Comparing Upper Palaeolithic sequences across the Carpathians

The appearance of Anatomically Modern Humans in Europe around 40,000 years ago coincided with highly dynamic environmental conditions during the latter part of the last glacial cycle which ended with the begin of the Holocene 11,700 years ago. For the Upper Palaeolithic record, these conditions led to complex patterns of preservation on all levels − for finds, structures, and sites. Preferably, the archaeological record is embedded in a sequence of naturally deposited sediments allowing for assessment of the environmental context and chrono-stratigraphic placement.

Project goals

The project aims at comparing the records and formation processes of two important Upper Palaeolithic find regions with similar chrono-stratigraphic and archaeological ranges located on either side of the Carpathian arc: the Krems area in northeast Austria with well-known sites such as Stratzing, Krems-Hundssteig, Krems-Wachtberg, and Kammern-Grubgraben − as well as further localities in the Kamp valley and on the Wagram plateau − and the Ceahlău Basin in the Bistriţa valley in northeast Romania where a dense cluster of 18 sites was identified in the course of a dam construction in the 1950s and 1960s, for some of which investigations led by the Valahia University of Târgoviste have been resumed in the last decade. In particular Bistricioara-Lutărie III exhibits an impressive record with several Epigravettian and Gravettian find layers.

At each of these localities, complex sedimentary and depositional processes are illustrated by the presence of in situ preserved anthropogenic structures such as hearths, pits, and burials next to layers with re-deposited finds. This shows that sedimentary processes can be both protective and destructive depending on the local and diachronic environmental conditions. Detailed correlation with climate and environmental oscillations therefore requires obtaining local high-resolution records of chronological, archaeological, sedimentological, and environmental data, and demands profound understanding of the formation processes.


At the current stage of the project, main target is intensification of data collection in the Ceahlău Basin with principal focus on Bistricioara-Lutărie III and its immediate surroundings. The joint field investigations are conducted by OREA’s Quaternary Archaeology research group and the Faculty of Humanities of the Valahia University and include mainly systematic excavation and core sampling, but also test trenches. Hereby, innovative documentation tools (e.g. databases) are developed to enhance the integration of multidisciplinary approaches. Important result of the 2019 excavation at Bistricioara-Lutarie III was evidence of five superimposed Epigravettian and Gravettian find layers with preserved anthropogenic structures, in most cases hearths.

Lithic raw material analyses

Exemplary first material studies are conducted by investigating diachronic procurement strategies for lithic raw materials at the Bistricioara-Lutărie sites. Analyses are carried out by OREA’s Raw Material Lab and focus on flint which is non-local and occurs in different proportions and varieties throughout the Gravettian to Epigravettian sequence.



  • M. Anghelinu, G. Popescu, U. Hambach, D. Vereș, M. Händel, L. Niță, C. Cordoș, G. Muratoreanu, Reassessing the formation processes of open-air Paleolithic settlements in the Eastern Carpathians: case studies in the Ceahlau area. In: C. Cordoș & V. Chirica (eds.), Le Paléolithique supérieur de Roumanie en contexte du Paléolithique supérieur européen. Bibliotheca Archaeologica Iassiensis XXXIII, 2019 , 96–119.
  • M. Anghelinu, L. Niță, M. Händel, E.-C. Cordoș, U. Hambach, D. Vereș, G. Muratoreanu, From Gravettian to Epigravettian in the Eastern Carpathians: The Bistricioara-Lutarie III settlement and its regional context. In: P. Wojtal & J. Wilczynski (eds.), 3rd Conference World of the Gravettian Hunters. Krakow, Poland, 20th–24th May 2019. Abstracts. Instytut Systematyki i Ewolucji Zwierz’t, Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Kraków, Poland, 2019, 1.
  • E.-C. Cordoș, M. Händel, G. Popescu, M. Anghelinu, Reassessing formation processes in several Upper Paleolithic settlements in the Ceahlău Basin (Northeastern Romania) Some chrono-cultural implications. Loess and Archaeology. International Workshop Aachen, November 2019.