Hohle Fels


Overarching period: Upper Paleolithic, 50,000 - 10,000 BP
Specific period: Magdalenian, 17,000 to 12,000 BP
Carbon dating: 16,000 to 14,260 years old
Location: 48.22° North, 9.45° East
Site location country: Germany
mtDNA haplogroups: U8
Y haplogroups: I

Incised Bone Incised bone from Magdalenian Hunter-gatherers [19]

The Magdalenian of the Swabian Jura:

The Magdalenian was still a time of intense glaciation, although the climate had been slowly warming since the Last Glacial Maximum at around 26,000 years ago [5-6]. During this period hunter-gathers moved into Southwestern Europe to avoid the harsh climate of the Last Glacial Maximum, returning through Central Europe to repopulate more northerly climes [9]. Similar to the Gravettian that preceded it, the Magdalenian was also a highly unified culture over a broad expanse of territory within Europe. While the Gravettian hunters had focused on mammoth, the Magdalenian saw a shift towards a focus on hunting horses and other large game [10]. This culture produced incised bone objects that archaeologists have proposed to be some form of Paleolithic tally-sheet [11], although their purpose remains unknown.

The Hohle Fels Individuals:

The four male individuals in this sample were found at the Hohle Fels cave site, which was famous for its multiple layers representing different Paleolithic time periods. It is located in the Valley of Ach, which was formed by a tributary that flows into the Danube [12]. The site is associated with complex harpoon-like antler tools and worked backed tools which form intricate cutting edges that may have been used for working wood, antler, and bone [13].

In 2016 the remains of 7 individuals from 6 cave burial sites in the Swabian Jura area of Southwest Germany [14]. These formed part of the El Mirón cluster, which shows a higher degree of affinity with previous Paleolithic hunter-gatherers than subsequent Neolithic populations. This grouping is consistent with prior modern mitochondrial DNA studies that show a strong relationship between the southwest of Europe and more northerly and eastern areas [15-16], pointing to a movement of peoples from the Franco-Cantabrian area back into Central Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum.

These individuals all shared the Y chromosome haplogroup I, which is a very common lineage in European males today and is thought to have originated in Europe during the Paleolithic [15]. All of the mitochondrial DNA haplogroups were U8a, which likely arose in the Paleolithic and is found among Europeans, West Asians, and North Africans today [18].


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