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Department of Archaeology


The Moravian Gate Project


Project director: Martin Jones


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The Moravian Gate project looks at our species' early spread between 40,000 and 20,000 year ago into the challenging and fluctuating environments of Central Europe. If we map the geography of our closest relatives, the Neanderthals, against our best reconstructed temperature maps of early Europe, we can see their site distributions ebbing and flowing with changing air temperatures. This is just how we expect a large mammal to respond to climatic change. If we look however at the sites of the so-called 'Gravettian Culture' within our own species, we see a different relationship with the temperature maps. It would appear that, for the first time, humans struck out against the broad thermal trend to occupy successfully the colder northern open-steppic environments. It is the people of the Gravettian Culture which are the focus of investigation in the Moravian Gate project.

We see a concentration of Gravettian sites in the Moravian Gate, in what is now the Czech Republic, which have been preserved beneath the loessic deposits. Large group burials and settlement structures featuring semi-permanent huts and purpose-built kilns have been uncovered. Extensive cultural and technological innovations are observed at Moravian Gravettian sites including production of figurative and non-figurative art (including 'Venus Figurines'), technological developments in lithic and organic tool industries, the increase in use of non-local raw materials, and the earliest development of ceramics and textiles. These aspects of the Gravettian culture are thought to demonstrate cognitive development in terms of creativity, symbolic expression, and self-awareness of both the individual and groups.

The Moravian Gate project aims to investigate how the Gravettian people successfully adapted to occupy the cold northern open-steppic environments of central Europe.

Specific questions include:

  1. What were local environmental conditions experienced by the Gravettian people
  2. How did the local climate relate to global climate records?
  3. How the Gravettian people adapted to the climate and weather regimes?
  4. What did they eat?
  5. What resources did they use?
  6. How long did they stay in one place?
  7. These questions are being address through re-assessment of previous excavations and through conducting new excavations.

Prospective Students

We welcome enquiries regarding future study, research (e.g. Undergraduate dissertations, Masters or Ph.D. theses) or collaboration with the Moravian Project. Please contact .



                                                                                                      Updated: 2009-07-02. First Published: 2009-06-26
Copyright © 2009-2009 University of Cambridge
 Information provided by Prof. M. K. Jones

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