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Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context$
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Paul Pettitt, Paul Bahn, Sergio Ripoll, and Francisco Javier Muñoz Ibáñez

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299171

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199299171.001.0001

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Palaeolithic Art in Isolation: The Case of Sicily and Sardinia

Palaeolithic Art in Isolation: The Case of Sicily and Sardinia

10 (p.194) Palaeolithic Art in Isolation: The Case of Sicily and Sardinia
Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Margherita Mussi

Oxford University Press

The archaeological record of Italy is long and complex, suggesting continuous peopling since the Middle Pleistocene (Mussi 2001; Mussi et al. in press). The evidence of Palaeolithic art, however, is rather restricted: Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) art is close to nil, including just a few notched implements; the Middle Upper Palaeolithic (MUP), admittedly, is much richer, with some twenty Gravettian Wgurines, the largest such sample in Western Europe (Mussi et al. 2000; Mussi 2004); parietal art is also documented at Grotta Paglicci, where painted horses and positive handprints were discovered (Boscato and Palma di Cesnola 2000; Zorzi 1962); when Late Upper Palaeolithic (LUP) lithic industries were produced which belong to the Epigravettian, portable and parietal art is known at a number of sites. In the late 1980s, Zampetti (1987) reviewed twenty-one Epigravettian cave sites, and a single open-air site, all of them with zoomorphic art. Three more have been discovered since: Riparo Dalmeri, Riparo di Villabruna, and Grotta di Settecannelle. I will examine below the artistic record of Sicily and Sardinia, both of them at the periphery of Italy, which, in turn, is secluded from Europe by the Alps. My aim is to contrast the effects of geographic isolation, with the circulation of people and ideas, if any, as documented by portable and cave art. Sicily, currently an island of 25; 700km<sup>2</sup> and the largest in the Mediterranean, lies 140 km from Africa, and a few kilometres off southern Italy. The strait of Messina is 3 to 25 km wide, but is far from easy to cross, because of violent tidal currents, and whirlpool, also known as ‘Charybdis’ by Greeks and Romans. The depth is just 72 m at the Sill of Peloro. Because of intense neotectonic activity, however, any palaeogeographic reconstruction is highly speculative. Analysis of the faunal assemblages, which during oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 2 include a limited number of species, none of which is endemic, suggests that intermittent connection with the mainland possibly existed around the Last Glacial Maximum (Mussi et al. in press). The large mammals, found in varying percentages, are the deer, Cervus elaphus, the aurochs, Bos primigenius, the small steppe horse, Equus hydruntinus, and Sus scrofa, the wild boar.

Keywords:   Azilian, Cynotherium sardous, Epigravettian, Megaceroides caziotti, Prolagus sardus, ‘Wounded Man’

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