Given its chronological position and geographic spread, the Aurignacian is perhaps the most studied techno-complex of the Upper Paleolithic. In the last decades, a growing data base has permitted researchers to define its main features and various attempts have been made to disentangle its complex synchronic and diachronic variability. However, most previous research has been conducted in the northern Aquitaine Basin (southwestern France). As a result, a slightly biased narrative of the Aurignacian cultural phenomenon has been constructed. Recently, researchers have raised doubts about the application of the “Aquitaine Model” on a supra-regional scale (Sitlivy et al. 2012; Falcucci et al. 2017; Bataille et al. 2018; Hauck et al. 2018). The variability and definition of the earliest stages of the Aurignacian have been over-simplified to better construct scenarios of modern humans’ arrival and implantation into Europe. In this regard, the idea according to which the development of the Aurignacian was triggered by environmental and climatic deteriorations that occurred at the onset of the Heinrich Stadial 4 is debatable (Banks et al. 2013). With the aim of shedding new light on the complex cultural dynamics that characterized the Early Upper Paleolithic, in this presentation, we discuss the Protoaurignacian sequence at Fumane Cave in northern Italy. The presence of several layers that pre- and post-date the Heinrich Stadial 4 permits us to address the current techno-typological definitions and to test the hypothesis of a shift in the technological behaviors of hunter-gatherers’ societies. The main empirical basis is provided by lithic artifacts retrieved from five cultural units (A2, A1, D3dbase, D3balfa, and D3ab) spanning roughly from 41 to 37 ky cal BP. Overall, the findings of our study reject the recurring practice, well-established among Paleolithic archaeologists, to transfer a regional model to geographically distant case studies. At Fumane Cave, the techno-typological features of the earliest Protoaurignacian clearly persist throughout the stratigraphic sequence with some gradual variations that are less distinct if compared to other sequences (Falcucci 2018). In conclusion, we hope to demonstrate that reassessments of pivotal sites and regional studies are beneficial in emphasizing the complexity of the first stages of the European Upper Paleolithic.
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