Lecture 2. From the Gravettians to the Plains Indians: The Great Northern Hunting Tradition

created by:

Mark Jarzombek

from the module:

The American Continuum

In the last lecture, I introduced the idea of the “Social Package” that made us modern humans, from 150,000 or 200,000 BC through today. There is a lot more than can be said, but the lecture was intended to give the rudiments of a more elaborate discussion. This lecture moves the clock forward to the period called the Last Ice Age (ca. 24,000 BCE – 10,000 BCE). Though the world was uniformly colder than before, it was coldest in Europe, Russia, Siberia and Canada, which were under sheets of ice. It was in this context that a remarkable transformation took place. It was initiated by a culture known as the Gravettians – cold-weather/big game hunter specialists. Their culture was perpetuated into the modern age by the Siberian cultures, the Inuits, and the Plains Indians. This Northern Hunting Tradition – stretching from 25,000 BCE to ca. 1900 CE – turned out to be one of the most durable and cultural formations in human history. It is marked by the development of winter clothing, requiring needlework done by women; a heightened degree of shamanism, particularly relevant in winter season; sweat lodges; and ritual and ceremonial exchanges, usually during the winter. In terms of architecture there are two basic prototypes, the pit house and the conical house. In this lecture I will look at the conical house and compare the lavvu by the Sami in Sweden with the tipi of the Plains Indians. The lavvu is obviously the older formation. The tipi, developed maybe around 1,000 BCE or so – no one knows – is infinitely more ingenious. It is clear that it was an invention of the women, who own the tipi and are responsible for its construction and maintenance. At the end of the lecture we turn to the question of the Peopling of the Americas. There are several hypotheses, the Big Game Hypothesis, the Boat Hypothesis the Salutrean Hypothesis among others. The point is to not get caught up in ‘firsts’ but to recognize the extraordinary mix of realities that constituted the Americas.

supporting documents:


Quiz with Answers

Lecture Notes