Upper Paleolithic tool-making appears to have its roots in the Mousterian and post-Acheulian traditions, since flake tools are found in many Upper Paleolithic sites. Numerous blade tools have also been uncovered.
Blades were found in Middle Paleolithic assemblages as well, but they were not widely used until the Upper Paleolithic. In the blade technique of tool-making, a core is prepared by shaping a piece of flint with a hammer stone into a pyramidal or cylindrical form. Then a series of blades, more than twice as long as they are wide, are struck off.
The Upper Paleolithic period is also noted for the production of large numbers of bone and antler tools. The manufacture of these implements may have been made easier by the development of many varieties of burins.
Burins, or gravers, are chisel like stone tools used for carving; bone and antler needles, awls, and projectile points could be produced with them. Burins have been found in Middle and Lower Paleolithic sites but are present in great number and variety only in the Upper Paleolithic.
Pressure flaking also appeared during the Upper Paleolithic. In the traditional percussion method, used since Old wan choppers were first made at least 2 million years before, the core was struck with a hammer stone to knock off the flake. In pressure flaking, small flakes were struck off by pressing against the core with a bone, wood, or antler tool probably made with a burin. Pressure flaking gave the toolmaker greater control in the shaping of the tool.
As time went on, all over the Old World smaller and smaller blade tools were produced. The very tiny ones, called microliths, were often hafted or fitted into handles, one blade at a time or several blades together, to serve as spears, adzes, knives, and sickles. The hafting required the inventing of a way to trim the blade’s back edge so that it would be blunt rather than sharp. In this way the blades would not split the handles into which they might be inserted; the blunting would also prevent the users of an unheated blade from cutting themselves.
Some archaeologists think that the blade technique was adopted because it made for more economical use of flint. Andre Leroi-Gourhan of the Muse de Home in Paris calculated that with the old Acheulian technique, a two-pound lump of flint yielded sixteen inches of working edge and produced only tow hand axes.
If the more advanced Mousterian technique were used, a lump of equal size would yield two yards of working edge. The Upper Paleolithic blade technique, however, yielded twenty-five yards of working edge.
With the same amount of material, a significantly greater number of tools could be produced. Getting the most out of a valuable resource may have been particularly important in areas lacking large flint deposits.
In many respects, life styles during the Upper Paleolithic wre similar to life styles before. People were still mainly hunters and gatherers and fishers who probably lived in highly mobile bands. They made their camps out in the open (in skin-covered huts) and in caves and rock-shelters. And they continued to produce smaller and smaller stone tools
But the Upper Paleolithic is also characterized by a variety of new developments. One of most striking is the emergence of art—painting on cave walls and stone slabs, and the carving of decorative objects and personal ornaments out of bone, antler, shell, and stone (Perhaps for this well as other purposes, people began to obtain materials from distant sources).
Since archaeological sites date from the Upper Paleolithic than from any previous period and since some Upper Paleolithic sites seem larger than any before, many archeologists think that the hum population increased considerably during the Upper Palaeolithic. And new inventions, such as bow and arrow, the spear-thrower, and tiny replaceable blades that could be fitted into ham appear for the first time.
As was the case in the known Middle Paleolithic sites, most of the Upper Paleolithic remains that have been excavated were situated in caves and rock-shelters. In southwestern France, some groups seem to have paved parts of the floor of the shelter with stones.
Tent like structures were built in some caves, apparently to keep out the cold. Some open-air sites have also been excavated. The site at Dolni Vestonice in Czechoslovakia, dated to around 25,000 years ago, is one of the first of which there is an entire settlement plan.
The settlement seems to have consisted of four tents like huts, probably made form animal skins, with a great open hearth in the centre. Around the outside were mammoth bones, some rammed into the ground, which suggests that the huts were surrounded by a wall. All told, there was bone heaps from about 100 mammoths. Each hut probably housed a group of related families—about 20 to 25 people.
(One hut was approximately twenty seven by forty-five feet and had five hearths distributed inside it, presumably one for each family). With 20 to 25 people per hut, and assuming that all four huts were occupied at the same time, the population of the settlement would have been 100 to 125. Up a hill from the settlement was a fifth and different kind of hut.
It was dug into the ground, and contained a bake oven and more than 2300 small, fired fragments of animal figurines. There were also some hollow bones that may have been musical instruments. Another interesting feature of the settlement was burial find, of a woman with a disfigured face.
She may have been a particularly important personage, since her face was found engraved on an ivory plaque near the central hearth of the settlement down the hill.