We explain what Cro-Magnon Man was, what his way of life and diet was like. In addition, the general characteristics of him.

Cro-Magnon manCro-Magnon man
The “Cro-Magnon Man” inhabited Europe during the Upper Paleolithic.

What was Cro-Magnon Man?

It is known as “Cro-Magnon Man” or “Cro-Magnon Man” to a population of Homo sapiens who inhabited Europe during the Upper Paleolithic Period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). Homo sapiens It is the scientific name of the human species and the use of the term refers to the evolution of the human being.

The term “Cro-Magnon Man” is currently out of use since it belongs to an academic tradition that postulated the evolution of human races from different species of hominids. Today, to refer to these populations, we simply speak of Homo sapiens modern u Homo sapiens European.

The population of Homo sapiens formerly known as “Cro-Magnon Man” inhabited different regions of Europe and developed different cultures during the Upper Paleolithic.

In general terms, the boom in the manufacture of tools in ivory, antler and bone stands out, the specialization in the manufacture of sharp lithic objects (projectiles) and the invention of sewing needles. On the other hand, the creation of personal ornaments, statuettes, figurative paintings and the engraving of symbols suggest a leap in the quality of the symbolization process.

For about 10,000 years, the Homo sapiens modern coexisted with the homo neanderthalensis, a different species within the family of hominids that were part of the human genus. The homo neanderthalensis they became extinct 30,000 years ago with the end of the last ice age.

See also: Primitive man

Use of the term “Cro-Magnon Man”

For a long time it was assumed that the “Cro-Magnon Man” was the prehistoric representative of the white (or Caucasoid) race. He was considered one of the three primitive types of humanitynext to Grimaldi Man (black or negroid race) and at Man of Chancelade (yellow or Mongoloid race).

However, this theory has been abandoned by historians and paleontologists because there is no scientific evidence to support the constitution of human races from different subspecies of Homo sapiens. Currently, the term “Cro-Magnon Man” is no longer used and is spoken, instead, of Homo sapiens european u Homo sapiens modern.

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Origin of Homo sapiens

Homo sapiensHomo sapiens
Homo sapiens migrated to Europe approximately 43,000 years ago.

The Homo sapiens is a species that evolved from erectus. Its origin (as a clearly separate species) dates back 200,000 years. Is named archaic homo sapiens to the species that lived through this transition.

Most researchers hold that the kind of Homo sapiens sapiens (present-day humans) evolved in Africa and moved to the rest of the continents, where it coexisted with other populations of archaic homo sapiens.

Europe began to be populated by modern homo sapiens for about 43,000 years. For a time, the European populations of Homo sapienswith the name of “Cro-Magnon Man”. However, it should be noted that the differentiation from other populations of Homo sapiens it is only cultural and does not correspond to distinctions of a biological type.

Origin of the term “Cro-Magnon Man”

man of cromanon cave franceman of cromanon cave france
The oldest fossils of European Homo sapiens were found in the Cro-Magnon cave.

In 1869, the French paleontologist Louis Lartet found fossil remains of Homo sapiens modern in Cromagnon’s cavenear Les Elyzies de Tayac-Sireuil, Dordogne.

The set of fossil remains consisted of three adult males, one female and one fetusand constituted the first discovery of fossil remains of Homo sapiens on European territory. At that time, the finding was categorized as “Cro-Magnon Man” (“Cro-Magnon” is the Spanish version of the term).

way of life Homo sapiens European

The populations of Homo sapiens Modern people who inhabited Europe during the Upper Paleolithic had a life characterized by:

  • Nomadism. Human groups did not settle in one place permanently, but moved following seasonal cycles and animal migrations. They created mobile camps and used natural caves for shelter.
  • subsistence economy. The Homo sapiens they fed on elements that existed in nature through hunting and gathering. During the Upper Paleolithic, they developed more complex group hunting techniques, with weapons that allowed them to hunt large animals.
  • bands. The nomadic way of life and the subsistence economy led human groups to organize themselves into small groups (called “bands”) of between 20 and 30 people. These groups were linked by kinship relationships and controlled the territories through which they moved to obtain their resources.
  • egalitarian societies. Primitive men did not have permanent leaders or bosses. Sometimes an individual could stand out for his abilities and he was especially respected. It is believed that the older people in the group were listened to because of their experience and had greater authority to resolve conflicts. However, they were egalitarian societies in which there were no established power hierarchies.

See also: Nomadic and sedentary peoples

Food of the Homo sapiens in the Upper Paleolithic

The fossil and material remains of the Homo sapiens European reveal that they hunted oxen, mammoths and reindeer, which allows us to assume that meat was an important part of their diet. In addition, this activity provided them with skins to make coats.

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Gathering made up for the rest of their diet with plant products such as fruits, leaves and seeds.

Culture of Homo sapiens in Europe

Cro-Magnon manCro-Magnon man
Modern Homo sapiens developed symbolic thought and artistic expression.

The main characteristics of the culture of the populations of Homo sapiens Europeans were the following:

  • Lithic and bone culture. The Homo sapiens Europeans of the Upper Paleolithic developed different stone working techniques (Gravettian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian). Throughout the period, the style of lithic work became more homogeneous across different European areas, and the stone slabs became progressively longer and smaller. The main tools that were made with stone were scrapers, burins, blades with lowered backs and spearheads. Instead, the bones of different animals were used to make sticks, needles, spatulas, and harpoons.
  • symbolic representation. The Homo sapiens of the Upper Paleolithic were characterized by the development of their symbolic thought and different forms of representation. Although other hominin species exhibited symbolic thinking traits (for example, the homo neanderthalensis also buried their dead), it is believed that the Homo sapiens he distinguished himself by the level of complexity with which he displayed his intellectual potential through symbolic thought. In Europe, the Homo sapiens They expressed their ideas through cave painting representations and the carving of anthropomorphic sculptures. Specialists consider that these representations may imply the existence of rituals and, therefore, complex beliefs about their existence and the way the world works. The main remains of rock art in Europe are found in the Altamira Cave, the Chauvet Cave and the Lascaux Cave.

Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals

Cro-Magnon manCro-Magnon man
Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis coexisted in Europe for more than 10,000 years.

The Homo sapiens modern coexisted with homo neanderthalensis in Europe for about 10,000 years. Specialists have postulated different hypotheses about the nature of the relationships between the populations of both species.

Although the issue is still under debate, genetic studies on the hominization process indicate that there is evidence of hybridization between the species. This means that the contacts between both species were biological, as well as cultural.

On the other hand, most specialists consider that the extinction of the homo neanderthalensis It occurred as a consequence of the climatic changes at the end of the last ice age and the cultural superiority possessed by the Homo sapiens modern to adapt to new conditions.

cultural history of Homo sapiens sapiens in Europe

Cro-Magnon manCro-Magnon man
It is believed that the female statuettes expressed a cult of fertility.
  • Aurignacian culture (40,000-30,000 years ago). The fossil remains belonging to the Homo sapiens The oldest modern caves found in Europe are found in Romania, in the caves of Peştera cu Oase, Peştera Muierii and Peştera Cioclovina. Among them, the oldest remains were dated to around 40,500 years. However, at the Russian Kostenki site, material remains have been found that could be identified as belonging to populations of Homo sapiens, and dating from 3,000 or 4,000 years older. These are stone productions that, due to their production technique, belong to the Upper Paleolithic lithic industry. However, there are debates about whether they belong to a population of Homo sapiens or to a Neanderthal population.
  • Gravettian culture (30,000-20,000 years ago). About 30,000 years ago, the coldest phase of the last ice age began in the northern hemisphere. Most of the European lands became steppes and underwent important ecological changes due to the decrease in average temperature. During this period, the homo neanderthalensis new waves of migrations of Homo sapiens, coming from Asia, who brought a new type of culture, fully adapted to life in the steppes. This culture is known among specialists as gravettian culture. From this period, the invention of perforated sewing needles and weapons based on propulsion (spears or projectiles) and the making of female figurines, currently known as “Paleolithic Venuses”, stand out.
  • Solutrean culture (20,000-15,000 years ago). During this period, the populations of Western Europe developed a lithic culture characterized by the evolution of carving and retouching techniques. In addition, the rock art in which zoomorphic paintings are represented in Roc de Sers and Fourneau-de-Diable, in France, stands out.
  • Magdalenian culture (15,000-8,000 years ago). This is the final period of the Upper Paleolithic, and it was characterized by the end of the ice age and climatic changes that allowed the generation of new ecosystems. There was an increase in the amount of natural resources available for survival. This allowed, in turn, the appearance of the first semi-permanent settlements. This culture was characterized by the expansion of stone working techniques throughout the continent, the exploitation of marine resources (with the use of harpoons) and the hunting of horses (in Western Europe) and mammoths (in Eastern Europe).
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Continue with: Neolithic


  • Martinez, I., & Sala, N. (2015). The adventure of Homo sapiens. Medical dendra. Journal of Humanities, 14(1), 65-79.
  • Harris, M. (1981). Introduction to general anthropology. Alliance.
  • “Cro-Magnon Man” on Wikipedia.
  • “This was the face of the Cro-Magnon man” in La Vanguardia.
  • “History of humanity 02 The Cro-Magnon Man” (video) on HistoriaTv.
  • “The man of Cro-magnon” in History and Biographies.
  • “Cro-Magnon 1” at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
  • “Cro-Magnon” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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