Upper Paleolithic Sites in Europe

The Upper Paleolithic period in Europe (40,000-20,000 years ago) was a time of great change, with a blossoming of human capabilities and a huge increase in the number of sites and the size and complexity of those sites.

Abri Castanet (France)

Abri Castanet, France
Abri Castanet, France. Père Igor/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Abri Castanet is a rockshelter located in the Vallon des Roches of the Dordogne region in France. Excavated first by pioneer archaeologist Denis Peyrony at the beginning of the 20th century, late 20th and early 21st century excavations conducted by Jean Pelegrin and Randall White have led to many new discoveries concerning the behaviors and life ways of Early Aurignacian occupations in Europe.

Abri Pataud (France)

Abri Pataud - Upper Paleolithic Cave
Abri Pataud - Upper Paleolithic Cave. Sémhur/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Abri Pataud, in the Dordogne valley of central France, is a cave with an important Upper Paleolithic sequence, with fourteen separate human occupations lasting beginning with the early Aurignacian through the early Solutrean. Excellently excavated in the 1950s and 1960s by Hallam Movius, Abri Pataud's levels contain much evidence for Upper Paleolithic art work.

Altamira (Spain)

Altamira Cave Painting - Reproduction at the Deutsches Museum in Munich
Altamira Cave Painting - Reproduction at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. MatthiasKabel/Wikimedia Commons/(CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Altamira Cave is known as the Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art, because of its huge, numerous wall paintings. The cave is located in northern Spain, near the village of Antillana del Mar in Cantabria

Arene Candide (Italy)

Caverna delle Arene Candide
ho visto nina volare/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

The site of Arene Candide is a large cave located on the Ligurian coast of Italy near Savona. The site includes eight hearths, and the intentional burial of an adolescent male with a large number of grave goods, nicknamed "Il Principe" (The Prince), dated to the Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) period.

Balma Guilanyà (Spain)

Bauma de la Guinea
Per Isidre blanc (Treball propi)/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Balma Guilanyà is a rockshelter that was occupied by Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers about 10,000-12,000 years ago, located near the city of Solsona in the Catalonia region of Spain

Bilancino (Italy)

Lago di Bilancino -Tuscany
Lago di Bilancino -Tuscany. Elborgo/Wikimedia Commons/( CC BY 3.0)

Bilancino is an Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) open air site located in the Mugallo region of central Italy, which appears to have been occupied during the summer near a marsh or wetland some 25,000 years ago.

Chauvet Cave (France)

Chauvet Cave Lions
Photograph of a group of lions, painted on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France, at least 27,000 years ago. HTO/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY 3.0)

Chauvet Cave is one of the oldest rock art sites in the world, dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000-32,000 years ago. The site is located in the Pont-d'Arc Valley of Ardèche, France. Paintings in the cave include animals (reindeer, horses, aurochs, rhinocerus, buffalo), hand prints, and a series of dots

Denisova Cave (Russia)

Denisowa. Демин Алексей Барнаул/Wikimedia Commons/ (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denisova Cave is a rockshelter with important Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic occupations. Located in the northwestern Altai Mountains some 6 km from the village of Chernyi Anui, the Upper Paleolithic occupations date between 46,000 and 29,000 years ago.

Dolní Vĕstonice (Czech Republic)

Dolní Věstonice
Dolní Věstonice. RomanM82/Wikimedia Commons/(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dolní Vĕstonice is a site on the Dyje River in the Czech Republic, where Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) artifacts, burials, hearths and structural remains dated about 30,000 years ago have been found.

Dyuktai Cave (Russia)

Aldan River
Aldan River. James St. John/Flickr/(CC BY 2.0)

Diuktai Cave (also spelled Dyuktai) is an archaeological site on the Aldan River, a tributary of the Lena in eastern Siberia, occupied by a group that may have been ancestral to some Paleoarctic people of North America. Dates on the occupations range between 33,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Dzudzuana Cave (Georgia)

Flax Seed
Ancient people living 34,000 years ago in Georgia mastered the art of making materials from processed wild flax. Sanjay Acharya (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dzudzuana Cave is a rockshelter with archaeological evidence of several Upper Paleolithic occupations, located in the western part of the Republic of Georgia, with occupations dated to ca 30,000-35,000 years ago.

El Miron (Spain)

Castillo de El Mirón
Castillo de El Mirón. Roser Santisimo/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The archaeological cave site of El Mirón is located in the Rio Ason valley of eastern Cantabria, Spain The Upper Paleolithic Magdalenian levels date between ~17,000-13,000 BP, and are characterized by dense deposits of animal bones, stone and bone tools, ochre and fire cracked rock

Etoilles (France)

Seine River, Paris, France
Seine River, Paris, France. LuismiX / Getty Images

Etiolles is the name of an Upper Paleolithic (Magdalenian) site located on the Seine River near Corbeil-Essonnes about 30 kilometers south of Paris, France, occupied ~12,000 years ago

Franchthi Cave (Greece)

Franchthi Cave Entrance, Greece
Franchthi Cave Entrance, Greece. 5telios/Wikimedia Commons

First occupied during the Upper Paleolithic sometime between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago, Franchthi Cave was the site of human occupation, pretty much consistently up until about the final Neolithic Period about 3000 BC.

Geißenklösterle (Germany)

Geißenklösterle Swan Bone Flute
Geißenklösterle Swan Bone Flute. The University of Tübingen

The site of Geißenklösterle, located a couple of kilometers from Hohle Fels in the Swabian Jura region of Germany, contains early evidence for musical instruments and ivory working. Like others sites in this low mountain range, Geißenklösterle's dates are somewhat controversial, but the latest reports have carefully documented the methods and results of these very early examples of behavioral modernity.

Ginsy (Ukraine)

Dnieper River Ukraine
Dnieper River Ukraine. Mstyslav Chernov/(CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Ginsy site is an Upper Paleolithic site located on the Dnieper River of Ukraine. The site consists of two mammoth bone dwellings and a bone field in an adjacent paleo-ravine.

Grotte du Renne (France)

Personal Ornaments from Grotte du Renne
Personal ornaments from Grotte du Renne made of perforated and grooved teeth (1–6, 11), bones (7–8, 10) and a fossil (9); red (12–14) and black (15–16) colorants bearing facets produced by grinding; bone awls (17–23). Caron et al. 2011, PLoS ONE.

Grotte du Renne (Reindeer Cave) in the Burgundy region of France, has important Chatelperronian deposits, including a wide range of bone and ivory tools and personal ornaments, associated with 29 Neanderthal teeth.

Hohle Fels (Germany)

Horse Head Sculpture, Hohle Fels, Germany
Horse Head Sculpture, Hohle Fels, Germany. Hilde Jensen, University of Tübingen

Hohle Fels is a large cave located in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany with a long Upper Paleolithic sequence with separate Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian occupations. Radiocarbon dates for the UP components range between 29,000 and 36,000 years bp.

Kapova Cave (Russia)

Kapova Cave Art, Russia
Kapova Cave Art, Russia. José-Manuel Benito

Kapova cave (also known as Shulgan-Tash Cave) is an Upper Paleolithic rock art site in the republic of Bashkortostan in the southern Ural Mountains of Russia, with an occupation dated to approximately 14,000 years ago.

Klisoura Cave (Greece)

Klisoura Cave is a rockshelter and collapsed karstic cave in Klisoura gorge in the north-western Peloponnese. The cave includes human occupations between the Middle Paleolithic and the Mesolithic periods, spanning between about 40,000 to 9,000 years before the present

Kostenki (Russia)

Bone and Ivory Artifacts from the Kostenki Site
An assemblage of bone and ivory artifacts from the lowest layer at Kostenki that includes a perforated shell, a probable small human figurine (three views, top center) and several assorted awls, mattocks and bone points dating to about 45,000 years ago. Colorado University at Boulder (c) 2007

The archaeological site of Kostenki is a actually a stratified series of sites deeply buried within the alluvial deposits of a steep ravine that empties into the Don River in central Russia. The site includes several Late Early Upper Paleolithic levels, dated ca 40,000 to 30,000 calibrated years ago.

Lagar Velho (Portugal)

Lagar Velho Cave, Portugal
Lagar Velho Cave, Portugal. Nunorojordao

Lagar Velho is a rockshelter in western Portugal, where a 30,000 year old burial of a child was discovered. The child's skeleton has both Neanderthal and early modern human physical characteristics, and us Lagar Velho is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for inter-breeding of the two types of humans.

Lascaux Cave (France)

Aurochs, Lascaux Cave, France
Aurochs, Lascaux Cave, France. Public domain

Probably the most famous Upper Paleolithic site in the world is Lascaux Cave, a rockshelter in the Dordogne Valley of France with fabulous cave paintings, painted between 15,000 and 17,000 years ago.

Le Flageolet I (France)

Le Flageolet I is a small, stratified rockshelter in the Dordogne valley of southwestern France, near the town of Bezenac. The site has important Upper Paleolithic Aurignacian and Perigordian occupations.

Maisières-Canal (Belgium)

Maisières-Canal is a multiple-component Gravettian and Aurignacian site in southern Belgium, where recent radiocarbon dat place tanged points of the Gravettian at about 33,000 years before the present, and roughly equivalent to Gravettian components at Paviland Cave in Wales.

Mezhirich (Ukraine)

Mezhirich Ukraine (Diorama display at the American Museum of Natural History)
Mezhirich Ukraine (Diorama display at the American Museum of Natural History). Wally Gobetz

The archaeological site of Mezhirich is an Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) site located in Ukraine near Kiev. The open air site has evidence of a mammoth bone dwelling--a house structure built entirely of the bones of extinct elephant, dated to ~15,000 years ago.

Mladec Cave (Czech Republic)

Alepotrypa cave
George Fournaris (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Upper Paleolithic cave site of Mladec is a multi-floor karst cave located in the Devonian limestones of the Upper Moravian plain in the Czech Republic. The site has five Upper Paleolithic occupations, including skeletal material that has been controversially identified as either Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, or transitional between the two, dated to approximately 35,000 years ago.

Moldova Caves (Ukraine)

Orheiul Vechi, Moldova
Orheiul Vechi, Moldova. Guttorm Flatabø (CC BY 2.0) Wikimedia Commons

The Middle and Upper Paleolithic site of Moldova (sometimes spelled Molodovo) is located on the Dniester River in the Chernovtsy province of the Ukraine. The site includes two Middle Paleolithic Mousterian components, Molodova I (> 44,000 BP) and Molodova V (between about 43,000 to 45,000 years ago).

Paviland Cave (Wales)

Gower Coast of South Wales
Gower Coast of South Wales. Phillip Capper

Paviland Cave is a rockshelter on the Gower Coast of south Wales dated to the Early Upper Paleolithic period somewhere between 30,000-20,000 years ago.

Predmostí (Czech Republic)

Relief Map of Czech Republic
Relief Map of Czech Republic. By derivative work Виктор_В (CC BY-SA 3.0) Wikimedia Commons

Predmostí is an early modern human Upper Paleolithic site, located in the Moravian region of what is today the Czech Republic. Occupations in evidence at the site include two Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) occupations, dated between 24,000-27,000 years BP, indicating the Gravettian culture people lived a long time at Predmostí.

Saint Cesaire (France)

Paléosite-st-cesaire abris neandertal
Pancrat (Own work) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Saint-Cesaire, or La Roche-à-Pierrot, is a rockshelter in northwestern coastal France, where important Chatelperronian deposits have been identified, along with the partial skeleton of a Neanderthal.

Vilhonneur Cave (France)

Racloir Grotte du Plaquard
Muséum de Toulouse (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Vilhonneur Cave is an Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) decorated cave site located near the village of Vilhonneur in the Charente region of Les Garennes, France. 

Wilczyce (Poland)

Gmina Wilczyce, Poland
Gmina Wilczyce, Poland. Konrad Wąsik/Wikimedia Commons/ (CC BY 3.0)

Wilczyce is a cave site in Poland, where unusual chipped-stone plaquette-type Venus figurines were discovered and reported in 2007.

Yudinovo (Russia)

Confluence of Sudost
Confluence of Sudost. Holodnyi/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Yudinovo is an Upper Paleolithic base camp site located on a promontory above the right bank of the Sudost' River in the Pogar District, Briansk region of Russia. Radiocarbon dates and geomorphology provide an occupation date between 16000 and 12000 years ago.

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Hirst, K. Kris. "Upper Paleolithic Sites in Europe." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/upper-paleolithic-sites-in-europe-173080. Hirst, K. Kris. (2021, February 16). Upper Paleolithic Sites in Europe. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/upper-paleolithic-sites-in-europe-173080 Hirst, K. Kris. "Upper Paleolithic Sites in Europe." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/upper-paleolithic-sites-in-europe-173080 (accessed March 28, 2023).