Nature 138, 826-830 (14 November 1936) | doi:10.1038/138826a0

The Upper Palæolithic in the Light of Recent Discovery

D. A. E. Garrod


THE last twelve years have seen a new impetus given to prehistoric studies by the multiplication of researches outside Europe. Excavations in Africa, the Near East, Asiatic Russia and China have opened up a new field for speculation, and at the same time have revealed the unsuspected complexity of many problems which to De Mortillet and other pioneers seemed relatively simple. Gone for ever is the straightforward succession of Palaeolithic cultures from Chellian to Magdalenian as laid down in the Musee Prehistorique. Even so early as 1912, when Breuil produced his classic paper on the subdivisions of the Upper Palaeolithic, its foundations were sapped, and the discoveries of the last decade have merely completed its demolition as a system of world-wide application. In the old system the Palaeolithic cultures appeared as a straightforward succession with clear-cut horizontal divisions, as in a diagrammatic geological section. The main outline of a new pattern is, however, already beginning to appear. We can distinguish in the Old Stone Age three cultural elements of primary importance. These are manifested in the so-called hand-axe industries, flake industries and blade industries, and we know that the first two, at any rate, run side by side as far back as we can see, and we are beginning to realize that the origins of the third may have to be sought much farther back than we had suspected. Only a moment of reflection is needed to see that we have here the old divisions of Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, but with a new axis.