(Chapter II, section 10)

The Magdalenians

In concluding our survey of human racial types and racial movements during the Pleistocene, it will be well to return from Africa to study that group of Late Palaeolithic cultures found in Europe and northern Asia, and collectively known as Magdalenian.59

The Magdalenian was the longest of the Upper Palaeolithic cultural divisions in time span, lasting in western Europe from the peak of Würrn II until about 11,800 B.C., while in parts of eastern Europe where it is found it may have been even older. It marks the culmination and decline of the second Würm advance, and is the first instance, except for that of the geographically limited Solutrean culture, in which we are sure that sapiens man was exposed to the full force of a glacial climate. During the Magdalenian as during the Solutrean, the great abundance of fine needles and other tailoring implements in archaeological deposits attests the close cultural adaptation of these people to the cold conditions under which they hunted. During the Magdalenian there must have been numerous population shifts and migrations with the changing climate, as the men followed the herds of reindeer which formed their chief article of diet. We know that at one time reindeer crossed the Pyrenees and wandered into Spain, where the Magdalenian hunters followed them. In general, however, Spain, like Italy, was a marginal area, relatively sheltered, in which local cultures of Aurignacian origin persisted with the addition of microlithic elements presumably from Africa.60 These southern inroads were, however, but minor Magdaleman incidents. It was a sub-glacial tundra culture, and stretched eastward across Siberia, where numerous sites have recently been discovered.

Despite its great time expanse, the Magdalenian is represented by fewer skeletal remains than is the Aurignacian. The finds seem to be limited entirely to the west61—to France, England, western Germany, an Spain.62 Moving eastward from Germany, we find no more human remains until we arrive in northern China.

The number of fully authenticated Magdalenian skulls, about twenty five, might be large enough to warrant separate statistical study if all of them were well documented. As matters stand, we are able to discuss but a few of them in any detail. In general, they are as variable in the crania index as those of the Middle and Late Aurignacian, although in western Europe the head form in this later period seems to run somewhat longer.

Some of the skulls, as typified by the famous Chancelade and by the male from Obercassel, show, however, something new—a so-called Eskimoid modification of the masticatory apparatus. This consists of an even greater widening of the zygomatic arches than had been previously known; a flattening of the parietals, an enlargement of the area of temporal muscle attachment, and a keeling of the cranial vault. These features are accompanied, most markedly in the Chancelade specimen, by a great eversion of the gonial angles, a prominence of the malars, and a consequent flattening of part of the facial plane.

This new adaptation, common among living Eskimos and Siberians, has been interpreted by a number of authors63 to mean that the Magdalenians as exemplified by Chancelade were the ancestors of the living Eskimo, whose forebears moved northeastward as the ice retreated, and eventually crossed Behring Straits. But several objections have been raised to this identification. The nasal bones of Chancelade, in the first place, which were broken off and lost soon after the skull had been discovered, were very highly arched, projecting, and even hawk-like.64 They were thus extremely European in form, and not typically Eskimoid or mongoloid in the modern sense.

On cultural grounds, Birket-Smith and Matthiassen have postulated that the Eskimos are not the product of a simple eastward migration from Asia, but that their origin is linked with that of the American Indian.65 It may be true that the similarities between Eskimo and Magdalenian culture are due to convergence, although this thesis has by no means been finally established. On physical grounds as well, evidence has been adduced to show that the Eskimo is really close to the American Indian.66

The question of Magdalenian-Eskimo relationships, in any case, is part of the general problem of those between Upper Palaeolithic man of the entire northern zone, and the origin of the American aborigines as a whole. It is too early at present to settle either.

Returning to Chancelade, we see that this individual differed in many ways from the standard Upper Palaeolithic mean. His face was very long, like that of Předmost; his orbits were high, and, like those of Combe Capelle, narrow. None of the other Magdalenian skulls which simulate him in “Eskimoid” character diverge so completely from the total group, and hence Chancelade had been set apart by many as a separate race. Unlike the Late Aurignacians, he was a short man, about 160 cm. high, and his stature would be usual among most of the present inhabitants of the Arctic circle. His extremities, with his short heel bones, would also not be alien to the latter.67

Besides Chancelade and other individuals which approximate his type in varying degrees, the true Crô-Magnon of Aurignacian tradition survived unchanged into the Magdalenian. The Laugerie Basse cranium could well fit into such a series. Others, such as the Le Placard cranium and C from Aveline’s Hole in England,68 represent an unreduced survival of the brachycephalic element in the Crô-Magnon complex. Still other skulls are smaller than the Upper Palaeolithic standard, show a reduction in browridges and in malars, and anticipate the general reduction in size and in ruggedness which was to alter profoundly some branches of the Upper Palaeolithic stock in Europe and Asia after the close of the Pleistocene It is important to learn that this reduction had already begun as early as the Magdalenian, and that at that time there was no geographical difference between those which were and were not affected by this incipient tendency.

During the Magdalenian, then, the internal diversity of Upper Palaeolithic European man became more noticeable than before. Some of the examples which are left to us represent a continuation of pre-existing Aurignacian forms, others show a modification found among living peoples of the Arctic, while still others anticipate the size reduction of the Mesolithic. We may, if we like, attribute these differences to local segregations and modifications, but since our knowledge of race in Magdalenian Europe covers so small a portion of the area in which that culture existed, it is perhaps more reasonable to postulate new movements as well as local survivals and changes.



59 A separate study of race during the Solutrean has been omitted, since there are no skulls which all authorities accept as definitely belonging to that short and far from widespread cultural phase. Those of Předmost, including #3, might well be Aurignacian; those of Le Roe fit more easily, from the craniological standpoint, into a Magdalenian category.

60 It is the modern tendency to deny African influences in the Spanish Upper Palaeolithic. Vaufrey (Anth, vol. 43, 1933, pp. 457—483) shows that the Capsian did not enter Spain, nor did it extend westward of Central Algeria. The Oranian was formerly called Ibero-Marusian until it was determined that this, too, was absent from Spain. Nevertheless Spain was influenced, during the Upper Palaeolithic, by some microlithic industry, which must have come from points south and east, of the same general type as that which went to Kenya as Wilton, to Egypt as Sebilian, to Palestine as Natufian, and North Africa as Capsian and Oranian.

61 Two Russian skulls from Undori may be Magdalenian and not Aurignaciar Talko-Hryncewicz PAn, vol. 1, 1926, p. 208.
Field, H., AA, vol. 38, 1936, p. 277.
Paviow, A., AnthPr, vol. 3, 1925.

62 The Spanish material is particularly unsatisfactory. Dr. Obermaier in 1924 rejected all previously studied finds except for two cranial vaults which had been cut down to serve as drinking bowls, a femur, and a few teeth. (Obermaier, H., Fossil Man in Spain, pp. 288-290.) Two large series from Segovia, published by Dr. de las Barras d Aragon (AMsE, vol. 12, 1933, pp. 90—123) as Magdalenian or Mesolithic, include or trephined skull. Our earliest positive case of trephination in Europe dates from the Late Neolithic. Furthermore, one of the sites contained pottery.

63 Morant, G. M., AE, vol. 1, 1926, pp. 257—276, is the latest and most exhaustive exposition of this view.

64 We must thank Sir Arthur Keith for this discovery. An old and rare photograph reproduced on page 395 of New Discoveries, establishes this point definitely.

65 Birket-Smith, K., PICA, 1930, pp. 470—475.
66 Shapiro, H. L., PSC, 1934, pp. 2723—2732; APAM, vol. 31, 1931, pp. 345—384.
Seltzer, C. C., HB, vol. 5, 1935, pp. 313—370.

67 Bonin, G., von, op. cit.

68 The skulls from Aveline’s Hole, Kent’s Cavern, and Gough’s Cave, were described by Keith, who considered them to be of Mesolithic age (Antiquity of Man, p. 407; New Discoveries, pp. 406—421); but Clark, an outstanding authority on the Mesolithic in northwestern Europe, indentifies them as Magdalenian (Clark, J. G. D., The Mesolithic Age in Britain, p. 107).