and Turner, 2013), in which they present the results of their
in-depth study of a material they began to work with shortly after they arrived in Germany. The results of
this comprehensive work provide not only the raw data for an improved understanding of Late Magdalenian
adaptations and lifeways, but also shed fresh light on a synthetical interpretation of the Gönnerdorf open-
air site (Fig. 1), which is more in line with all the other evidence the site has provided us with.
In: S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser · O. Jöris (Eds.), The Beef behind all Possible Pasts. The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of
Elaine Turner and Martin Street. Monographien des RGZM 157 (Mainz 2021). DOI: 10.11588/propylaeum.868.c11323
326 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
Fig. 1 Gönnersdorf, showing excavated areas and trenches (grey) between modern buildings (black). Within the excavated area,
arrangements of larger stones and artecal pits allow to distinguish the different concentrations (from south to north: concentra-
tions K-I, K-SW, K-IIa, K-IIb; K-III, K-IV). Elevations are given in metres above sea-level. – (Modied from: Jöris et al., 2011; Jöris and
Moseler, 2021a).
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5 m
327The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
The present contribution attempts to bring together the different topics the site of Gönnersdorf, excavated
by Gerhard Bosinski between 1968 and 1976 over a total area of 687 m² (Bosinski, 1979), has touched
upon since its discovery (Bosinski, 1969, 1975). Over the last 50 years, a number of ‘core questions’ the site
seemed appropriate for addressing, have been repeatedly explored and continuously updated, corrected
and rened in numerous monographs and articles.
(1) The rst of these questions relates to understanding the sites’ spatial organisation and structure. At the
time of its discovery, much of the research into this period was still dominated by excavations in caves and
rock-shelters, and, consequently, little focus was spent on the spatial structures and features that high-
resolution open-air sites could provide. But new excavation methods and standards now allowed for a new
quality of documentation and analytical resolution. Bosinski’s work at Gönnersdorf was strongly inuenced
and guided by the methods developed and implemented during the excavation of the Magdalenian site
of Pincevent in France (Leroi-Gourhan and Brézillon, 1966, 1972) that began shortly before and continued
in parallel to Bosinski’s work. These efforts were targeted at understanding the socio-economic and socio-
spatial organisation of Late Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer lifeways and so to provide a better under-
standing of their “ethnologie préhistorique” (Leroi-Gourhan, 1936; cf. Valentin, 2015). Similarily, Bosinski’s
work at Gönnersdorf targeted the identication of spatial units and their understanding as areas of differing
activities, including potential habitation structures (Bosinski, 1969, 1979, 1981, 1988, 2007). The site’s large
and artefact-dense concentrations were interpreted as ground plans of differently sized dwelling structures
(e. g., Bosinski, 1979, 1981, 1988, 2007). Over the last decades, the interpretation of these structures and
their temporal interrelations have repeatedly been addressed and changed; the present state of analyses
and interpretation will be summarized below.
(2) The second question concerns the understanding of the rich record of ‘artistic’ expressions that
Gönnersdorf has become famous for. No other Magdalenian open-air site has produced ‘artistic’ expres-
sions in anything like a comparable amount (Bosinski and Fischer, 1974, 1980; Bosinski et al., 2001; Bosin-
ski, 2008).
(3) The third question concerns the sites’ chronostratigraphic position and, consequently, its place within
the Magdalenian demographic expansion from south-western into central Europe. Initially thought to have
commenced with the beginning of the period of Late Glacial warming, i. e., the “Bölling” interstadial
(Brunn acker et al., 1978; Bosinski, 1981), subsequent radiocarbon dates and the ability to calibrate the
radiocarbon time scale over the Glacial period that emerged in the 1990s, showed that the sustainable
post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) re-occupation of central Europe actually commenced long before the
“Bölling” interstadial (Street et al., 1994; cf. Housley et al., 1997; Stevens et al., 2009). Gönnersdorf took a
prominent position in this process.
Each of these questions, however, is closely interlinked with the others and cannot be answered from study-
ing in isolation the site’s spatial structure, ‘artistic’ record, or radiocarbon chronology. Instead, answering
each of the questions requires a much deeper, more comprehensive and synthetical approach, as the site’s
function(s) can only be assessed through a combination of these lines of research, and through their dis-
cussion within a widened contextual framework into which other lines of evidence from Late Upper Palaeo-
1 With the term “Bölling” Arlette Leroi-Gourhan referred to the
beginning of the Late Glacial interstadial (Brunnacker et al.,
1978). In the northern half of central Europe, where the Bølling
had been dened (cf. discussion in Jöris and Álvarez-Fernández,
2003), the beginning of the Late Glacial interstadial, i. e., Green-
land Interstadial GI 1e (cf. Rasmussen et al., 2014), is dened as
the Meiendorf interstadial (cf. Street et al., 2002).
328 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
lithic contexts will need to be included and discussed. Until now, such a holistic perspective has not been
attempted for the site.
Closely connected to such a broadened contextual framework is the question to which degree the obser-
vations and interpretations made at one site can be accounted as representative, ‘typical’ or ‘characteristic’
for the entire time interval and geographical area in focus, and to which degree data from one site may
be extrapolated to add to the understanding of others (e. g., Pasda, 2012; Leesch and Bullinger, 2012).
Major shifts in the frames of reference and in the perspectives taken that came with the New Archaeology
(e. g., Binford, 1983) opened up the possibility of alternative interpretations of site organisation and func-
tion, strongly focussing on the understanding of daily routines of Magdalenian hunter-gatherers in their
socio-economic contexts (cf. e. g., Audouse, 1987; Valentin, 2015). Together with the observation that
most of the activities at Magdalenian sites apparently took place in the immediate proximity to hearths
(cf. Bullinger at al., 2006; Leesch and Bullinger, 2012; Leesch et al., 2004; Julien and Karlin, 2014; Zubrow
at al., 2010; cf. Moseler, 2020) and the argument that the archaeological remains at (most) Palaeolithic
sites would result from the ‘palimpsest’ accumulation of (distinct) “intermittent episodes of deposition
resulting from high residential mobility” (Galanidou, 1997: 1), a widespread view of Magdalenian lifeways
emerged that placed great emphasis on repetitition of the same or similar activities which are documented
at many Magdalenian sites and which, therefore, are seen to reect culturally learned activities undertaken
by the members of a certain social entity (cf. Pasda, 2012). Such patterns can appear quite alike, especially
in reindeer-based economies, even between sites, and show certain analogies with the enthnographic
record (cf. e. g., Julien and Karlin, 2014 and references therein). Major distinctions between different sites
would in this case be less likely to be based on the natural environment and site function than they were
on group size, season of occupation, and frequency and duration of each of the occupations of a specic
locale. This perspective closely follows Leroi-Gourhan’s “palaeo-ethnological” approach (Leroi-Gourhan,
1936; cf. Valentin, 2015), and through it, one can argue for the existence of a well-dened Magdalenian
behavioural canon, which could serve as a further argument for the general applicability of conclusions
made from individual sites.
The interpretation of Gönnersdorf, however, stands in stark contrast to such a ‘monolithic’ view of the
Magdalenian, and the long time period that is covered by as the concept of the “Magdalenian” (ca.
17,500-12,000 14C BP; i. e., ~ 21,000-14,000 cal BP
2) and its wide geographical distribution from the
Iberian Peninsula to eastern central Europe (cf. Maier, 2015), add considerable variability and complexity
to this perspective. Inter-site similarities and differences can be found at varying analytical levels and at
varying levels of resolution, addressing different aspects of Magdalenian lifeways that allow us to go be-
yond the reconstruction of domestic activities. The following synthetical approach will therefore focus not
only on answering the three central questions linked to the Gönnersdorf site, i. e., its spatial interpretation,
‘artistic’ record, and chronology. Instead, the frame of reference will be widened by the comparative study
of the Late Upper Palaeolithic headless anthropomorphous depictions at the supra-regional level, and it
will dive deeper into the ‘cultural history’ that preceeds the Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf to address
the origins, formation and development of Late Upper Palaeolithic worldviews and belief systems as they
are of relevance for understanding Gönnersdorf’s site function.
2 Radiocarbon dates were calibrated with the CalPal software
(Weninger, 2021), using the IntCAL20 “Northern Hemisphere
Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curve (0-55 cal kBP)” of Reimer
et al. (2020). As the focus of this contribution is not on a detailed
chronology, calibrated dates are rounded. A more detailed dis-
cussion of chronological issues is largely based on uncalibrated
radiocarbon dates.
329The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
Elaine’s and Martin’s joint study of “The Faunal Remains from Gönnersdorf” reveals that the locality was
used over an extended period of the year, during which at least 53 horses and numerous other animals were
consumed (Street and Turner, 2013). An almost complete absence of carnivore or small mammal gnawing
not only implies that the site was buried shortly after it was abandoned, but also that humans were likely
present at the locale more or less continuously over the time that is represented by seasonal faunal data,
i. e., disencouraging these animals to scavenge from the site (Street and Turner, 2013). With regard to its
main occupation phase, dating to between ~ 15,600 and ~ 16,000 cal BP (cf. Stevens et al., 2013), these
data may best be read in favour of a possibly even singular, but lengthy (probably much more than half-
year long) period of use. These data also match well with the results from intensive retting studies (in-
cluding knapped lithics and rocks) that were initially aimed at disentangling different phases of occupation
of the site and at establishing an internal chronology for the site’s different material concentrations (e. g.,
Eickhoff, 1989, 1990; Eickhoff and Lindenbeck, 1989; Veil, 1990; Terberger, 1997). All of the established
relative-chronological sequences for the site have pointed to the more-or-less simultaneous use of these
distinct zones (Sensburg, 2007, 2008, 2011; cf. Terberger, 1997), in contrast to many other broadly con-
temporary sites which are interpreted as palimpsests of repeated but short occupational phases, where rets
document the sequential movement of material starting at one point and ending at another (e. g., Bullinger
et al., 2006). At Gönnersdorf the different concentrations frequently interconnect by large number of long-
distance rets. The outcome of comprehensive retting efforts of different rock types, undertaken by David
Batchelor in the 1970s and 1980s, is plotted on detailed plans archived in MONREPOS, and documents
hundreds of retted complexes. Among these are numerous cases in which rets span long distances be-
tween the concentrations, showing movement of materials repeatedly running back and forth, i. e., in two
directions (Terberger, 1997). These data provide evidence for activities that were interconnected and took
place in parallel, and differ from the evidence provided by most other sites that are interpreted as the result
of more ephemeral, short-term and seasonally frequented locales at which a restricted range of activities
were practiced, mostly focussed on the procurement of animal resources (e. g., Debout et al., 2012; Julien
and Karlin, 2014; cf. Turner, 2002).
The relative degree of (“limited”) “sedentism” proposed for Gönnersdorf (Street and Turner, 2013: 250)
complements these observations, and explains to a large degree the site’s richness (e. g., Franken and Veil,
1983) and the broad spectrum of activities that have been documented at it. Clearly, a temporally extended
period of occupation of the site justied greater investment into the organisation of space and in architec-
tural structures that the site provides (e. g., Bosinski, 1979, 2007; Terberger, 1997; Jöris and Terberger, 2001;
Sensburg, 2007, 2008; Moseler, 2008, 2011; Jöris et al., 2011, 2021; Jöris and Moseler, 2021a, 2021b;
Street and Turner, 2013). Evidence of periodic cleaning (Jöris and Moseler, 2021a) highlights the mainte-
nance of the Gönnersdorf concentration K-IV light rectangular tent structure in the north of the excavated
area that was composed of a structural frame of some of the largest schist plaquettes documented at the
site, laid out as more-or-less even pacing (Fig. 2; Jöris and Terberger, 2001; Moseler, 2008, 2011). It is note-
worthy that in contrast to the ret-patterns of the other concentrations – none of the plaquettes forming
the rectangular frame of the K-IV construction could be retted (which would imply transport of the mate-
rial); as such these rocks appear to have been of static constructional importance, i. e., to provide structural
stability: all rocks > 15 cm in maximum dimension appear to have been placed there deliberately. The area
so enclosed was kept free of waste generated by the processing of fauna, and inside the tent’s ~ 16 m² large
rectangular ground plan, no large faunal elements were found at all (Jöris and Moseler, 2021a). In terms of
its low density of nds, distinct architectural components, lack of pits and virtual absence of distinct nd
330 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
categories, the K-IV structure differs from the site’s largest and densest concentrations (K-I, K-II, K-III), the
latter of which are made up of tons of gravel and rocks transported to the site (mostly from a nearby small
creek) that accumulated over the entire duration of occupation.
Today, the large concentrations can no longer be understood as enclosed, roof-topped constructions as
they once were, but rather as areas of outdoor activities that were systematically organised spatially (Jöris
et al., 2021; Sensburg, 2008). This was characterised by the constant accumulation and – over the course
of occupation – re-arrangement of material over a lengthy period of time (cf. Jöris and Moseler, 2021b;
Sensburg, 2007). Rets, particularly for K-II and K-III, closely link these clusters to the K-IV tent structure
(Terberger, 1997). If one follows the interpretation of K-IV as a tent dedicated to resting and sleeping
(hence the need to keep it clean: Jöris and Moseler, 2021a) and if one considers the immense amount of
material that the large outdoor activity areas of the denser concentrations have produced, one may predict
that other K-IV-like structures must have existed at the site, but which the excavations did not locate. Test
sondages designed to establish the spatial extent of the site within the area covered by modern buildings
were undertaken during the 1970s in parallel to the excavation, assessing large areas to the east and north
of K-IV (Bosinski, 1979; cf. Fig. 1). As most of the test squares contained few artefacts only, excavations
were never extended into these areas. However, the low densities of nds there show that the settlement
area continued over a surface of at least ~ 400 m² or even more. The fact that no dense nd scatters have
been detected there, allows us to assume that at least no dense concentrations like those of K-I, K-II or K-III
would be expected there. But this projection does not imply that there were no further light structures char-
acterised by low nd densities that could resemble (a) K-IV-like structure(s). Future eldwork could target
this question and test this hypothesis.
The complex spatial patterns of retted materials at Gönnersdorf are most suggestive of activities that were
sequentially linked and which accumulated in parallel over a long period of time, ultimately forming dense
concentrations of material (Sensburg, 2011), rather than repetitive but temporally disconnected short-term
activities that spanned a longer period (several years) of repeated but discontinuous site use, also in volving
the regular use of re (Moseler, 2020). As many of the individual quotidian activities that took place at
Gönnersdorf were of quite ephemeral character; we are therefore presented with palimpsests of such
short-term activities. Retting, raw-material and size-sorting studies have, however, shown that these pal-
impsests did not lead to a horizontal disturbance (i. e., spreading-out) of materials; instead they remained
more-or-less in place, where they were constantly re-arranged and re-cycled in subsequent activities (e. g.,
Jöris and Moseler, 2021b; cf. Terberger, 1997). There is probably no other site of this period that reveals
an equally broad spectrum of activities and / or equally intense traces of them; these include the intensive
use of (non-knapped) schist, quartzite, quartz, and occasionally basalt (e. g., Batchelor, 1979; Terberger,
1997), partly as architectural elements used to structure and organise the space used (Jöris et al., 2011),
or as ground stone tools used as supports or anvils for numerous tasks, including hammering, battering,
chiselling, drilling, and others. Most of these traces have not yet been studied exhaustively. However, use-
Fig. 2 Composite Gönnersdorf excavation plan (modied from: Jöris and Moseler, 2021a) highlighting the different concentrations (from
south to north: K-I, K-SW, K-IIa, K-IIb; K-III, K-IV with the reconstructed, ~ 16 m² covering quadratic ground plan of a presumably light
tent-like dwelling structure). Scale: 1:200.
The plan comprises (a) distribution of delibrately placed manuports (rocks and plaquettes) shown in grey in the background of the gure,
overlain by (b) the relative density of small tooth fragments from the sieving remains recorded per ¼ square metre (the more intense
the red, the higher the tooth fragment density; Jöris and Moseler, 2021a) and (c) faunal remains recorded as single nds (black). Hearth
structures / replaces (1; modied from: Moseler, 2020) and artical pits are also shown (2).
Additionally, plaquettes engraved with ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions found in occupation level (3) and within pits (4) are plotted (modi-
ed from: Bosinski et al., 2001); ret-lines (5) between plaquette fragments that display ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions are also included.
331The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
5 m
1 2 3 4 5
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332 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
wear studies on int artefacts (Sano, 2012a, 2012b, 2021) not only reveal a broad spectrum of activities
within the largest concentration (K-II), but emphasise the partly intensive and long-term use of some of the
tools that were used in this area alongside numerous organic implements (Tinnes, 1994; 2001). The results
of use-wear studies on Gönnersdorf K-II so-called ‘Western European’ Meuse int show clear differences
to the results from use-wear studies of the same raw material on other Late Magdalenian sites (in terms
of the activities performed and especially of the intensities of these performances), which have been inter-
preted as characterized by more restricted task spectra than at Gönnersdorf (Sano, 2012a, 2012b). A high
degree of reduction and re-cycling of the lithic material enforces this picture (cf. Franken and Veil, 1983;
Veil, 1983).
At Gönnersdorf the large concentrations were apparently areas that were communally used for most of
the daily activities of the groups that came together here (Jöris et al., 2021; Sensburg, 2007, 2008, 2011;
cf. Moseler, 2020). According to the exogenous raw materials that dominate the Gönnersdorf lithic assem-
Fig. 3 Different levels of abstraction of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ engravings from the open-air site of Gönnersdorf (not to scale, but for
better comparability adjusted to similar torso size; after: Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; cf. Bosinski et al. 2001). – Top row: the
most complete depictions with arms and breasts (1-6, 8) and breasts only (7). Figure no. after: Bosinski et al. (2001): 1 59.1; 2 no. 80.1;
3 no. 1.1; 4 no. 206.1; 5 no. 184.2; 6 no. 73.2; 7 no. 206.2; 8 no. 203. – Middle row: more simplied depictions with arms only (9-15).
Figure no. after: Bosinski et al. (2001): 9 no. 204.2; 10 no. 65.1; 11 no. 65.3; 12 no. 180.2; 13 no. 205A.1; 14 no. 86.1; 15 no. 46. –
Bottom row: extremely simplied depictions without arms or breasts (16-23). Figure no. after: Bosinski et al. (2001): 16 no. 202.1;
17 no. 43.1; 18 no. 68.5; 19 no. 72.6; 20 no. 72.7; 21 no. 72.5; 22 no. 53.3; 23 no. 213.2.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
333The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
blage (Floss, 1994), different groups from different regions, each about a hundred kilometres or more dis-
tant, met here, and spent a lengthy part of the year together (Street et al., 2006; Jöris et al., 2011): “Taken
together, all this evidence reinforces an interpretation of Gönnersdorf as a base camp at which the full range
of domestic and social activities was carried out” (Street and Turner, 2013: 250), as was previously pro-
posed by Gerhard Bosinski (1975, 1988). However, not “all people would necessarily have been present [at
Gönnerdorf] all the time or at the same time” (Street and Turner, 2013: 250). The large, communally used
concentrations are also those places where almost all of the depicted animals and anthropomorphs cluster
(Figs. 2-4). The site’s rich body of such ‘artistic’ expressions underlines its particular importance among
the Late Magdalenian sites of the wider region. The numerous (n ≈ 249) naturalistic depictions of animals
(Bosinski and Fischer, 1980; Bosinski and Bosinski, 1991; Bosinski, 2008) and the schematic representations
of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions (n ≈ 423), generally interpreted to represent females
(Bosinski and Fischer, 1974; Höck, 1995; Bosinski et al., 2001; Bosinski, 2011a, 2011b), may have played a
signicant role in Late Magdalenian communication networks (Gamble, 1982; cf. Gaudzinski- Windheuser
and Jöris, 2015). The ‘artistic’ expressions at Gönnersdorf are spatially embedded within the remains of
quotidian activities. Whatever the specic messages communicated via these depictions was, the transferal
of information involving them appears to have taken place in communally used, ‘public’ areas of quotidian
use (cf. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, 2015, 2021). The recognition of such communal or public areas is of
great relevance in the context of the spatial organisation of sites such as Gönnersdorf, as they dene the
socio-spatial (built) environments in which a society’s sets of rules and regulations do not only become most
Fig. 4 Gönnersdorf. Headless anthropomorphic engravings of four
hatched gures of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’, all facing towards the right
and in alignment. Note: the second gure from the right seems to
carry a smaller gure on its back. – (Photo: Volker Iserhardt, RGZM;
after: Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; cf. Bosinski et al., 2001:
plaquette no. 87, the so called “Strickvenüsse”). – Width = 8.5 cm.
334 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
visible through constant re-iteration through practice, but likely where the validity of these sets of rules and
regulations are also questioned, newly negotiated, altered or conserved when agreed upon; in short, where
the rules and regulations that underpin societies are negotiated.
Overall, the combined Gönnersdorf data highlight the site’s importance as a meeting point at supra-regional
scale (Street et al., 2006). This is further indicated by the presence of other materials imported to the site
over large distances, e. g., personal ornaments made of Mediterranean shells (Álvarez-Fernández, 2009),
presumably indicative of social networks that spanned distances of hundreds of kilometres (e. g., Bosinski,
2007). Some of the highly dynamic and naturalistic depictions of animals include species which most likely
no longer lived in the region at the time the site was occupied (cf. Stevens et al., 2009; Street et al., 2012),
such as mammoths and several taxa of seals (Bosinski and Bosinski, 1991). This implies that at least a few
individuals with detailed knowledge of such animals must have travelled over long distances to reach the
German central Rhineland, where they shared information on those animals.
Comparable nds and features have been recorded from the Magdalenian site of Andernach-Martinsberg
at about 2 km distance to the south-west and just in sight of Gönnersdorf, on the opposite bank of the River
Rhine (Bosinski, 2007; Street et al., 2006). As at Gönnersdorf, evidence for long-distance imports of ma-
terials to the site is abundant, including, among other examples, a whale bone, probably a projectile fore-
shaft which hints at parallels with Late Magdalenian sites in the Pyrenees (Langley and Street, 2013). The
Andernach specimen may have been exchanged over this long distance, just as may has been the case with
the shell ornaments of “49 specimens of Homalopoma sanguineum, a Mediterranean marine gastropod”
(Street, 2021), found next to the whale bone in a small pit. The close spatial association with an engraved
schist plaquette depicting a seal (Street, 2021) may, on the other hand, suggest that the whale bone artefact
and the gastropod ornaments were brought to Andernach by (an) individual(s) travelling this long distance,
who were familiar with these animals.
The accumulated evidence of Gönnersdorf and Andernach-Martinsberg emphasises the sites’ central po-
sition within Late Magdalenian supra-regional social networks (Street et al., 2006). Dating to ca. 15,600-
16,000 cal BP (cf. Stevens et al., 2013), i. e., within Greenland Stadial GS 2.1a (cf. Rasmussen et al., 2014),
the two sites are statistically indistinguishable in age, with most plausible radiocarbon dates ranging from
ca. 12,990 ± 55 14C BP (OxA-V-2223-42) to 13,270 ± 55 14C BP (OxA-V-2223-39) (Stevens et al., 2013).
Technologically and typologically they are indistinguishable, placing them into an Early Upper Magdalenian
according to recent French terminology (cf. Langlais et al., 2015b, 2017; ~ “Magdalenian V”). The sites
display many more extremely close similarities, e. g., their organic tool types (Bosinski, 2007; Tinnes, 1994)
and in the technical details that characterize the reduction of so-called “Palaeozoic Quartzite” (Heuschen,
1997; cf. Street et al., 2006). In fact, both sites appear so alike that one may easily argue that at one point
during the Magdalenian Gönnersdorf was chosen as a meeting point of Late Magdalenian communities,
but shortly – probably only a few years – thereafter Andernach took on the same purpose, or the other way
around. But the great number of ‘artistic’ depictions – particularly at Gönnersdorf – highlights the sites’
special position in the Late Magdalenian oikumene, which is further mirrored in their incomparably high
frequency of personal ornamentation (cf. Schwendler, 2012). In fact, in comparison to other Magdalenian
sites, the rich Gönnersdorf body of depictions is paralleled only by the famous rock- and cave-art sites,
rather than by any other open-air locality.
3 The Late Magdalenian site of Andernach-Martinsberg is in many
ways much like Gönnersdorf (Bosinski, 2007). The differences in
the numbers and frequencies of certain nd categories (i.e. quan-
titative data) are best explained by the much more fragmented
and discontinouos areas of excavation at the Martinsberg site,
rather than to a qualitatively different archaeological record.
335The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
In the Late Upper Palaeolithic of Europe and north-eastern Africa, headless anthropomorphic depictions
comprise a rich category of the ‘artistic’ record. In Europe they outnumber by far other more realistic (or
complete) anthropomorphic / human depictions (e. g., Duhard, 1993, 1996). In their overall design they
strongly contrast with the depictions of the preceding Mid-Upper Palaeolithic “Willendorf-style” which
often possess heads, occasionally faces, and frequently hairstyles / hats and other details that can be inter-
preted as depictions of specic individuals (Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; cf. Bourrillon et al.,
2012). Beginning ~ 19,000-18,000 cal BP, and continuing until ~ 14,000 cal BP, “headlessness” appears as
a prominent characteristic of European anthropomorphic / human depictions (Fig. 5; cf. Tab. 1), and one
may ask whether or not their penecontemporaneous continental-wide appearance may be (1) simply co-
in cidental, (2) interpreted as a reection of similar or convergent worldviews or belief systems and / or (3)
best explained by high levels of supra-regional interconnectedness and the related transmission of ideas. In
Tab. 1 Major stylistic characteristics of Late Upper Palaeolithic headless anthropomorphic respresentations.
L. Basse
Abri Bourdois
(dwelling 2)
(dwelling 3)
(dwelling 2)
functions in ... view
frontal prole prole
frontal frontal
no no no no no no no
neck no no no vertical lines vertical lines
(n = 1) vertical lines no
thoracic cage no no no chevrons chevrons chevrons horizontal lines
front arms no frequently no no no no no
breasts no occasionally occasionally
(sometimes pairs
of breasts) no no no no
side no
(n = 2)
(n = 1)
ornamented no
back no no geometrically
ornamented no
hips / buttocks no pronounced pronounced pronounced pronounced weak no
front pubic region pubic triangle
engraved no no pubic triangle
pubic triangle
engraved no pubic triangle
side no
(n = 2)
no geometrically
ornamented no no
back no no geometrically
ornamented no no
no n = 2 no no no no no
336 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
Fig. 5 Spatio-temporal context of Late Upper Palaeolithic headless anthropomorphic depictions, dating between ~ 19,000-13,000 cal BP.
a depictions in rock art (mostly engraved, but in few cases engraved and painted); b engravings on stone palquettes and blocks; c en-
gravings on pebbles (c-1: quadrats) and bones (c-2: circles); d) gurines (plastically sculpted).
Maps (modied from Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015), showing coastlines, lowered for ca. -60 m compared to present-day sea
level, the Northern European ice sheets at ca. 16,000 cal BP (after Hughes et al., 2016) and the Alpine ice shield at around the Last Glacial
Maximum (LGM). Site references: see appendix.
Ob. Klause
La Marche
Moulin-Neuf Murat
Las Caldas Arlanpe
ATB 11 Qurta II
Church Hole
Abri Bourdois
Dept. Dordogne
El Linar Dept. Lot
dorf type
legend to map d
Deux Ouvertures
337The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
~ 14,000 – 15,000 calBP
~ 15,000 – 16,000 calBP
~ 16,000 – 18,500 calBP
~ 17,000 – 18,500 calBP
Las Caldas
Bycí Skála
Faustin Rond-du-Barry
338 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
order to better understand the contexts of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions, which
make up the largest amount of Late Upper Palaeolithic anthropomorphic representations, this record will
be reviewed and discussed below.
The ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions
‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015), as they were named by Gerhard
Bosinski (Bosinski, 2007: Gönnersdorf-Typ), are highly schematic, abstract and, in a way, standardised anthro-
pomorphic representations that are generally interpreted as depicting females (cf. Lorblanchet and Welté,
1987, 1990: Lalinde / Gönnersdorf type; Delluc and Delluc, 1995: gurations féminines schématiques; cf.
Bourrillon et al., 2012: Groupe A). Although mostly engraved they also appear frequently as 3-dimensionally
carved gurines. Engravings are to be found on plaquettes and pebbles, on bone and in parietal art (Fig. 5).
The basic shape of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions resembles the human body in prole view or in sagittal
section (cf. Rosenfeld, 1977). The primary elements shared in these depictions form the trunk, composed of
the lower body which is depicted in more-or-less triangular shape, interpreted as representing pronounced
buttocks or wide hips, and the upper body which, in the case of the engravings, is usually indicated by one
or two more-or-less parallel lines only (Fig. 3). In varying levels of detail other attributes may add to the
primary shape of the torso: arms are the next-most frequently shown trait (depicted mainly by converging
lines), and – in even fewer cases – breasts (mostly round) that may be depicted below the arms (Bosinski
et al., 2001). Some of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions take the form of carved ivory statuettes, a few of
which possess pairs of breasts (Höck, 1995). The combination of buttocks and breasts makes it clear that fe-
males are depicted, although in a very generic and abbreviated manner. Although this interpretation seems
to apply to the majority of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations, it is unclear whether it can
be extended to depictions that lack clear female attributes (cf. discussion in: Floss et al., 2021).
The general absence of the head is most characteristic of all ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (e. g., Bosinski,
2011a, 2011b; Bosinski et al., 2001; Cluzel and Cleyet-Merle, 2011; Höck, 1995). Additionally, only a very
few depictions at Gönnersdorf include feet (Bosinski et al., 2001: plaquette 73). Given that most of the
‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions are in fact engravings, any such details as heads and feet could easily have
been added, if they were desired; we can therefore conclude that their omission was deliberate. In terms
of the characteristics listed above, ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions can, therefore, be clearly distinguished
from other styles of Upper Palaeolithic (female) anthropomorphic representations (Bourrillon et al., 2012;
cf. Duhard, 1993; Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015).
Gönnersdorf alone has produced a total of almost 450 anthropomorphic representations of this type, of
which some 423 are engraved on schist plaquettes (with ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions being presented on
~ 185 plaquette surfaces), sometimes in scenic arrangement in pairs or in small groups (Bosinski and Fischer,
1974; Bosinski et al., 2001; Bosinski, 2011a). In one case amounting to 22 gures, they have been arranged
successively in different groups, with the largest group in this arrangement composed of 17 gures (Bosinski
et al., 2001: plaquette 65). About 20 ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions are known from Andernach-Martins-
berg (Bosinski, 1994), and in addition to these a number of gurines were made on ivory, schist or other
stones (Höck, 1995). It should be emphasised that these numbers are approximations only, given that a cer-
tain number of the simplest and most abstract depictions may or may not be included in this category; when
depictions possess all stylistic elements, i. e., hips, arms and breasts, the depicted motif appears beyond any
doubt to represent a ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depiction, but especially when extreme schematic depictions (alike
Fig. 3: bottom line) are overlain or underlain by other engraved lines, their recognition and interpretation
339The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
is difcult. Some of the simplest depictions attributed to the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ (e. g., Fig. 3: 21-23) are al-
most indistinguishable from the ‘claviform signs’ of franco-cantabrian cave art (e. g., Fuentes et al., 2019) –
the latter, however, are usually viewed upside-down when compared to ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions. In
some of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, it seems that the engraver’s tool slipped somewhat, resulting
in body proportions that diverge from the ‘standard’, e. g., hip-to-back angles (Bosinski et al., 2001), and
which, therefore, makes it unclear whether they are attributable to the canon.
The same difculties arise when such simple and schematic motifs are composed of a few lines only, in-
cluding a certain amount of depictions at several other sites where depictions appear restricted to the
torso, which is engraved as a (sometimes elongated) double S-shaped gure. With this in mind, one has to
acknowledge that the evidence at some sites that are often referred to for comparison (cf. Bosinski et al.,
2001; Bosinski, 2011a, 2011b; Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015), may not
be as clear as is usually assumed. This is more problematic when unambiguous ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthro-
pomorphic depictions are otherwise not present at such sites where similar examples have been said to exist
(e. g., Pettitt, 2007; Mussi and De Marco, 2008).
Even though a few depictions may have been over-interpreted, therefore, their uniquely high number at
Gönnersdorf (cf. Schwendler, 2012) and their spatial ‘omnipresence’ in the site’s larger concentrations
(Fig. 2; Bosinski et al., 2001) enhances the interpretation that the site may have served, among other
functions (see above), as a meeting point for different foraging groups: a context in which the ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations may have had a particular importance for social scaffolding
(Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015) and the implementation of rules and regulations. Here, they ap-
pear to have been embedded into quotidian activities within communally-used space, from which one can
infer that ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions played a role in the public, everyday transmission of social rules and
regulations. The existence of some scenic depictions, interpreted as reecting dance (Bosinski et al., 2001;
cf. Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015), may hint at their use in festival and / or ritual contexts.
Chronology and context of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions
in central Europe
The degree of abstraction and schematisation and the relative standardisation of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ an-
thropomorphic representations suggests that they functioned as symbols of (a) socially shared idea(s) (Gaud-
zinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; cf. Bourrillon et al., 2012). The complete lack of any obvious individual
traits on the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations, in particular their “headlessness”, rein-
forces the notion that this symbol carried no information on specic individuals, but rather concerned the
gender-related role(s) of females in Late Magdalenian societies (cf. Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015).
Given this degree of abstraction, one may infer that the full meaning of this symbol could only be discerned
by those individuals who were socialized within the Magdalenian groups that employed this symbol. Begin-
ning with this assumption, one may further infer that ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations
may have served their purpose(s) only within a relatively short period of time, i. e., while the symbol was
‘current’ and socially transmitted from one generation to the next through teaching and social learning
(cf. Nishiaki and Jöris, 2019; Jöris, 2018). Such transmission forms the baseline for the establishment and
implementation of rules and regulations that derive from socio-cultural contexts.
Interestingly, within central Europe, ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations are closely linked
with the Late Magdalenian (e. g., Bosinski et al., 2001; Fiedorczuk et al., 2007; Leesch et al., 2004) which
equates to the Early Upper Magdalenian of south-western France (Langlais et al., 2015b, 2017), within which
340 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
they correlate specically to a phase during which Lacan type burins were produced across central Europe
(Street et al., 2012; cf. Połtowicz-Bobak, 2012). When radiocarbon dates are available for these sites, they
compare closely to the dates established for Gönnersdorf and Andernach or date slightly younger (Street
et al., 2012; Stevens et al., 2013; cf. e. g., Fiedorczuk et al., 2007), falling into the major phase of the Late
Glacial population expansion that commenced ~ 16,000 cal BP or shortly before (cf. Fig. 10). At this time,
central Europe was rapidly and more sustainably re-occupied after sporadic earlier attempts (e. g., Street and
Terberger, 1999; Terberger and Street, 2002; Street et al., 2009; Miller, 2012; Bobak and Połtowicz-Bobak,
2014; Maier, 2015, 2017; Pasda, 2017; Wiśniewski et al., 2017; Maier et al., 2020; Jöris and Street, 2021).
Even in the eastern extremity of central Europe the south-eastern Polish site of Wilczyce produced ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ anthropomorphic int gurines that had been intentionally shaped by retouch (Fiedorczuk et al.,
2007), dated at its oldest to 13,180 ± 60 14C BP (OxA-16728; on a tooth pendant derived from a perinatal
baby burial: Irish et al., 2008); the chronology is similar to that of Gönnersdorf and Andernach.
As direct dates for ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations do not exist, more precise age
estimates of the length of time during which these symbols were implemented are difcult to establish. In
the south-western part of Gönnersdorf, a few ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations were
associated with a small cluster of schist plaquettes, labelled Gönnersdorf-SW (Fig. 2; cf. Buschkämper,
1993). Here, atypical narrow-backed points and Lacan type burins, all made of Baltic int, were found
in close spatial association with red deer and elk bones, indicating a younger occupation of the site at
a time when the region was beginning to reforest at the onset of the Late Glacial interstadial complex
(Street and Turner, 2013: Plan 40). A radiocarbon date measured on one of the elk remains (Street and
Terberger, 2004; cf. Street et al., 2012) places this younger occupation into the very beginning of Green-
land Interstadial (GI) 1e, roughly 14,700-14,500 cal BP (cf. Fig. 10; Rasmussen et al., 2014). Although the
presence of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations at Gönnersdorf-SW could be explained
as due to potential re-use of material from other (and older) concentrations of the site, such an age would
be roughly in accordance with age estimates for depictions of “Birds / Ladies” from Church Hole Cave in
Creswell Crags (UK) further to the north-west, that – although not corresponding absolutely – are broadly
similar to the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (Pettitt, 2007; Pike et al., 2007). Similarily, several engravings
in the Grotte de Gouy in northern France resemble the ‘Gönnersdorf type’ depictions (Martin, 2007). The
lithic industry of this site, which includes bi-points and other backed points (Bordes et al., 1974), hints at
a Final Magdalenian / Azilian / Feder messer context, matching a radiocarbon date from the site very closely
(~ 14,000 cal BP: Martin, 2007), chronologically close to the age of several ‘Gönnersdorf type’ gurines (and
a potential engraving) from the Final Magdalenian / Azilian of the Petersfels in southern Germany (Bosinski,
2011b, Bosinski et al., 2001). The age estimates available for Gönnersdorf-SW, Church Hole and Gouy
(representing the north-westernmost appearances of this type of depiction) and those of the Petersfels
all fall into the transition to and early phases of the Late Glacial interstadial complex (from shortly before
GI 1e until GI 1d or, possibly, early GI 1c3). This is of interest, as it is to the same period that several of the
Late / Final Magdalenian sites of the Paris Basin belong, which have so far provided no convincing evidence
for ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations at all (cf. Debout et al., 2012). This may account
for the comparably scarce archaeological evidence from the earlier stage of the Late Magdalenian (i. e.,
~ 16,000-15,000 cal BP) in the Paris region.
Of even younger age is a sandstone arrow shaft smoother from the Late Palaeolithic Federmesser site
of Neuwied-Niederbieber, only a few kilometres to the north-east of Gönnersdorf (Gelhausen, 2011). A
series of more-or-less parallel incisions on one side of the object appears to resemble a series of ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ depictions (Loftus, 1982). Consequently, the nd has been interpreted as reecting a certain
regional continuity from the Late Magdalenian to the Curved-Backed Point industries (Federmessergruppen)
341The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
of the Late Glacial Allerød interstadial (GI 1c-b; i. e., ~ 14,000-13,000 cal BP). However, assuming that such
shaft smoothers were used in pairs, as is implied from younger contexts (Henry, 1976; Meier-Arendt, 1975),
the incisions could – in an alternative interpretation – relate to marks made when xing a twine around a
pair of shaft smoothers to facilitate their use.
To summarise the chronological evidence from central and north-western Europe, one has to conclude that
‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations date within the range ~ 16,000-14,000 cal BP, and
probably persisted until shortly thereafter. Despite the questionable evidence from the Niederbieber shaft
smoother that may hint at a certain cultural continuity from the Magdalenian to the succeeding Feder-
messergruppen, the period of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations ends ~ 14,000 cal BP,
roughly at a time that ancient DNA studies signal a major population-turnover in Europe (Posth et al., 2016;
cf. Bortolini et al., 2020, for discussion).
‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions of south-western Europe
Search for the ‘stylistic predecessors’ and (socio-cultural) origins of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic
depictions requires a closer look into the record of the Magdalenian ‘homeland’ of south-western Europe.
Unless one assumes an extremely rapid, quasi simultaneous spread of this type of depiction (which would lie
beyond the chronometric resolution of the radiocarbon dating method), one would assume to nd evidence
in the south-west of Europe predating the central European record.
The south-west of Europe provides, on one hand, numerous Late Pleistocene sites that are listed as possessing
headless anthropomorphic depictions (Duhard, 1993), most of which have been assigned to the ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ (Fig. 5; cf. Bosinski et al., 2001; Bosinski, 2011a, 2011b; Duhard, 1993; Ladier et al., 2005; Mussi
and De Marco, 2008; Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015; Sentis, 2005). On the other hand have most of these sites
produced far fewer depictions than are known from central Europe, and many of the specimens discussed do
not convincingly represent anthropomorphs. Due to their simplistic style or representation, the latter accounts
for several engravings in parietal art contexts (e. g., Garate, 2004; cf. Mussi and De Marco, 2008).
By contrast, more convincing examples are the engraved plaquettes or blocks found in rock-shelters or near
to cave entrances, such as those reported from La Roche de Lalinde (Leroi-Gourhan, 1971; Bosinski et al.,
2001), Gare de la Couze (Bordes et al., 1963), Abri Fontalès (Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987), Abri Murat
(Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987) and Grotte du Courbet near Bruniquel (Alaux, 1972; Welté and Cook, 1993);
these are the closest parallels to ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions. Stratigraphically, and on the basis of the
typology of associated nds, the engraved plaquettes or blocks from these sites can be dated to the later
phases of the Magdalenian (“Magdalénien supérieur / recent / nal”; cf. Cluzel and Cleyet-Merle, 2011), or,
if more specic information is available, to the onset of the Late Upper Magdalenian (Langlais et al., 2015b,
2017; i. e., ~ “Magdalenian VI”; cf. Bordes et al., 1963; Alaux, 1972; Bosinski et al., 2011), chronologically
a little younger than Gönnersdorf and Andernach. Radiocarbon samples from Fontalès, Abri Murat, Care de
la Couze, and Abri Faustin produced dates between 13,140 ± 120 14C BP (GifA 96327) and ~ 12,300 14C BP
(Langlais et al., 2012; Drucker et al., 2011; Barashay-Szmidt et al., 2016) for layers that have provided
‘Gönners dorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions, corresponding to the second half of GS-2.1a, ~ 15,900-
14,500 cal BP, i. e., of roughly equal age to the central European evidence (Fig. 10).
Nevertheless, radiocarbon dates from the Middle to Late Magdalenian of Courbet appear a little older,
ranging between 13,380 ± 120 14C BP and 13,490 ± 260 14C BP (Ladier and Welté, 1999; Ladier et al.,
2005), but these statistically overlap with the oldest radiocarbon dates for horse remains from Gönnersdorf
(OxA-V-2223-39: 13,270 ± 55 14C BP) and Andernach-Martinsberg (OxA-10651: 13,270 ± 180 14C BP and
342 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
OxA-10492: 13,500 ± 90 14C BP; cf. Stevens et al., 2009). A further engraving quite similar to ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ depictions is reported from La Magdeleine-la-Plaine (Ladier, 2001), the Middle Magdalenian
archaeological context of which is dated to 13,680 ± 130 14C BP (GifA 96345: Ladier et al., 2005). In north-
ern Spain, the Middle Magdalenian levels of Las Caldas Cave in Asturias yielded a plaquette (level VI) and
a bone (level VII) on which each a ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depiction was engraved (Corchón
Rodríguez, 1990; Fortea et al., 1990; cf. Corchón Rodríguez and Ortega Martínez, 2017; Corchón Rodríguez
and Rivero Vilá, 2017). The radiocarbon chronology of the sequence indicates an age of ~ 13,650 14C BP
for these nds (Corchón Rodríguez, 1995, 2017) similar to the proposed age of La Magdeleine-la-Plaine.
As with Gönners dorf and Andernach, all of these contexts also contain harpoons (for the chronology of
Magdalenian organic projectiles, cf. Pétillon, 2016).
This is not the case for the large engraved limestone -“venuses block” from the cave of Arlanpe in northern
Spain (Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015). Although at rst sight this block seems to include a ‘Gönnersdorf-type’
depiction, similarities are difcult to establish due to the relatively few lines of which the double S-shaped
motif is composed. The situation is even further complicated as the block was not discovered entirely in situ,
as a Roman pit had been excavated into the cave sediments and exposed the “venuses block” and we do
not know if by so-doing they disturbed its original position. Establishment of a solid age estimate for the
presumable Middle Magdalenian context of the Arlanpe “venuses block” appears, therefore, fairly difcult
(Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015). Of the two radiocarbon dates available for level I to which the “venuses block”
most likely should be assigned, the younger, obtained from an anthropogenically-fractured herbivore bone
and which is closest linked to the archaeology, comes from the base of level I and dated to 14,150 ± 60
14C BP (Beta-287336); the other measurement, derived from a bone that displays no human modication,
dated to 15,100 ± 60 14C BP (Beta-316472: Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015). The top of level I may, however, be
much younger than this.
The engraved plaquette from the Early Middle Magdalenian site of Moulin-Neuf in the Gironde may be of
roughly comparable age or older (Sécher and Caux, 2017; Langlais et al., 2015b, 2017). This is also included
among the headless anthropomorphic depictions of the Late Upper Palaeolithic (Ladier et al., 2005). In this
case it remains unclear whether or not an anthropomorph is depicted at all; the gure is of a ‘compressed’
double S-shape, and, if it is justiable to compare it to ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions at
all, one may interpret it as representing the lower part of the torso only. Radiocarbon dates for it range from
~ 14,200 14C BP (Ladier et al., 2005) to ~ 15,400 14C BP (Barshay-Szmidt et al., 2016).
The Middle Magdalenian site of La Marche, famous for its highly naturalistic and often caricature-like
depictions of humans (Pales and Tassin de Saint Péreuse, 1976; Airvaux and Pradel, 1984; Mélard, 2008)
also provides a few examples of anthropomorphic depictions that closely resemble the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’
(Mélard, 2008: planche 12; planche 35). Dating to around 14,250 14C BP (Orsay-3780: 14,240 ± 85 14C BP;
and: Ly 2100: 14,280 ± 160 14C BP; Pradel, 1980; cf. Barshay-Szmidt et al., 2016) the site belongs to the
same age range as Arlanpe and overlaps with the younger age estimates for Moulin-Neuf. The greater
majority of the female depictions from La Marche are engraved on limestone blocks in prole view (Pales
and Tassin de Saint Péreuse, 1976; Mélard, 2008), a perspective in which the outline of the body closely
resembles the shape of the female torso that is also captured in engravings of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless
anthropomorphs. In this context, therefore, one may view the complete depictions of females at the site as
potential blue-prints – probably stylistic predecessors – for the more abstract ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions
that developed later.
With regard to parietal examples of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions, one such, in the cave
of Gourdan in the Pyrenees, “has been attributed to the Middle or Upper Magdalenian by stylistic com-
parison […] and the associated archaeological context has yielded two dates between 14,400 and 13,200
343The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
[14C] BP […], that is, within the temporal range of the Middle Magdalenian” (Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015:
334). Age estimates for parietal examples can only be ascertained indirectly, as the rock-art may – at best –
be linked on stylistic grounds to archaeological layers that contain radiocarbon-dated material. The oldest
radiocarbon date from the lowest (Mid-) Magdalenian level at the site of Les Combarelles in the Dordogne,
a cave which also produced a series of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ parietal engravings (Archambeau and Archam-
beau, 1991), dates to 13,680 ± 210 14C BP (Ly 3202), but most other dates from the site are signicantly
younger (cf. Cluzel and Cleyet-Merle, 2011). Furthermore, in both Gourdan and in Les Combarelles the
precise relationship between the parietal engravings and the dated archaeological levels remains unclear,
but at least in the case of Les Combarelles its age ranges are in accord with the age estimates for other
south-western European sites that have produced ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions
and that post-date ca. 13,650-13,680 14C BP (~ 16,500 cal BP).
To summarise, ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions can occasionally be found in south-western
Europe probably from as early as ca. 16,500 cal BP onwards, but more solid evidence for the appearance
of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions which are stylistically almost identical to the depictions at the epony-
mous site in the German central Rhineland is only available from ca. 16,000 cal BP onwards, i. e., quasi
simultaneous with the central European evidence. Considering the nds from Arlanpe, Moulin-Neuf and
La Marche, potential double S-shaped ‘predecessors’ of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic
depictions may even date as old as ~ 17,000-18,000 cal BP (Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015). However, the poor
contextual dating evidence for these south-western European examples must be viewed with some caution,
given the contextual problems these often multi-layered stratigraphic sequences of caves and rock-shelters
with much more complicated site formation processes have in comparison to single-layered open-air sites.
It should furthermore be emphasised that ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions are comparably rare in number
among south-western European sites, where the possibly early candidates are mostly depicted in a very
rudimentary style – often reduced to a double S-shape of the torso. Finally, their occasional appearance in
rock-art, sometimes engraved deep in caves on the cave walls, emphasises the different contexts into which
the south-western European depictions seem to be embedded (Bosinski et al., 2001).
Late Upper Palaeolithic (‘Gönnersdorf-type’) headless anthropomorphic depictions
outside Europe
Geographically distinct from the European record of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depic-
tions , a small series of rock-shelters in Egypt have yielded engraved depictions of anthropomorphs (Huyge,
2015). Of special interest here are several headless specimens from the rock-shelter of Qurta II in Upper
Egypt, that very closely resemble ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (Ucko and Rosenfeld, 1972; Huyge, 2009,
2015). The panel QII.3.1 at Qurta comprises two clusters of depictions: one cluster of four (QII.3.1.6-9), and
another of two (QII.3.1.4-5) ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, all facing to the right (Fig. 6: 2). The one fur-
thest to the right in the cluster of four (QII.3.1.9) seems to depict “rudimentary arms and / or breasts”, simi-
lar to the more detailled ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (Huyge, 2015: 420; cf. Ucko and Rosenfeld, 1972).
Other anthropomorphic, potentially “human” depictions come from Qurta I (QI.1.1.16) and Abu Tanqura
Bahari 11 at el-Hosh (ATB11.4.6-7) on the other side of the River Nile. These depictions differ in their body
proportions from the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions of Qurta II due to their more elongated upper torsos.
Whereas the Qurta I specimen seems to display a head, the two anthropomorphic depictions in panel
ATB11.4 at el-Hosh do not preserve heads (Fig. 6: 1). It may be the case, however, that heads were origi-
nally depicted but were subsequently removed by the picked depiction of a bovid superimposed on the
344 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
anthropomorphic depictions (Huyge, 2015). Two further headless depictions have been published from a
rock-shelter further north on the Sinai peninsula, where, due to an emphasis on large, round breasts and
strongly protruding buttocks these have been interpreted as female (Zboray, 2012).
The age of these depictions is difcult to establish. In general it is believed that the Upper Egyptian depic-
tions can be tied to the so-called Ballanan-Silsilian industry which is represented by several sites in the region
(Huyge, 2015). Radiometric age estimates for this, however, are highly inconsistent and rely on a few avail able
dates only. In general, an age of roughly 19,000-18,000 cal BP is expected for the industry (i. e., ~ 16,000-
15,000 14C BP; cf. Schild and Wendorf, 2010), but considerably younger dates also exist (cf. Vermeersch,
1992). At Qurta II, panel QII.3.1, an engraving of a bovid is superimposed upon the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’
headless depictions; this also occurs to the anthropomorphic depictions of ATB11.4.6-7 at el-Hosh. There-
fore, at both sites the anthropomorphic depictions pre-date the engraving of bovids. Assuming that the bo-
vids were depicted in the same period, which one may argue for, the OSL dating evidence from panel QII.4.2
at Qurta would be of relevance, as, here, the engraving of a bovid was buried below eolian sands. The
OSL dates calculated from these sands provide a terminus ante quem of 16 ± 2 ka BP and 17 ± 2 ka BP for
immediately below or near the base of the buried depiction, and 13 ± 1 ka BP and 10 ± 1 ka BP for its top,
i. e., the back line of the engraved bovid (Huyge et al., 2011, 2012), implying an age of at least 13 ka BP,
but likely closer to 16 ka BP. Radiocarbon dated faunal remains from the 16 ± 2 ka BP OSL-dated level, i. e.,
Fig. 6 Upper Egypt. Depictions of bovids superimposed upon headless anthropomorphous depictions from the
rock-shelters of Qurta II (2) and Abu Tanqura Bahari (ATB) 11 at el-Hosh (1). – (Redrawn and modied by G. Rutkowski
and N. Viehöver from: Huyge, 2015).
10 cm
345The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
the base of the panel, result in calibrated ages of ~ 14,000 cal BP (KIA-41532: 12,130 ± 45 14C BP) for a bird
bone sample and some (not reservoir-corrected) 12,750-12,600 cal BP (KIA-40546: 10,585 ± 50 14C BP) for
shbone sampled from the same layer (Dee et al., 2010).
Taking the dating evidence from the Qurta II rock-shelter overall, an age of around 14,000 cal BP or slightly
older seems to be most plausible for the site’s ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (cf. Fig. 10), which is of interest
given that it is in agreement with the younger range of dates for ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions in north-
and south-western Europe (see above). Claims that state that the headless anthropomorphic depictions of
Upper Egypt could pre-date the European record of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (Huyge, 2015), however,
require more solid data and are currently premature; their relation to the European headless anthropomor-
phic depictions of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ remains unanswered.
Headless anthropomorphic depictions in the Late Upper Palaeolithic of eastern Europe
Further to the east of the easternmost appearance of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions (i. e., Wilczyce in
south-eastern Poland; Fiedorczuk et al., 2007), headless anthropomorphic depictions are found in the east-
ern European steppes of modern Ukraine and western Russia. Notably, these include several ivory gurines
and fragments of potential gurines from the Epigravettian site of Mezin in Ukraine (Iakovleva, 2009;
Bosinski, 2011b), some of which closely resemble the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ gurines (Fig. 5). But other head-
less anthropomorphic ivory gurines of different shapes are additionally reported from Mezin (Chovkoplass,
1965) and Mezhyrich (Pidoplichko, 1976; Abramova, 1995), which – together with several other sites such
as Dobranichivka, classied as Epigravettian – are well-known for their mammoth bone concentrations
which are most often interpreted as dwelling structures (e. g., Pidoplichko, 1998; Gladkih et al., 1984;
Iakov leva, 2015; for a counter-position cf. Khlopachev and Gavrilov, 2019).
The site of Mezin produced a total of 18 headless anthropomorphic gurines of ivory (Fig. 7; Chovkoplass,
1965; cf. Iakovleva, 2009, 2015), of which 16 are interpreted as female representations and two that are
of a more elongated phallic shape (Fig. 8). At least three headless female gurines derive from Mezhyrich,
of which one is made on a at bone (Fig. 9; Abramova, 1966; cf.; Iakovleva, 2009, 2015). Although these
depictions share their “headlessness” and abstractness and to a certain degree, their overall shapes (at least
in case of representations interpreted as female) differ from those of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ in several details
(Table 1). The Mezin and Mezhyrich gurines are in fact of great morphological diversity, and it appears
that different styles of representations relate to different concentrations / dwellings (Figs. 7-8; Chovkoplass,
1965; Iakovleva, 2009, 2015).
Schematised and anonymized anatomy
As with ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, the headless female gurines of Mezin are characterised by pro-
nounced buttocks / hips opposite to a relatively at-fronted torso. With this shape and viewed from the
side, they resemble ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, and, more specically, the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ gurines
(Iakov leva, 2009). Whereas the latter were designed to function in side / sagittal view (Gaudzinski-Wind-
heuser and Jöris, 2015), the Mezin gurines display most relevant details on their front (Chovkoplass, 1965;
Iakovleva, 2009, 2015): among these, the lower part of the torso displays on its at frontal face an engraved
triangle, interpreted as the female pubic triangle (Fig. 7). The upper part of the gurines’ torso is also en-
graved on the frontal aspect. It is on this frontal aspect that most differences appear between the gurines
346 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
from the different dwellings; those from dwelling 2 possess engravings that form an elongated trapezoidal
box, lled with pairs of chevrons, which seem to represent the thoracic cage. This impression is enhanced
by two vertical lines on top of this box, most likely to be interpreted as the neck, ending at the top of the
gurine where the head would be placed if the gurines weren’t depicted headless. Given this, the front of
the headless female gurines from Mezin-dwelling 2, appear to display – although in strongly schematized
form – detailed human anatomy; breasts, however, are lacking. The slightly larger female gurines from
Mezin’s dwelling 3 are quite similar to those from dwelling 2 (Chovkoplass, 1965); their upper torso, how-
ever, is shown in a more simple and abstract manner, displaying sets of chevrons (i. e., ‘ribs’), with additional
lines that may resemble the neck, displayed on a single gure only. The rear side of the upper torso of the
Fig. 7 Mezin. Headless anthropomorphous ivory gu-
rines, interpreted as female, from dwelling 2 (1-3) and
dwelling 3 (4-5). – (Redrawn and modied by G. Rut-
kowski and N. Viehöver from: Chovkoplass, 1965).
3 cm
1 2
347The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
two larger gurines from dwelling 3 display long, parallel and vertically running engravings: perhaps they
depict long hair or the spinal column? Aside from these details, the back and sides of the dwelling 2 and 3
gurines are ornamented with geometrical patterns (zig-zag lines and ‘angular meanders’; Chovkoplass,
1965; Iakovleva, 2009, 2015).
The Mezhyrich headless female gurines appear to be much more schematic in form (Fig. 9; Abramova,
1995; cf. Iakovleva, 2009). Most characteristic is the pubic triangle engraved on their at front in the lowest
part of the lower torso. Additionally, a specimen from dwelling 2 displays sets of parallel lines running hori-
zontally across its upper torso. The site of Dobranichivka produced a few amber gurines and possible frag-
ments of such that are of a shape that resembles that of the headless anthropomorphic ivory gurines from
Fig. 8 Mezin. Headless anthropomorphous ivory gurines, interpreted as male, from dwelling 2. –
(Redrawn and modied by G. Rutkowski and N. Viehöver from: Chovkoplass, 1965).
3 cm
348 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
Mezhyrich (Iakovleva, 2009). Due to their poor surface preservation, however, it cannot be said whether or
not they once bore engraved ornamentation. In addition to the headless depictions, Mezhyrich also pro-
duced at least one highly schematic anthropomorphic gurine that possesses a small face (Abramova, 1995;
Iakovleva, 2015). The examples from Mezhyrich are particularly at, and other attributes that characterize
the Mezin gurines and / or ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, like pronounced buttock, are absent (Iakovleva,
2009, 2015).
Mezin-dwelling 2 also produced two headless anthropomorphic gurines of generally more phallic shape
(Fig. 8; Chovkoplass, 1965). Both are characterised by a more elongated upper torso, but display the same
stylistic design of the thoracic cage and the indication of the neck as the female gurines from the same
dwelling structure (Table 1). Their hips are, however, less pronounced, and their pubic regions remain blank.
With their overall phallic shape and the absence of any female characteristics, i. e., less pronounced hips
and absence of the pubic triangle, it is likely that these represent male counterparts (Iakovleva, 2009, 2015).
Their backs and sides are ornamented with zig-zag or double-zig-zag patterns.
Interpretation and age
Similar to the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations, the headless anthropomorphic gu-
rines of Late Upper Palaeolithic eastern Europe are also highly schematic and abstract, although – by their
stylistical conventions of representation – depict far more anatomical detail, allowing the viewer to clearly
distinguish between female and male gurines. A similar distinction cannot be made amongst the ‘Gön-
nersdorf-type’ depictions, as sexual attributes are largely absent. With these, aside from the depictions with
breasts, only the shape of the hips indicate that in the overwhelming majority of cases it is females that are
represented (see above). Another difference between the eastern and central European examples lies in the
Fig. 9 Mezhyrich. Headless anthropomorphous gurines, inter-
preted as female, from dwelling 1 (1) and dwelling 2 (2). – (Re-
drawn and modied by G. Rutkowski and N. Viehöver from:
Abra mova, 1995; Iakovleva, 2009).
2 cm
349The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
comparably large stylistic diversity of the headless anthropomorphic gurines of the Late Epigravettian of
eastern Europe that differ in the proportion of the torso and in ornamentation between sites and dwellings,
as described above (cf. Iakovleva, 2009, 2015).
Given the characteristic features of the anthropomorphic gurines of the Late Epigravettian of eastern
Europe, the lack of clear individual traits and especially their “headlessness”, one may conclude by analogy
with the interpretation of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions that the eastern European gurines also served as
symbols, probably encoding gender-differentiated social roles in the Epigravettian of the region. The com-
parably large variability between the gurines from different sites and dwellings implies that other levels of
social differentiation, such as e. g., household, lineage or kin, may additionally be encoded.
The similarities between the eastern European headless anthropomorphic gurines and the ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ depictions are all the more interesting as the eastern European examples seem to pre-date the
latter (Iakovleva, 2005; Iakovleva and Djindjian, 2005; Haesaerts et al., 2015; Gavrilov, 2021; cf. Marquer
et al., 2012). Combined radiometric and stratigraphic evidence (Haesaerts et al., 2015), indicates an age
of ~ 18,300-17,400 cal BP (~ 15,050-14,300 14C BP) for the multiple occupation phases of the site of
Mezhyrich (cf. Soffer et al., 1997). This interval is in agreement with the radiocarbon dating evidence for
other Epigravettian sites from this period in the Dnepr and Desna region of Ukraine and western Russia
that produced mammoth bone concentrations (Iakovleva, 2005; Iakovleva and Djindjian, 2005; Gavrilov,
2021). This includes the site of Mezin, which produced dates of 15,100 ± 200 14C BP (OxA-719; Iakovleva
and Djindjian, 2005) and 14,560 ± 90 14C BP (GrA-22499; Haesaerts et al., 2015). The site of Dobranichivka
may be slightly younger, with dates of ~ 14,100 14C BP (GrA-22472: 14,355 ± 90 14C BP, and OxA-12108:
13,990 ± 90 14C BP, on the same bone; Haesaerts et al., 2015) and 12,700 ± 200 14C BP (OxA-700; Iakov-
leva and Djindjian, 2005). From the archaeological contexts provided by these sites, however, age estimates
based on radiocarbon dates signicantly younger than ~ 14,000 14C BP should be viewed with scepticism
(Iakovleva and Djindjian, 2005). On the other hand, the few dates available from Mezin that t into the
above interval may still overestimate the age of the archaeological occupation as the dated bones derive
from bone concentrations that consist of collected subfossil material that has been piled up at the site.
The headless anthropomorphic depictions of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ and those of the eastern European Late
Epigravettian can be compared with a few further anthropomorphic depictions from the Late Upper Palaeo-
lithic of south-western Europe. Viewed in chronological order, such comparison sheds new light on the
understanding of the supra-regional homogeneity of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions, and contributes to the
overall interpretation of the eponymous site.
East-west temporary interconnectedness ~ 19,000-17,500 cal BP
Due to its early discovery in 1864 the most famous Palaeolithic human depiction is the Vénus impudique
(‘immodest Venus’), a headless ivory gurine from Laugerie Basse in the Dordogne (e. g., Delporte, 1979,
1993a, 1993b), that dates to the Middle Magdalenian (Fig. 10). The gurine’s head appears to have been
350 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
broken off; its feet are also lacking, the latter at least probably broken off during their archaeological dis-
covery. Additionally, its arms and breasts are missing, but in this case as they were never carved as elements
of the gurine’s design. The gurine is meant to be viewed from the front, where its deeply incised vaginal
opening is visible. Another small gurine depicting a female torso, made of stone, is reported from the Late
Magdalenian of the site of Enval (Bourdelle et al., 1971). The gure’s head has been broken off; but, similar
to the Laugerie Basse gurine, the missing breasts, arms and feet were never carved in the rst place. Radio-
carbon dates obtained on samples from the layers below (Delpech, 1998), suggest an age of ~ 15,500 cal BP
or slightly younger can be assumed for the Enval gurine. Of similar style when compared with Laugerie-
Basse and Enval, but of Early Middle Magdalenian age is the monumental “panneau des Vénus” bas-relief
of Abri Bourdois at Roc-aux-Sorciers in L’Angles-sur-l’Anglin (Vienne), composed of at least three female
torsos and a forth one aside, all of which lack heads, breasts, arms and feet, but which display deeply incised
vaginal openings (de Saint-Mathurin and Garrod, 1949; Iakovleva and Pinçon, 1996, 1997, 1999). This is an
interesting parallel to the more-or-less contemporaneous headless anthropomorphic gurines of Mezhyrich
discussed above (Fig. 9); they were also intended to be viewed from the front, lack heads, breasts, arms
and feet, but show engraved pubic triangles. The Dobranichivka amber gurines closely match the overall
shape of the headless gurines from Mezhyrich (Iakovleva, 2009). The Mezin gurines are very similar to
those from Mezhyrich, but they are much more strongly ornamented, and more strongly emphasise the
typical prole characteristic of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions that appeared in central Europe from ~ 16,000
cal BP on.
It is surely unlikely that similarities in the appearance and amount of principle stylistic elements shared by the
Vénus impudique, the plastically sculptured females in the frieze at Abri Bourdois (“Panneau des Vénus”)
and the headless anthropomorphic gurines of Mezhyrich is simply coincidence. The same principle – de-
signed to be viewed from the front, lacking heads, breasts, arms and feet, but showing the female pubic
region – is realised also at a small series of six Middle Magdalenian sites of south-western France, most of
them assigned to the Magdalénien à pointes de Lussac-Angles facies (Abri Bourdois, les Fadets, Montgau-
dier, l’Abri Gaudry, Grottes du Chaffaud, La Marche), where horse incisors were also found engraved with a
pubic triangle (Mazière and Buret, 2010; Airvaux, J., 2011). Their overall shape is similar to that of the ivory
Fig. 10 Chronology of Late Upper Palaeolithic headless anthropomorphic depictions (orange; Gö = Gönnersdorf) in the context of different
palaeoclimate and archaeological records for western Europe (W-EU), western central Europe (wcEU: ~ 5-15° E), eastern central Europe (ecEU:
~ 15-25° E), eastern Europe (E-EU), and Egypt (left timescale: ka cal BP; right timescale: approx. ka 14C uncal BP; cf. Reimer et al., 2020).
Greenland NGRIP δ18O [‰] isotope record (Rasmussen et al., 2014) with Greenland Stadials (GS: blue) and Greenland Interstadials (GI:
red); summer insolation [W / m²] in June at 60° N (Berger and Loutre, 1991); the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) follows the denitaion of Mix
et al. (2001) as the period of maximum global ice volume and lowest sea levels during the last Glacial cycle, i. e., ~ 23,000 - 19,000 cal BP
(LGM light-blue), and spanning from the northern hemispheric summer insolation minimum at ca. 23,500 cal BP (Berger and Loutre, 1991)
and the timing of Heinrich Event H2 until ca. 18,000 cal BP (LGM white), when the Fennoscandian Ice Shield started to slowly retreat after
its maximum advance during the Brandenburg glacial stage (Hughes et al., 2016). Holzmaar carbonate contents [%] in lacustrine clastic
varves with carbonate peaks K1, K2 and K? (data from Brauer, 1994; Zolitschka et al., 2000, modifed), indicative of calcareous dust ux
and increasead eaolian activity (i. e., loess deposition) in western central Europe (Zolitschka et al., 2015); periods of the presence of saiga
antilopes (poSt: dark grey) in western Europe (wEU-poSt) and eastern central Europe (ecEU-poSt) with wEU-poSt data compiled from
Langlais et al. (2015a), Barashay-Szmidt et al. (2016) and Nadachowski et al. (2016) for directly 14C-dated samples of Saiga tatarica and
Bosinski (2009) for contextual age-estimates from the ‘artistic’ record, and ecEU-poSt data compiled from Nadachowski et al. (2016) for
directly 14C-dated samples of Saiga tatarica and Kozłowski et al. (2017) for contextual age-estimates from Maszycka cave.
The archaeostratigraphic record is shown schematically for France, central and eastern Europe, covering the Solutrean (SOL), Badegoulian
(BAD), Lower Magdalenian (LM), Early Middle Magdalenian (E-MM), Late Middle Magdalenian (L-MM), Early Upper Magdalenian (E-UM) /
Late Mgadalenian (Late MAGD), Late Upper Magdalenian (L-UM) / Final Magdalenian (Final MAGD) to the Azilian (AZ) / Federmessergruppen
(FMG), following data compilations from Ducasse et al. (2021; cf. Ducasse, 2012) for the SOL to BAD, from BAD to E-MM (Ducasse and
Langlais, 2007) and from Langlais et al. (2015a, 2015b) for the E-MM to L-UM sequences, and from Wiśniewski et al. (2017) and Nerudová
et al. (2019) for the Epigravettian (Epi-GRAV) of eastern central and from Gavrilov (2021) for eastern Europe. For further references: see text.
351The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
Qurta II ?
L. Basse
? ?
La Marche
Abri Bourdois
Last Glacial Maximum (LGM)
460 480 500 520 [W/m²] [%] 15 10 5 0
NGRIP W-EU wcEU Central ecEU E-EU Egypt
-45 -40 -35 δ
O ~ 5° E European ~ 25° E
[%] corridor
[ka cal BP]
352 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
gurines from Mezhyrich (see above; cf. Chovkoplass, 1965; Iakovleva, 2009, 2015). In their overall charac-
teristics the engraved horse incisors seem to represent a ‘special’ regional variant (cf. Fuentes et al., 2019)
of a theme that appeared at this time in western and in eastern Europe. During this time interval, however,
in western Europe spanned by the Lower and Middle Magdalenian, there is limited evidence for human
presence in central Europe and hence, to bridge the east and the west, a topic currently discussed inten-
sively (Fig. 10; cf. e. g., Maier et al., 2020; Maier, 2017; Pasda, 2017; Wiśniewski et al., 2017). Particularly
prominent in this discussion is the cave of Maszycka in southern Poland, dated to ~ 18,600-18,000 cal BP
(Kozłowski et al., 2012, 2017), with an industry that is characteristic of the Magdalénien à navettes compar-
ing in many details to French sites attributed to this ‘facies’ (Allain et al., 1985; Bourdier et al., 2017a). The
lithic raw materials used at Maszycka do, indeed, not only link ~ 600 km to the west to southern Germany
(“Plattensilex”), i. e., half way towards France, but also some 300-400 km to the sources of so-called Vol-
hynian int in western Ukraine (Kozłowski et al., 2017), showing that central Europe at this time must have
formed a corridor for the long-distance transmission of people and ideas.
Given the paucity of archaeological sites in central Europe that correspond to the Lower and Middle Mag-
dalenian and which could, therefore, provide evidence for the interconnectedness of western and eastern
European populations, the presence of saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) could serve as a useful proxy for
punctuated or comparably short periods of presence in western Europe, during oscillations of extremely
dry climate when saiga habitats expanded from western central Asia to the Atlantic costs of France (Nada-
chowski et al., 2016). The presence of saiga in the hunted fauna (e. g., Maier et al., 2020), at best directly
dated by radiocarbon (e. g., Nadachowski et al., 2016; Barashay-Szmidt et al., 2016; Langlais et al., 2015a)
or its presence in the ‘artistic’ record (Bosinski, 2009) during the period discussed, help to compile a record
of pulses of saiga antelopes’ westward expansions in periods in which central Europe was (principally) habit-
able (cf. Maier et al., 2020). Interestingly, the period ~ 19,000-18,000 cal BP represents such a period of
saiga expansion (Fig. 10), with evidence in eastern central Europe at Maszycka, although not directly dated
(Kozłowski et al., 2017), and at a series of Early and Middle Magdalenian sites in the west (Costamagno,
2000; Barashay-Szmidt et al., 2016; Nadachowski et al., 2016) among which the site of Moulin-Neuf, dis-
cussed above (Costamagno, 2000), is most relevant here.
In France, the Middle Magdalenian record appears as a complex ‘mosaic’ which – amongst other aspects
that led to the distinction of the two facies named above, i. e., the Magdalénien à pointes de Lussac-An-
gles and the Magdalénian à navettes – is comprised of a rich ‘artistic’ record of fascinating diversity (see
Bourdier et al., 2017a). In terms of ‘artistic’ expression, the Magdalénien à pointes de Lussac-Angles is
largely characterized by numerous, mainly realistic depictions of animals and humans, whereas gurative
art remains scarce in the Magdalénian à navettes sites, the few examples that do exist being of highly
schematised style (e. g., Bourdier et al., 2017b; Fuentes et al., 2017, 2019). Much of the current discussion
of the two facies, in which human / anthropomorphic depictions also gure (Fuentes et al., 2017), centres
on understanding their spatio-temporal relationship (e. g., Langlais et al., 2017) and the question whether
or not, and if so to what degree, they represent different “graphic traditions” (Bourdier et al., 2017b: 103)
and have to be interpreted as expressions of regionally differentiated socio-cultural (group) identities (e. g.,
Fuentes, 2013).
Without the need to dive deeper into this discussion, it is worth noting that the great diversity observed
within the Early Middle Magdalenian of south-western Europe, including that of ‘artistic’ expressions,
is paralleled in the technological diversity of the Epigravettian of eastern Europe (e. g., Gavrilov, 2021),
including the stylistic diversity of headless anthropomorphic depictions visible at Mezhyrich and Mezin.
As has already been described, besides the similarities of the headless anthropomorphic depictions of the
latter two sites, strong stylistic dissimilarities exist in terms of the overall design of the gurines and their
353The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
level of abstractness, although the sites are assumed to be of comparable age and are located in certain
regional proximity. Even at an intra-site level, stylistic differences have been highlighted between differ-
ent dwellings and between the different themes addressed (Tab. 1; Fig. 7; Fig. 9; Chovkoplass, 1965;
Iakovleva, 2009, 2015): only dwelling 2 of Mezin, for example, provided presumably male ivory gurines
(Fig. 8), whereas potential gender-related distinctions do not otherwise manifest at the site. At the same
time, the variability between individual gurines remains comparably high in terms of body proportions
and details of ornamentation. To a certain degree this diversity seems to correspond to the variability
among Middle Magdalenian depictions of humans (and human body parts) and anthropomorphic de-
pictions which represent humans at different levels of completeness and abstraction, although individual
elements remain visible (cf. Fuentes et al., 2017). For the ~ 18,500-17,500 cal BP interval, this may be
read in a way that comparably high levels of probably household-, lineage- or kin- (i. e., dwelling-related)
and regional-based identities were expressed in human and anthropomorphic representations that were
depicted ‘atop of’ a general worldview expressed in abstract, often fragmented and – and especially in
the east of Europe – headless, illustrations, representing potential common denominators within supra-
regionally interconnected worldviews or belief systems. The establishment of such supra-regional intercon-
nections seems to relate to a period immediately following the Magdalénian à navettes in a later half or a
phase during which saiga antelopes expanded from the east to the west, indicative for on ‘active’ central
European corridor.
Anthropomorphic depictions ~ 17,500-16,000 cal BP
With the end of the saiga phase, i. e., after ~ 18,000 cal BP, the cultural developments of western and
eastern Europe appear to have become markedly disconnected. This seems to relate to the discontinuous
archaeological record of much of central Europe (Jöris and Street, 2021; cf. recent discussions in Maier et al.,
2020; Wiśniewski et al., 2017; cf. Nerudová et al., 2019), and it is likely that the area was totally abandoned
by humans – at least gradually over the course of several phases (Fig. 10).
Whereas the trend of geometric ornamentation that characterises the Epigravettian of Ukraine and western
Russia, seems to have continued (e. g., Iakovleva, 2016; cf. Borić and Cristiani, 2016; Mărgărit, 2010, for the
Balkans), (headless) anthropomorphic depictions, however, seemed to have ceased after ~ 17,000 cal BP (cf.
Iakovleva, 2009, 2015, Iakovleva and Djindjian, 2005). But, as noted above, the site of Mezin could even be
much younger than generally assumed, given its poor state of dating, and the overall stylistic ‘habitus’ of
headless anthropomorphic depictions that appear stylistically ‘intermediate’ (Tab. 1), as they show similari-
ties to both, the Mezhyrich gurines and those of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’.
There is only one more eastern European site of relevance here for the period ~ 17,500-16,000 cal BP:
Eliseevichi 1 in the upper Desna valley in the Bryansk province of Russia. This produced a ~ 15 cm large
headless ivory gurine with large breasts and massive legs, yet lacking arms. Its chest is ornamented by
horizontal lines (Abramova, 1966, 1995), resembling the ornamentation of one of the headless anthro-
pomorphic gurines from Mezhyrich. The gure’s head has been broken off, but was present when the
gure was carved. It was found together with other small, three-dimensionally carved limestone gurines
depicting animals, which have otherwise no parallels in the Desna region (Sablin and Khlopachev, 2002,
and references therein).
In France, at around the same time, the site of La Marche, attributed to the Magdalénien à pointes de
Lussac-Angles, is key to this discussion (see above). Many of the human depictions engraved on its limestone
blocks possess heads, which are depicted in a level of detail that one can be sure that specic individuals
354 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
are depicted in ‘portrait’ style (Pales and Tassin de Saint Péreuse, 1976; Mélard, 2008). Some of the depic-
tions lack heads or are broken at the point where the heads would be expected; it cannot be said for sure
whether or not the part of the plaquette that once displayed the head was broken off intentionally, as has
been argued for many of the gurines assigned to the preceding Mid-Upper Palaeolithic “Willendorf-style”
(e. g., Guthrie, 2005; Verpoorte, 2001; cf. Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015). As argued above, the
depiction of females in lateral view at La Marche closely resembles the double S-shape of the female torso
in lateral view. Given this, a few female body outlines of headless depictions from La Marche (Mélard, 2008:
planche 12; planche 35) appear quite similar to some of the pre-16,000 cal BP headless anthropomorphic
depictions from Middle Magdalenian contexts (e. g., Moulin-Neuf, Arlanpe; cf. discussion above) that are
frequently attributed to the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’. This interpretation can be questioned, however, on the
grounds of the rudimentary level of detail in their creation, and one can alternatively interpret those double
S-shaped depictions of presumable female torsos as potential stylistic predecessors of the succeeding, more
schematised depictions of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ that appeared ~ 16,500 cal BP and which had become domi-
nant from ~ 16,000 cal BP onwards.
New standards on supra-regional scale ~ 16,000-15,000 cal BP
From around the Late Middle Magdalenian to the Early Late Magdalenian transition around ~ 16,500
cal BP, there is growing evidence in south-western Europe for headless anthropomorphic depictions of
‘Gönnersdorf-type’, and from ~ 16,000 cal BP ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions
became more standardised (Bosinski et al., 2001). With this “formal homogenization” the typical ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ of headless anthropomorphic depictions spread rapidly across Europe (cf. Bourrillon et al., 2012;
Fuentes et al., 2019), reaching as far as eastern central Europe (Fig. 10; Wilczyce in south-eastern Poland:
Fiedorczuk et al., 2007).
This eastward dispersal of headless anthropomorphic depictions of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ appears to have
been extremely rapid, and seems to have been linked, once again, to the re-opening of a corridor through
central Europe through which saiga antelope habitats expanded in the opposite direction towards the
west (Bosinski, 2009; cf. Maier et al., 2020; Nadachowski et al., 2016). Additional arguments for the
re-activation of this corridor have been forwarded on the basis of stylistic reasoning (Bosinski et al., 2001)
as some of the central European ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ headless anthropomorphic depictions are decorated
with geometric patterns (e. g., Gönnersdorf plaquette no. 87: Fig. 4; and a pair of angles, or chevrons, en-
graved into the side of the large ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ ivory sculpture no. An2/11 from Andernach-Martins-
berg: Höck, 1995), a design that resembles ornaments typical for the eastern European Epigravettian and
reminds us, more specically, of the geometrically decorated gurines from Mezin (Chovkoplass, 1965;
Iakovleva, 2009).
The potential stylistic inuences from the east also seem to be reected in the decision to carve three-dimen-
sional gurines, mostly in ivory. The Mezin sculptures also appear technically, and in terms of their prole
view, as potential predecessors for ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ gurines (cf. Iakovleva, 2009). This, again, hints at
the idea outlined above, that present age estimates for the site of Mezin may overestimate its real age.
From around ~ 16,000 cal BP onwards, the combined evidence hints at strong levels of supra-regional inter-
connectedness between the west and the east of Europe. It seems that during this time the idea to carve
female gurines spreads westwards, while the idea of engraving depictions of comparable prole view,
spreads eastwards. In central Europe both these trends overlaped and merged (Fig. 5: d), and it is here that
‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions appear to have become most standardized.
355The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
In central Europe, the geographical spread of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic representations ~ 16,000-
14,000 cal BP coincides with the most dynamic and unprecedently-rapid phase of Late Glacial human range
expansion into the northerly parts of Europe which appears to be linked with the beginning of the Late
Magdalenian (Street et al., 2009; cf. Housley et al., 1997). Besides the required adaptive demands (cf. Burke
et al., 2017; cf. Baales and Jöris, 2006), on a meta-population level, the greatest challenge had been the
establishment of a population size viable enough to survive in the newly occupied regions of central Europe,
involving the constant founding and establishment of new social entities and associated networks ensuring
successful interconnection of individuals and groups over large distances. With regard to the latter, and for
the Late Magdalenian expansion to succeed, it has been argued that newly established supra-regional social
(and communication) networks were further required to inter-connect the (presumably small) ‘pioneering’
groups at the front of the expansion with the populations in the Magdalenian ‘homelands’ of south-west-
ern Europe (for further details see: Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015). Such supra-regional large-scale
social networks would have been required to connect individuals over much larger geographical scales than
would have been the case within the seasonal migration ranges of specic foraging groups. Only through
the implementation of sets of socio-cultural rules and regulations that – among other issues – organised
partnership, kin and – above all – residence would have facilitated the establishment of such networks and
enabled the relocation of at least some individuals over large distances between different groups. Such
supra-regional and large-scale social networks must have focussed intently on the mandatory functioning
of certain individuals. “Thus, the individual sphere must have been subordinate for the group and was
presumably reected in the absence of depictions of individuals” (Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015:
312). It may have been the case that the establishment and maintenance of such large-scale social networks
belonged to the realm of the ‘female sphere’, for which ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ anthropomorphic depictions
may have served as symbols in support of a communal identity or of communal worldviews, which could
be communicated over large distances across Europe (Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015; cf. Wobst
1977). Following these arguments, it was most likely due to the implementation of such sets of rules and
regulations and a concept of communal identity underlying Late Magdalenian social organization that this
phase of the Late Glacial Expansion nally succeeded. The resulting social networks would not only have es-
tablished a viable meta-population over central Europe, but also reduced Magdalenian population densities
and potentially associated population pressures within the ‘homeland’ regions, where groups had lived for
several millennia in an Ice Age refugium at levels probably close to the limits of the region’s carrying capaci ty
(cf. Burke et al., 2017). Following this line of argument, one could furthermore conclude that the Late Mag-
dalenian expansion succeeded due to the ‘culturally planned’ spread of humans over such a vast area; it
is, therefore, the result of a planned, rule-driven ‘colonization’ governed by social rules on partnership, kin
and residence, rather than a gradual and comparably slow ‘dispersal’ of a population due to its more-or-less
continuous adaptation to new environmental conditions. The latter mode of dispersal may have applied
to earlier (i. e., pre-16,000 cal BP) attempts to re-settle central Europe after the LGM which had, however,
failed to establish viable populations over the longer term (Street et al., 2009; cf. e. g., Street and Terberger,
1999; Terberger and Street, 2002; Maier et al., 2020; Wiśniewski et al., 2017).
In parallel with the Late Magdalenian dispersal, ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions left the context of deep caves
(Bosinski et al., 2001) and came mostly to be found in both open-air sites, and if in rock-shelters in or near
the daylight zone (e. g., La Roche de Lalinde: Leroi-Gourhan, 1971; Bosinski et al., 2001; Gare de la Couze:
356 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
Bordes et al., 1963; Abri Fontalès: Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987; Abri Murat: Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987).
These observations support the notion that the transmission of the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ symbol’s content(s)
took place in the public (rather than a personal of private; cf. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, 2015) sphere, and,
according to the spatial data available (Bosinski et al., 2001), was embedded within everyday activities. This
overall ‘presence’ and ‘publicity’, and the increased stylistical formalisation of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ depictions,
enhanced their saliency and recognisability at a supra-regional scale, fostered the understanding and accept-
ance of the symbol’s content and, in combination, may have been benecial for the establishment of large-
scale networks which resulted in the enhancement of social cohesion spanning large geographical areas by
interlinking different groups (that otherwise relied on different regional economies) and individuals from far
distant regions. Spanning large distances, the supra-regional social webs established during this time led
to increased frequencies of human-human interactions, which are seen as a motor for the development of
common identity and a sense of belonging (Bird-David, 2017). Associated mating systems and residence
rules in support of densly woven geographically well-interconnected social webs would have allowed the
successful establishment of a viable meta-population that – from ~ 16,000 cal BP onward – built the base for
the more sustainable resettlement of central – and susequently, northern – Europe (e. g., Street et al., 2009).
A low-level persistence of regional stylistic variability reveals, however, that regional social networks were
not replaced, but instead that a social (‘ideological’: see below) super-structure was added on top of these.
Whereas ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ ivory gurines are to be found predominantly at the northern margin of the
Magdalenian oikumene, similar gurines made of jet, for example, are restricted to a few sites in south-
ern central Europe, i. e., Monruz and Petersfels (Fig. 5: d). The latter type of gurine has a more double
S-shaped outline, similar to an ivory statuette from Pekárna Cave in Moravia. Such regional patterns (which
are to certain degree also reected in lithic raw material provisioning patterns; e. g., Floss, 1994; Street et al.,
2006; Maier, 2015, 2017) indicate the maintenance of regional social networks, styles and, likely, identi-
ties. These may have functioned on subordinate levels under the umbrella of an overarching ‘metaphysical’
or ‘ideological’ system of beliefs that served to enhance social cohesion. Transmission of the ‘ideological’
underpinnings of this social super-structure presumably required regular meetings or aggregations (sensu
Conkey et al., 1980) at places where different – most likely neighbouring – foraging groups would have
met to spend a certain and possibly extended time of the year together and to which a certain number of
individuals from far distant regions would have joined (Langley and Street, 2013; Street and Turner, 2013).
In this context ‘Gönnersdorf-type’ female depictions may have served as a symbol that was implemented
to support the social inter-connectedness of Late Magdalenian groups and individuals. The reason why a
symbol for the social role of females had been chosen for this task may be because women had been largely
constituting and maintaining the supra-regional Late Magdalenian social web (Gaudzinski-Windheuser and
Jöris, 2015). Implementation of rites, rituals and festivals would have fuelled the establishment and main-
tainance of such supra-regional social webs, reiterating the shared rules, regulations and concepts on which
the ‘ideological’ super-structure was built upon. From the discussion above, the site of Gönnersdorf provides
all the evidence in favour of an interpretation of the site as exactly such a nexus point. At the same time,
this contextualisation emphasises that Gönnersdorf cannot be considered as an “average” Magdalenian site
(contra discussion in Pasda, 2012), but that it complements to the majority of Magdalenian sites of different
function by serving, amongst others, aspects of the social structuring of Late Magdalenian societies.
357The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
With the implementation of an ‘ideological’ super-structure and its associated rules and regulations on
top of the regional social networks on which the economies of foraging groups were regularly running,
this super- structure tier of social ties would have allowed for more complex land-use strategies, including
supra-regional alliances which were based on increased levels of interdependencies and systems of sup-
port that allowed for increased levels of inter-group reciprocity and insured against periodic scarcities (cf.
Minc and Smith, 1989). In this context, the ‘ideological’ umbrella that is most likely expressed in ‘Gönners-
dorf-type’ depictions would have not only enhanced new levels of social interconnectedness and coherence
but would have additionally been of immediate economic benet, allowing the establisment of a viable
meta-population in central Europe from the Late Magdalenian onwards (cf. Kretschmer, 2015; Tallavaara
et al., 2015). This is not only evidenced by the signicant increase of Late Magdalenian sites in central
Europe (Street et al., 2009; Maier, 2015), but also by the Gönnersdorf seasonal zooarchaeological evidence
(Street and Turner, 2013) that shows that Late Magdalenians had established economic sytems which al-
lowed not only to overcome the glacial winters with reduced levels of biomass production (cf. Burke et al.,
2017), but also to sustain year-round economies in central Europe, with the latter feeding positively back to
the persistency of established social webs and to the successful colonisation of central Europe.
The Late Upper Palaeolithic non-naturalistic record of depictions, including ‘signs’ and ‘symbols’ and other
abstract forms of ‘artistic’ expressions, is most generally interpreted in relation to the reconstruction or
denition of regional ([palaeo-]“ethnic”) identities (Leroi-Gourhan, 1981) or (their) “symbolic territories”
(Fuentes et al., 2019). Conclusions of wider relevance for the understanding of the social and ‘ideological’
changes or changes in mentalities, worldviews and belief systems underlying the Late Upper Palaeolithic
record of artistic expressions have rarely been considered (e. g., Leroi-Gourhan, 1971; Lorblanchet, 1989).
On the contrary, the present interpretative trends for this rich (but poorly dated) record (see papers in Lor-
blanchet and Bahn, 1993) focus less on stylistic tendencies and their implications than on the recognition of
geographical differences (cf. discussion in Pigeaud, 2007).
However, in an attempt to widen the perspective from the Late Upper Palaeolithic anthropomorphic depic-
tions discussed above, a range of observations and inferences may be made in comparison to other themes
present in Late Upper Palaeolithic art. Such comparison may not only highlight, but also help to contextual-
ise and partly explain some of the major differences in the spatio-temporal and stylistic patterning of cultural
changes observed in Late Upper Palaeolithic ‘art history’. The coarse-grained view taken here attempts to
go beyond highly focussed evidence and benets from the wide geographical scope and the diachronic
perspective that has been addressed above.
The interval of ~ 16,000 to 15,000 cal BP, i. e., the Late Magdalenian period during which ‘Gönnersdorf-type’
headless anthropomorphic depictions spread across much of Europe, can be understood further by con-
sidering wider data. Besides representations of ‘Gönnersdorf-type’, only few human or anthropomorphic
illustrations are known from the period, as is the case for the entire Late Upper Palaeolithic (e. g., Duhard,
1993, 1996; Cohen, 2003; Bourrillon et al., 2012; Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015). This stands
in stark contrast to the far richer body of animal depictions. In the Middle Magdalenian facies à pointes
de Lussac-Angles and in Upper / Late Magdalenian contexts, animals are depicted in high degrees of detail
(e. g., Bourdier et al., 2017b; Bosinski and Fischer, 1980; Bosinski, 2008; Pigeaud, 2007). When depictions
were engraved, in particular when they do not cover very large surfaces, they often appear highly naturalis-
358 O. Jöris · The Late Magdalenian of Gönnersdorf and its Headless Anthropomorphic Depictions
tic or realistic, and in some cases at Gönnersdorf and many other sites dating to the ~ 16,000-15,000 cal BP
interval, they reveal a particular concern with highlighting the animals’ individuality in an extremely dynamic
manner, including their individual expressions and behaviours (cf. Bosinski, 2007, 2008).
Thanks to the great numbers of schematic anthropomorphic (Bosinski and Fischer, 1974; Höck, 1995; Bosin-
ski et al., 2001; Bosinski, 2011a, 2011b) and naturalistic animal depictions (Bosinski and Fischer, 1980;
Bosinski, 2008), the Gönnersdorf site exemplies the strong dichotomic separation of the way humans (or
symbols of their social roles) were depicted on the one hand, and how animals were represented on the
other. Whatever the underpinning worldviews or belief systems underlying this stylistic distinction contained
in detail (cf. discussion in Lorblanchet, 1989), the notable dichotomy most likely reects a conceptual or
ideological differentiation between the animal world and the human sphere. In contrast to the depic-
tions of animals, Late Magdalenian representations of humans / anthropomorphs generally lack individual
traits. Within the human realm, the scarcity of representations interpreted as male, highlights another
dualism – likely at a different conceptual level. Those concepts that placed little emphasis on the individ-
ual’s sphere may probably have been benecial in enhancing social coherence on a supra-regional scale
(Gaudzinski-Windheuser and Jöris, 2015: 312), which is possibly reected in the comparably high levels
of standardisation and the restricted Late Magdalenian canon of objects of personal adornment (Álvarez
Fernandez, 2006); in short, signalling coherence and membership of a certain group or entity was more
important than displaying any form of individuality. The general scarcity of burials known from this period
may be interpreted likewise (Pettitt, 2010).
Appendix: Site reference list to Fig. 5
Note: Asterixes in the site reference lists below refer to sites
that have yielded potential anthropomorphic depictions.
The attribution of some of them to the ‘Gönnersdorf-type’,
however, is regarded here as probable, but unclear (*) or
doubtful (**).
a Spain: Cueva de Ardales* (Malaga; Ramos Muños et al.,
2002), Cueva del Linar* (Cantabria; Muños Fernandez and
San Miquel Llamosas, 1991), Arenaza* (Basque; Garate,
2004); France: Gourdan (Haute-Garonne; Fritz et al.,
1996), Grotte de Pestillac (Lot; Sentis, 2000), Grotte Car-
riot (Lot; Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987), Abri Lagrave* (Lot;
Ipiens et al., 2000), Les Combarelles (Dordogne; Capitan
et al., 1924; Archambeau and Archambeau, 1991), Grotte
Saint-Cirq* (Dordogne; Delluc and Delluc, 1982), Grotte
de Commarque (Dordogne; Delluc and Delluc, 1981), Viel-
mouly II* (Dordogne; Delluc and Delluc, 1987), Grotte de
Fronsac (Dordogne; Delluc et al., 1994), La Font-Bargeix*
(Dordogne; Barrière et al., 1990), Villars* (Dordogne; Del-
luc and Delluc, 1991), Grotte du Planchard (Ardèche; Bosin-
ski et al., 2001), Grotte des Deux-Ouvertures* (Ardèche;
Gély and Porte, 1996), Abri Bourdois, Angles-sur-l’Anglin
(Vienne; de Saint-Mathurin and Garrod, 1949), Grotte
Margot* (Mayenne; Pigeaud et al., 2010), Grotte de Gouy
(Seine-Maritime; Martin, 2007); British Isles: Church Hole*
(Nottinghamshire; Pettitt, 2007); Italy: Grotta Romanelli**
(Apulia; Mussi and De Marco, 2008); Egypt: Sinai shelter
(Sinai; Zboray, 2012); Abu Tanqura Bahari (ATB) 11 at el-
Hosh* (Upper Egypt; Huyge, 2015), Qurta II (Upper Egypt;
Huyge, 2015).
b Spain: Las Caldas (Asturias; Corchón Rodríguez, 1990),
Arlanpe (Basque, Rios-Garaizar et al., 2015); France: Grotte
du Courbet near Bruniquel (Tarn; Alaux, 1972; Welté and
Cook, 1993), Abri Fontalès (Tarn-et-Garonne; Lorblanchet
and Welté, 1987), Magdeleine-la-Plaine* (Tarn; Ladier,
2001), Abri Murat (Lot; Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987), La
Roche de Lalinde (Dordogne; Leroi-Gourhan, 1971, Bosin-
ski et al., 2001), Gare de Couze (Dordogne; Bordes et al.,
1963), Moulin-Neuf* (Gironde; Ladier et al., 2005), La
Marche (Vienne; Pales and Tassin de Saint Péreuse, 1976;
Mélard, 2008), Roc-aux-Sorciers (Vienne; Sentis, 2005);
Germany: And. Andernach-Martinsberg (Rheinland-Pfalz;
Bosinski, 1994), Gö. Gönnersdorf (Rheinland-Pfalz; Bosinski
et al., 2001), Hohlenstein near Ederheim (Bayern; Bosinski,
1982), Obere Klause (Bayern; Floss et al., 2015), Oelknitz
(Thüringen; Gaudzinski-Windheuser, 2013).
c-1 engravings on pebbles (quadrats). France: La Goutte Rof-
fat near Villerest (Loire; Bosinski et al., 2001; cf. Larue et al.,
1955, 1956); Germany: Niederbieber* (Rheinland-Pfalz;
Loftus, 1982), Felsställe near Mühlen* (Baden-Württemberg;
Kind, 1987), Teufelsbrücke near Saalfeld (Thüringen; Wüst,
1998); Czech Republic: Býčí Skála* (Moravia; Valoch, 1978).
c-2 engravings on bones (circles). Spain: Las Caldas (Asturias;
359The Beef behind all Possible Pasts – The Tandem-Festschrift in Honour of Elaine Turner and Martin Street
Corchón Rodríguez, 1990; Fortea et al., 1990); France: Abri
Faustin (Gironde; Lenoir, 1995), Grotte Rochereil* (Dor-
dogne; Delluc and Delluc, 1991), Rond du Barry* (Haute-
Loire; de Bayle de Hermens, 1972); Germany: Petersfels*
(Baden-Württemberg; Albrecht and Berke, 1980; Bosinski,
d France: Grotte du Courbet* (Tarn; Ladier, 1987), Abri
Fontalès (Tarn-et-Garonne; Lorblanchet and Welté, 1987),
Laugerie-Basse (Dordogne; Delporte, 1979), Enval (Puy-de-
Dôme; Bourdelle et al., 1971); Belgium: Mégarnie (Höck,
1995); Switzerland: Monruz (canton de Neuchâtel; Bullin-
ger, 2006); Germany: And. Andernach-Martinsberg (Rhein-
land-Pfalz; Höck, 1995), Gö. Gönnersdorf (Rheinland- Pfalz;
Bosinski et al., 2001; Höck, 1995), Petersfels near Bittel-
brunn (Baden-Württemberg; Bosinski, 1982; Höck, 1995),
Waldstetten (Baden-Württemberg; Floss et al., 2021),
Nebra (Sachsen-Anhalt; Mania, 1999), Garsitz, Bärenkel-
ler** (Thüringen; Bosinski, 1982), Oelknitz (Thüringen;
Gaud zinski- Windheuser, 2013); Czech Republic: Pekárna
(Moravia; Absolon, 1949); Poland: Wilczyce (Fiedorczuk
et al., 2007); Ukraine: Mezhyrich (Pidoplichko, 1976; Abra-
mova, 1995; Iakovleva, 2009), Dobranichivka (Iakovleva,
2009), Mezin (Chovkoplass, 1965; Iakovleva, 2009); Russia:
Elisee vichi 1 (Bryansk; Abramova, 1966; Iakovleva, 2009).
My thanks go to Martin and Elaine: needless to emphasize
this in a Festschrift dedicated to the two of them. But in this
case, I want to add further thanks, as their research so sig-
nicantly shaped the MONREPOS research topic “Rules and
Regulations in context” within our research eld of “Be-
coming Human”. Many of Elaine’s and Martin’s different
projects related, in one way or another, back to Gönners-
dorf. Similar questions of “increased sedentism” Elaine re-
cently addressed in Taforalt (cf. Barton et al., 2019).
This contribution was a much welcome opportunity to
present a wrap-up of the contents of this research topic.
It combines the contents of presentations I gave in 2015
at a meeting organised by the Eurasian Department of the
DAI in Berlin on “Prehistoric Networks in the longue durée:
Palaeolithic Innovations enabling the Neolithic Revolution”
and in 2017 at an international workshop and conference
in Ekaterinburg on the “Great Shigir idol in the context of
North Eurasia Stone Age art”. It is also meant as a contribu-
tion to the Top-level Research Area “40.000 Years of Human
Challenges: Perception, Conceptualization and Coping in
Premodern Societies (Challenges)” at Johannes-Gutenberg
University Mainz.
My thanks go to Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser for valuable
comments on an earlier version of this contribution. I am
very grateful to Paul Pettitt, Durham University (UK), for sig-
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of its production, and to Gabriele Rutkowski and Nicole Vie-
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Olaf Jöris
MONREPOS Archaeological Research Centre
and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution
Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum
Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Archäologie
Schloss Monrepos
D - 56567 Neuwied
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Arbeitsbereich Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie
des Instituts für Altertumswissenschaften
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... BP is conceivable (Kozłowski et al., 2012). This age makes it the oldest universally accepted Magdalenian site in eastern central Europe (e.g., Jöris, 2021;Kozłowski et al., 2017;Maier, 2015Maier, , 2017aMaier et al., 2020Maier et al., , 2021Pfeifer, 2020;Połtowicz-Bobak, 2013. ...
... BP, an oscillation of particularly dry climate facilitated the migration of saiga antelope, which is among the hunted fauna at Maszycka, from eastern to western Europe (Nadachowski et al., 2016). The eastbound expansion(s) of the Magdalenian à navettes probably followed that corridor through central Europe (Jöris, 2021), with one route leading through the southern middle range mountain zone, as evidenced by an artefact made from Plattensilex from the Franconian Jura (Kozłowski et al., 1993(Kozłowski et al., , 2012. Several Magdalenian palimpsests, mainly cave sites, within this 'saiga corridor' furnished conspicuous osseous artefacts, which could also relate to the early Middle Magdalenian . ...
... BP, if it at all happened (cf. Jöris, 2021;Maier et al., 2020), did not mean a "local extinction" of the Magdalenian population, but rather a retraction of its range pulsation to western Europe. ...
Full-text available
The well-known Late Upper Palaeolithic cave site of Maszycka (southern Poland), excavated in the end of the nineteenth century as well as in the 1960s, furnished a collection of 89 osseous artefacts manufactured from cervid antler, mammoth ivory, and mammal long bone. The great majority are finished tools, mostly projectile points, while raw material blocks, pre-forms, and production waste are represented by only a few pieces. Based on the presence of the characteristic double-split antler tools, distinct projectile morphologies, and recurring ornaments, the assemblage from Maszycka can be assigned to the early Middle Magdalenian facies à navettes which dates to around 19 - 17.5 ka cal. BP. Compared to the western European sites, which also belong to this facies, Maszycka is characterised by a high proportion of ivory tools, reflecting the abundance of this favourable raw material in eastern central Europe, as well as an unusually high proportion of decorated tools, which may relate to an increased need for symbolic communication within the small and geographically isolated Magdalenian group. Both the remarkable typo-technological similarities of the bone industry from Maszycka to contemporary assemblages in France and the gap in the central European archaeological record between 22 and 19 ka cal. BP speak in favour of a direct immigration of Magdalenian hunter-gatherers from western Europe immediately after the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. Their relations to the bearers of the Epigravettian adjacent to the east and south remain to date poorly understood.
Full-text available
The timing and course of the recolonisation of Central Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum are intensively debated. Particularly puzzling is the distribution of sites between 19,000 and 18,000 calBP, attributed to the so-called Magdalenian ‘à navettes’, where the easternmost site (Maszycka, Poland) is located 1300 km away from its closest neighbour to the west (Grappin, France). The question of early recolonisation pulses into Central Europe is linked to the problem of identifying weak occupation signals within archaeological palimpsests, whose largest parts have accumulated during later periods of more intensive human activities. In order to disentangle palimpsest assemblages and identify components of early occupation events, we set aside traditional archaeological units such as Middle Magdalenian and instead focus on artefact associations. Under this premise, we review the evidence of faunal assemblages, radiocarbon dates, artefact morphology, technology and artisan craftwork of sites in Central Europe between roughly 20,000 and 14,000 calBP. We identify numerous, previously overlooked evidence for early occupations, particularly for the periods from 19,000 to 18,000 calBP and 18,000 to 15,800 calBP. Our findings add new tesserae to the mosaic picture of the repopulation process in Central Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly alter the current view on its timing and course.
Full-text available
The Magdalenian (20,500–13,000 cal. BP) is an important period for the cultural evolution of societies in the European Upper Palaeolithic. It is characterized by a great increase in settlements and products, probably reflecting demographic growth. Along with other material evidence, symbolic products (art and ornaments) clearly expand. In association with the multiplication of representations, some of them become highly normalized (included geometric signs) whereas others develop a great diversity of forms (such as human depictions). The density of sites and more-or-less normalized products make possible an original spatial interpretation, that is probably unprecedented for Palaeolithic societies. Beyond highlighting the diffusion of some concepts over long distances, these rich data allow a deeper analysis of exchange, influence, and non-influence connections. Consequently, the question arises of the identification of what can be called “territories” (spaces built and delimited by human occupations) or “symbolic territories”. We define “symbolic territories” as spaces without visible material frontiers, symbolic through the weight of the ideas, the shared social norms and the installation of concepts by the societies in their close environment. We propose to examine this question through the prism of symbolic productions: body ornaments, portable art, rock art. Thousands of pieces of symbolic evidence assigned to the Magdalenian and a better stratigraphic definition for this period offer a favourable context for discussing the social implications of the results of several analyses: the distribution of themes in space, the presence of types of sign or figurative subjects contained in a narrow space, the identification of individual images and collective graphic norms. Comparing these approaches to series from the Middle and Upper Magdalenian, in which the evidence is the most abundant, will allow us to consider the nature of perceptible “territories”. Then we will question the relationships between human groups through identity and mechanisms of otherness in Magdalenian societies.
The article is devoted to the problems of definition, classification and genesis of the Epigravettian in the Central regions of the East European plain. It is concluded that Epigravettian sites could be characterized as industrially variable and multicultural. Epigravettian should be considered as a polygenetic phenomenon characterized by a cultural mosaic peculiar to specific geographical regions. In relation to the territory of the Desna and the Middle Dnieper Basin, we can assume a direct continuity between the local Gravettian and Epigravettian traditions, despite changes in technology and typology of stone and bone tools, as well as the style in the design of portable art objects.
The Badegoulian technocomplex holds a special place among the West European Upper Paleolithic (UP) cultural traditions. Often understated or even bypassed by the main prehistorical overviews, caught between the fascinating Solutrean and the "classic" Magdalenian technocomplexes, it nonetheless probably marks a turning point in the evolving trajectory of hunter-gatherers in present-day France. The deep typo-technological changes, traditionally noted through lithic equipment, have recently been examined in the framework of interdisciplinary programs centered on several key-stratigraphic sequences located in southwest France. The combined analyses of flint, bone and antler assemblages, ornaments and faunal remains, together with the implementation of systematic archaeostratigraphic reassessment and radiometric dating, serve to confirm the speed and the strength of these changes ca. 23 cal ka BP. Without going into detail into the Solutrean-Badegoulian transition issue, the present paper provides a synthetic overview of the main Badegoulian characteristics-and their known variability on the basis of the lithic and osseous equipment that guided the original identification. Following a three-step structure successively exploring the "when", the "what" and the "where" questions, we will look at the current challenges in LGM chronocultural research, between (false) consensus and (true) sticking points.
The learning hypothesis put forth by the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans (RNMH) Project surmises the primary importance of the innate cognitive difference in learning abilities underlying RNMH processes. An overview of recent studies, supplemented by the contributions in this volume, shows that some of the available evidence is in support of this view, while another portion is not. This is perhaps because learning behaviors in human communities are conditioned by numerous factors, which include not only cognitive abilities in certain realms but also socio-cultural learning environments, as a product of historical developments. While learning undoubtedly played a significant role in the development of adaptive strategies among both Neanderthals and modern humans, a more balanced model seems more appropriate to explain the advantage of modern human lifeways resulting from newer and more effective learning strategies.