The book "The Creation of Inequality" (Marcus & Fannery, 2012) says the Magdalenian groups were much larger than the Gravettian groups but doesn't provide a clear number (or I did not find them). Any idea how big they were?

EDIT: ok, it's unknown "in absolute terms", but what is the rough/supposed estimate of:

  1. the average group sizes? (Is 10-50, correct?)
  2. the biggest permanent size (anywhere, at any time)? (Could it be 100?)
  3. the biggest temporary size (eg. several groups joining their effort to hunt the Mammoth during a season). (300, or more?)

2 Answers 2


Actually, the truth is that - in absolute terms - we don't know the size of the groups. All that we are able to say is that the material culture of a particular group - as revealed by archaeology - suggests that the size of a given group may be larger or smaller than some other group.

Occasionally we have group burials from a site like the Maszycka Cave, which do allow us to make a (very) rough estimate of the population at a particular site, at a particular time, but we really can't say how representative those estimates are of the wider culture.

It does appear that Magdalenian groups had more permanent settlements (like those at Petersfels and Schussenquelle) than earlier Palaeolithic groups. This suggests that relations between the various Magdalenian groups might have been closer than those between more-mobile groups of earlier periods (like those of the Gravettian culture).

Archaeologists often infer that these more permanent settlements would have supported larger populations. If you are interested, the topic of Magdalenian settlement patterns is discussed in some length in The Magdalenian in Western Central Europe: Settlement pattern and regionality by Gerd-Christian Weniger.

However, recent work by Aurélien Simonet (Gravettians at Brassempouy (Landes, France), 30,000 BP: a semi-sedentary territorial organization?), and others, has suggested that the people of the Gravettian culture might have been more settled than was previously supposed. In turn, this may lead to assumptions about relative population sizes being revised.

  • Ok, it's unknown "in absolute terms", but is 10-50 a rough estimate of the average group size? What's the supposed biggest size (anywhere, at any time)? Could it be 100, or 300, or more? (The Maszycka Cave, study you pointed out doesn't seem to talk about the group size in this specific but only about the number of individuals they found in a specific spot (I guess they could come from different period).
    – JinSnow
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 8:20

I found a clue about the Mezhirich culture that lived globally at the same time (18,000-14,000 ago) than the Magdalenian (17,000 - 12,000 ago).

On a promontory overlooking Ukraine’s Rosava River, just southeast of Kiev, lies a campsite of this period called Mezhirich. Mammoth and reindeer hunting would have been optimal here from October to May. During that season a number of families converged on Mezhirich, building smaller and more widely spaced houses rather than living in one large communal shelter. The houses were roughly 20 feet in diameter, and the total population of the camp may have been 50 people.

(I'm still looking for a source to confirm or refute this :)

These camp and group size were probably temporary. After the hunting season, the group probably divided into smaller groups of maybe 15-25. These were the stable group size.

Since the Mezhirich people were much less advanced than the Magdalenian we can infer that the group size of these latter was bigger.

The stable group size might have been 50 people. They might have formed temporary groups of hundreds or more during the hunting season.

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