LIFE IN THE LATE ICE AGE
People: People living in the late Ice Age were early modern humans. They have been around for at least 100,000 years, and have lived in Europe since around 50,000 BC. People lived in groups made up of relatives, i.e. tribal communities. This allowed for greater security, easier hunting of large animals, fire protection and better chances of survival.
Animals: Most of ice-age Europe was a giant open grassland called a steppe, which was a great place for herds of herbivores. Woolly rhinoceros, musk buffalo, mammoths, cave bears and tigers, reindeer, bison and horses as small as a 10-year-old child lived in this place. Most ice-age animals had thick, warm fur to protect them from the cold.
Climate: temperatures were 8 degrees lower than today, and summer temperatures were 10-15 degrees, because there were no trees and the grassy plains were windswept and breezy. To keep out the cold, people made clothes from animal skins and made fires. They did this with stones called flint. The fire kept them warm, protected them from wild animals and they could cook their food.
Residences: They lived in caves, rock shelters, under overhangs and in simple dwellings made of branches and bones, which were covered with peat, bark or animal skins.
Food: Hunting and gathering. The latter means foraging for edible leaves, roots, fruits, seeds, nuts and mushrooms, but also for shellfish, snails and eggs. They used sticks for this task. Hunters mainly hunted reindeer, bison, horses, rabbits, squirrels and fish. They used stone weapons for hunting.
Cooking: The food was cooked over a fire or on broken stones and in a pit filled with coal. They did not use pots yet.
Tools are made of stone - flint. They use bones, stones and horns to make several flakes from one piece of flint. The flakes are then shaped into all kinds of tools and weapons - knives, axes, spearheads, scrapers, scratchers... Tools were also made from animal bones, tusks and wood - hooks, spearheads, spoons, needles, etc.
Hunting was very dangerous and they hunted in groups. One popular method of group hunting was pursuit. The hunters drived the animal into an ambush - a valley with a dead end, a swamp, an abyss - by shouting and waving their arms. Another method was to dig pits, which were covered with twigs and grass. The animal fell into the trap. Hunters used spears with bone or stone points to kill the animals.
Art: Bone flutes made from bear, deer and bird bones have been found, testifying to the knowledge of music among people during the Ice Age. The oldest bone flute in Europe was found in the Divje Baba cave in Slovenia. Wall paintings in caves in France and Spain, dating from 10,000 to 35,000 years ago, depict mainly animals: cattle, deer, bears, rhinos and mammoths. Most of the painted mammoths are to be seen in the Rouffignac Cave, also known as the Cave of the 100 Mammoths. Depictions of humans are rare, but handprints are often found. The colours come from minerals mixed with water. The usual colours are black, brown, red and yellow. They drew with animal hair and their fingers.
Mammoth: Giants of the Ice Age. The woolly mammoth is a relative of today's Asian elephant. During the Ice Age, it roamed the grassy plains of Europe, northern Asia and North America. They were between 2.7 and 3.5 metres tall and could weigh up to 6 or 7 tonnes. They had 50-80 cm long reddish-brown hair. Special glands lubricated the hair, which further protected the animal from the cold. The trunk is actually just a long nose, like an elephant's trunk. But unlike our nose, the mammoth could use it to eat, drink, greet and carry things. Mammoth tusks are actually long teeth, like elephant tusks. They grew throughout the mammoth's life, curving and twisting, and could reach the length of 3 metres. The tusks were useful for eating, scraping bark, digging up plants and shovelling snow, and they were also useful for stabbing enemies. Mammoths were vegetarians. They mostly ate grass, but sometimes also leaves, bark and branches. Together, they ate between 135 and 180 kg of food a day. Humans hunted mammoths for food, and used the bones and tusks to build dwellings, tools and ornaments. Mammoths became extinct between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Why? No one knows for sure. One theory blames climate change. As the world warmed up again after the last ice age, the landscape and vegetation changed. Grasslands turned into forests and swamps that were less suitable for the giants of the Ice Age. Another theory is that they were wiped out by ice-age hunters, which is unlikely. The answer is most likely a combination of both theories.