Velika Pećina: Zooarchaeology, taphonomy and technology of a LGM Upper Paleolithic site in the central Balkans (Serbia)

Mary C. Stiner, Vesna Dimitrijević, Dusan Mihailović, Steven L. Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Last Glacial Maximum (MIS 2) was a period of rapid and extreme environmental change, prompting remarkable human adaptive responses across the world. While large parts of the temperate zone were uninhabitable during this interval, other areas served as refugia for plant, animal and human populations. The Balkans region is identified as a biotic refugium zone for many species during high glacial intervals, but until recently there has been little archaeological evidence that it was also a refugium for Paleolithic human populations. This paper reports archaeological findings from the cave site of Velika Pećina (Žagubica, Serbia), which preserves evidence for multiple episodes of human presence between 24,000 and 20,500 cal BP. Species combinations within the macro- and microfaunas attest to a mosaic environment with high habitat and species diversity over relatively small areas in the periods leading into, during, and following the LGM. Humans hunted a wide spectrum of large mammals, birds, and small carnivores while occupying Velika Pećina. Other mammalian and avian carnivores used the cave when humans were not present. Lithic and osseous artifact assemblages indicate that a range of manufacturing activities took place in the cave, despite the relatively low density of occupational debris. The late Upper Paleolithic groups used the cave as a residential base during a series of brief, probably seasonal visits. Human populations were small in the study area, but their presence was not diminished during episodes of extreme variation in global climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103328
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Balkans
  • Cave faunas
  • Epigravettian
  • Last Glacial Maximum
  • Lithic technology
  • Osseous technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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