Culture of the Upper Paleolithic

Categories: DiffusionReligion

To understand the culture of the Upper Paleolithic period we must first understand what exactly is culture and what exactly is the Paleolithic period. Culture by definition is “a shared way of life that includes material products, values, beliefs, and norms that are transmitted within a particular society from generation to generation” (Scupin, 2016) it is also one hundred percent learned. The Upper Paleolithic is the “most recent period of the Paleolithic, also referred to the Late Sone Age, defined by archaeologists on the basis of changes in stone tool technology, as well as other technological innovations” (Scupin, 2016).

Now that we have broken those two terms down we can dive in and explore the amazing culture of the Upper Paleolithic.

Man during this time had made leaps and bounds in brain capacity which ultimately is what allowed the development of such a sophisticated culture. Man was able to communicate and learn how to develop better ways of doing things and or making things.

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As stated before the Paleolithic is defined by the change in technological innovations and there was not only change but a significant growth in the amount of technological innovations. Starting with tools, you will see how smart these people were, creating some amazing and life changing artifacts. The blade for instance was a leap forward in the advancement of hunting. The blade could be used for all sorts of things from daggers to spears, it could also be used for cutting hide or trees. Some may have also been used as decorative pieces because often “the flaking is so delicate and the points so sharp that is difficult to imagine them fastened to the end of a spear” (Scupin, 2016).

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While a simple blade may seem insignificant to us, this would have been a huge step. Now while this is quite impressive “the Upper Paleolithic is not exclusively a ‘blade culture’” (Sonneville-Bordes, 1963). What these people impressively started producing were tools that aided them in working bone and ivory. This is important because now they are able to chisel out a long handle creating what we now know to be spears. Spears were also another huge step forward for hunters because it allowed them to throw projectiles much faster than they would have been able to without it. One last major innovation was shelters. They used amazing engineering to create these structures. They constructed them with “bones from mammoths, and extinct species of elephant… the mammoth’s jaws were used as the base, and the ribs, tusks, and other bones were used for the sides” (Scupin, 2016). They would finish these shelters off by covering them in leather. Much like a Native American Tipi. These were all amazing creations that really sculpted their culture and the way they lived.

While the previously stated cultural advancements were marvels of their time, there is another form of culture, “Art, the most impressive innovation of the Upper Paleolithic” (Sonneville-Bordes, 1963). The art culture of this time is truly outstanding and a true marvel. The art included but was definitely not limited to carvings and paintings. Some of the most famous carvings are “the statuettes of fat women called ‘Venus’ (Sonneville-Bordes, 1963). These statuettes are for the most part very small and could fit in the palm of your hand. There is no definite knowledge of what these were for but the major theories are to show a desire for fertility or could also be considered just a doll. “Their geographical distribution is very wide, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ukraine” (Sonneville-Bordes, 1963) this shows a unity in culture across large distances. While these figurines are such a treasure to see the paintings are just as, if not even more amazing. The cave art paintings show how much mastery and skill these people had. It also showed how well they worked together. Most of the paintings are found deep within caves and usually depict “magnificent abstract and naturalistic paintings of animals and sometimes of humans dressed in he hides of animals. These murals might have been intended to celebrate a successful hunt or to ensure a better future” (Scupin, 2016). The works of art found deep within these caves are ones that will truly show how amazing this culture was and how big of steps above the previous.

Most people will ask “what culture” when talking about this time period. Humans today are too ethnocentric to believe that anything other than themselves are capable of culture. After breaking down what culture is and viewing the way these people lived it is obvious that they had an amazing culture. They lived amazing lives, communicating, growing, and learning. They made massive leaps and paved the way for generations to come. Their culture is just as important as the cultures of today. It was ever growing and truly laid the foundations for generations and species to come.


  • Scupin, R. (2016). Cultural anthropology: A global perspective. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education.
  • Sonneville-Bordes, D. D. (1963). Upper Paleolithic Cultures in Western Europe. Science,142(3590), 347-355. doi:10.1126/science.142.3590.347

Cite this page

Culture of the Upper Paleolithic. (2021, Oct 05). Retrieved from

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