Atlantis and Cro-Magnon Man

by R. Cedric Leonard

An anthropological fact usually ignored in popular TV shows and documentaries is that there are notable differences between the Eastern and Western types of Upper Paleolithic man. In such shows the terms Cro-Magnon and Modern Man are used as if they were synonymous, whereas strictly speaking they are not. All Cro-Magnons are Modern, but all Moderns are not Cro-Magnon. Eastern European types are significantly different from "western" Cro-Magnon Man, both physically and culturally.

The student of Atlantis should also be aware that Cro-Magnon Man's geographical distribution has always been limited to the areas of Europe and North Africa lying closest to the long-lost "Island of Atlantis". His distribution pattern includes a number of nearby Atlantic islands.

He may also be found in certain portions of North and South America—even as far south as Tierra del Fuego where 10,000-12,000 year-old Cro-Magnon skeletons have been found (Torres, 1986; Nami, 1996, et al.). These distinctions assume greater importance when Atlantis is viewed as the possible source of the type known as Cro-Magnon.


The Upper Paleolithic Age covers the period from circa. 38,000-10,000 B.C. During this period two main physical types of Modern Man flourished throughout Europe, Asia and Africa—the eastern and western. The "western" is known as Cro-Magnon, but the "eastern" are known by various other names, such as Brünn Man, Predmost, or Combe Capelle (wherever the remains were first found). These eastern types are generally shorter, more gracile, and rather smaller-brained than Cro-Magnon. The latter carries no implication of lesser or greater intelligence, and is given here only as a defining characteristic—Neanderthal had a larger brain than either. Average stature of the Combe Capelle Man was about five feet four inches, whereas Cro-Magnon Man averages almost five feet eleven inches.

There is so much similarity between the various eastern European types that they are commonly lumped together as one. The late Dr. Carleton S. Coon of Harvard University wrote: "Despite the general homogeneity of Upper Paleolithic Man, these two groups, the western and the eastern, may be shown to have differed from each other in certain well-defined ways." (Coon, 1939) In other words, "western" Cro-Magnon Man differs from all the other "eastern" types.

Predmost Skull Combe Capelle Skull
Date: 37,000 (± 200) B.C. Date: 38,000 (± 200) B.C.

Non-Cro-Magnon "eastern" type skulls from Moravia, Czekoslovakia

The tool assemblage associated with these "eastern" types is known as the Perigordian, and is merely a continuation of the earlier Neanderthal's toolkit (the Mousterian), whereas the various Cro-Magnon tool assemblages are definitely not. According to Prof. Bordes (1968), Combe Capelle is not an invader bringing with him a Lower Perigordian culture: the Perigordian tool industry did not come from elsewhere, but was only a continuation of the Mousterian tool industry of Neanderthal Man.

The beautiful cave paintings found throughout the Pyrenees and Cantabrian mountains which have become world famous are the work of Cro-Magnon. The art impulse of the "eastern" branch of Upper Paleolithic mankind seems to be dominated by small, carved female "fertility" images.

Anthropologists are pretty much in agreement that the "eastern" types of Modern Man originated in East Africa, eventually winding their way through the Middle East into Europe.* According to Clark (1970), the non-Negro stock of the eastern Sahara is related to a type "appreciably less rugged than the Mechta-Afalou race; is long-headed, is long-faced; of slender build and approaches a primitive Mediterrean type." We will learn more about the tall "robust" Mechta-Afalou type shortly.

That these "eastern" types were clearly wanderers is indicated by their extremely thin and widely scattered occupation sites. Such sites are more or less evenly distributed throughout Europe and the Middle East with no "clustering" toward the east or west.

In contrast, Cro-Magnon sites are usually thick (indicating long, settled occupation in one place) and are definitely clustered toward the western portions of both continents (Europe and Africa). Remains of structures have been found indicating that both "eastern" and "western" Upper Paleolithic man commonly lived in houses of some sort, and not in caves as commonly assumed. (Pfeiffer, 1969)


Near the date of 35,000 B.C., a few thousand years after the first appearance in Europe of Modern Man, a taller, more powerfully built, more rugged man suddenly "invades" the western shores of Europe and North Africa (Bordes, 1968; Clark, 1970; Coon, 1954). This rugged, innovative, large-brained man is dubbed Cro-Magnon, named after the first specimen discovered at Cro-Magnon Cave a few miles from Aurignac; consequently, his tool assemblage was labeled "Aurignacian". According to Prof. Francois Bordes, world renown archeologist and former director of the Laboratory of Prehistory at the University of Bordeaux, the Aurignacian tool tradition without doubt originates outside of Europe, ready-made, although from where is still a mystery (Bordes, 1968).

Dr. John E. Pfeiffer, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University observes: "The Aurignacian is quite distinct from the Perigordian"; they arrive "from some area outside of Western Europe"; with an already "established way of life." Archeologist Frank Hibben states that the Aurignacian industry is "indubitably non-European in origin"; adding that subsequent excavations and studies have shown that it is "far more complex than previously supposed." (Hibben, 1968) The Aurignacian is also the longest lasting of all Cro-Magnon cultures. Pfeiffer further observes:

"The very coexistence of the Perigordians and Aurignacians in France raises some questions that cannot be answered at present. They apparently hunted in the same regions under the same conditions during the same general period, living as contemporaries for thousands of years. Yet they seem not to have influenced one another appreciably, a surprising state of affairs considering man's capacity for minding his neighbor's business." (Pfeiffer, 1969)

Then along about 18,000 B.C. the Aurignacian culture is "interrupted" by the next invasion known as the Solutrean. Although definitely Cro-Magnon in type, Solutrean skulls are somewhat broader. (Hibben, 1968).

Solutrean art is not as prolific as the earlier Aurignacian. The few examples of Solutrean cave art are to be found at Le Fourneau-du-Diable, Le Roc in the Charente, the cave loci at Aragon and Levante (Spain), and a few open-air sites in Andalucia and Extramadura (Hibben, 1968; Bicho, et al., 2007). However, the Solutreans excelled in the production of extremely delicate blades (an artform in itself): they may have introduced the use of the bow-and-arrow (Pfeiffer, 1969).

After a mere four thousand years—circa.14,000 B.C.—the so-called Magdalenian invasion occurs, in which the harpoon first appears. These "invasions" are all associated with waves of Cro-Magnon occupation. No formative, or "gestation," stages have ever been found on any continent for any of the Cro-Magnon tool industries. Were they all developed—in Atlantis?

"The evidence tells of a powerful people who could live where they wanted to live . . . And there is more than that in the record. Life was changing in response to . . . events which involved geological forces and caused a major population explosion. Surviving signs of the change are everywhere. The most recent Magdalenians . . . occupied three to four times more sites than their predecessors, and occupied a large number of sites that had never been used before." (Pfeiffer, 1969; italics mine.)

Human populations were at an all time high at this point; but then something earthshaking must have happened! The Azilian "invasion" occurs very close to the magic date of 10,000 B.C., (compatible with the demise of Atlantis according to Plato) ending forever the Upper Paleolithic Age and the Cro-Magnon invasions. In fact, all Upper Paleolithic cultures —both eastern and western—end at the same time, (Click for table) and the extinction of millions of animals occurs. A new "age" begins.

The Mesolithic Age which follows has been characterized by archeologists and anthropologists as "gloomy," "uninspired," and is inaugurated by a significant drop in population (Pfeiffer, 1969). But even though the dreary Mesolithic Age has begun all over Europe, Africa and Asia, the Cro-Magnon based Azilian is unmistakably Upper Paleolithic in character as long as it exists: yet all is not right with this last of the brilliant Cro-Magnon cultures.

"The Azilians hunted in the same regions where the Magdalenians had hunted and occupied many of the same sites. Like most dwindling people, they probably lived to a large extent in the past and told nostalgic legends about their ancestors, the mighty hunters of another age." (Pfeiffer, 1969)

What a perfect description of a people traumatized by a tremendously violent catastrophe! Conditions in Europe after the passing of the Ice Age were actually better; yet the spirit of these people had been broken. They were left in a daze, numbed by unimaginable events. The anthropologists who have detected this despondency are not thinking in terms of world catastrophe, or the loss of a homeland; yet this change in attitude is readily discernible in the Mesolithic remains. (For additional evidence of this catastrophe go to Last Ice Age.)

Four Cro-Magnon invasions also took place in North Africa within this same time-frame, although more work involving dating needs to be done there (Hadingham, 1979). These are known as the Aterian, Oranian, Mouillian and the Capsian (Bordes, 1968; Clark, 1977, et al.). In North Africa the Mousterian of Neanderthal was replaced by a tool industry called the Aterian, which stretched from Morocco eastward to Tripoli, and southward into the northern portions of the Sahara. (Clark, 1970) According to archaeological evidence, the atlatl (spear thrower) made its appearance somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 years ago in the area of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Dr. Bruce Howe (1967) of Harvard University states: "The bulk of the datable Aterian appears to be earlier than any European Solutrean." The earliest Aterian exceeds 30,000 years and is concentrated in the west; the latest can be found as far east as the western deserts of Egypt and even to the Nile in Nubia. According to J. Desmond Clark, Prof. of African Prehistory at the University of California, the Aterian appears in Africa "fully developed" (Clark, 1970). The humans involved are known as type de Mechta.

The Aterian industry featured tanged points of basically triangular shape, which archeological speculation has associated with the possible use of the bow-and-arrow (Hibben, 1968). Although these points definitely resemble arrow points, unfortunately no definitive evidence has been found to confirm the practise.

As regards the physical type, the work most familiar to me is that of Dr. L. Cabot Briggs of the American School of Prehistoric Research at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. To give just the barest of his conclusions, it should be stated that the race de Cro-Magnon of Europe and the North African type de Mechta resemble one another greatly (Briggs, 1955). The latter seems best represented by a class of particularly large-brained specimens which are labeled "Type D". Briggs (1955) states, "Type D skulls stand alone notably in their often great size . . ."

Abri Cro-Magnon Old Man of Cro-Magnon Type de Mechta
Date: 30,000 B.C. Date: 32,000 B.C. Date: 10,000 B.C.
Les Eyzies, France Aurignac Cave, France Mechta El Arbi, Algeria

Examples of Cro-Magnon and Type de Mechta crania. Notice the short faces and high, broad brain vaults.

Like the Cro-Magnons in Europe, the remains of the type de Mechta in northwest Africa can be found mostly along the Atlantic coast (Hiernaux, 1975). What was at one time called the Ibero-Maurusian has now been dubbed "Oranian" (Clark, 1970; Howe, 1977), since its origins cannot be determined as either Iberian or Mauritanian. According to Clark (1970), the Oranian appears suddenly, and is described as an "intrusive" tool industry, but cautions against speculation concerning its origins.

The type de Mechta associated with the Aterian, Oranian, and Mouillian has been described as tall, robust, strong-jawed, large-brained, and generally resembles the Cro-Magnons in Europe (Briggs, 1955; Clark, 1970; Coon, 1962; Hiernaux, 1975). They have been found at a number of sites in northwest Africa, and number more than a hundred individuals. The most important are Taforalt in Morocco and Afalou-Bou-Rhummel in Algeria, and are sometimes called the Mechta or Mechta-Afalou group (Hiernaux, 1975).

On the other hand, the Capsians are a mixture of two types: some like Cro-Magnon, and others more like "eastern" European (Coon, 1962). A favortie theme in Capsian rock art is that of humans involved in hunting scenes: among which are the earliest clear portrayals of the use of the bow-and-arrow in North Africa. (Hibben, 1968)

Like the Azilian culture in Europe, the Capsian retained Upper Paleolithic traditions, even though they lived in Mesolithic times. Why this peculiarity, unless they both had the same origin—in Atlantis. Intensive study has indicated that neither the Capsian nor the Azilian crossed Gibraltar in either direction. (Hibben, 1968) The Upper, or terminal, Capsian lingered the longest in the North African region of Tunisia.

Dr. Briggs has labeled the more gracile specimens appearing in North Africa (resembling Upper Paleolithic "eastern" Europeans) as "Type A". According to Coon (1939), Briggs (1955) and others, Type A is essentially the same as the European Combe Capelle. And as would be expected, Type A's origin is in the east, whereas the more robust type de Mechta (Type D) exhibits a definite "western" orientation, his sites "thinning out" toward the east. (Briggs, 1955).

It should be obvious by now that the archeological record demonstrates strong evidence of four Cro-Magnon invasions on both sides of Gibraltar from the direction of Atlantis. I think these four Cro-Magnon invasions could well be labeled Atlantean I, Atlantean II, Atlantean III, and Atlantean IV. Perhaps a table would help here:

Atlantean IAurignacianAterian
Atlantean IISolutreanOranian
Atlantean IIIMagdalenianMouillian
Atlantean IVAzilianCapsian

Professional anthropologists haven't the foggiest idea of the origin of these invasions. (Bordes, 1968) They invariably appeared on the western shores of Europe and Africa, even including some of the Atlantic isles next to those continents. Always the sites are clustered in the west, the number of sites diminishing towards the east (for the one exception click Outpost). Combe Capelle sites are more or less evenly distributed all over Europe and the Near East. This has been a mystery that has plagued anthropologists for over a hundred years. To the west, there is nought but empty ocean: how could the invasions have come from there?

The mystery of these invasions has been so embarrassing that today anthropologists don't want to talk about it any more. Some have gotten around the problem by blurring the distinction between true "Atlantic" Cro-Magnons and the "eastern" European types. Calling all modern men "Cro-Magnon," is merely skirting the issue; but this is not a scientific way to deal with the problem.

A trend quite the opposite might be in the mill. Science is always in the process of change, and this of course includes anthropology. I am all for this, as long as such changes are in the interest of further refining mankind's knowledge of the past. It's beginning to look like such terminology as "Cro-Magnon" may be dropped from use as "unscientific". Such a move could allow the important issue of origins to be ignored altogether. I am not so sure I would call this sort of action "progress".

In an article entitled "Why don't We Call Them Cro-Magnon Anymore?" the author K. Krist Hirst suggests that the physical dimensions of Cro-Magnon specimens are not sufficiently different from modern humans to warrant a separate designation. My concern, of course, is that this would make it all too convenient to eliminate the embarrassing origin problem. And what about the even more important culture differences (totally differing tool kits, settlement patterns, art impulse, etc.)? Are we to simply "bland out" all these diversities under one designation? This doesn't strike me as scientific anthropological practice.

I have no objection to the terms Anatomically Modern Human (AMH) or Early Modern Human (EMH) to designate early Upper Paleolithic humans who resemble present day mankind in some ways,** since they might be helpful in certain instances. But some kind of distinction (the "Eastern" and "Western" of Dr. Carleton Coon, perhaps) should be made between two physical types whose cultures are so distinguished from one another, in spite of the fact that they may share certain physical similarities. To do otherwise is to take a scientific step backwards, not forward.

I did find a modern website which expresses the more scientific viewpoint. In describing Paleolithic Africa, Professor Göran Burenhult (1994) of Gotland University in Sweden elucidates: "Humans migrated into Europe about 40,000 years ago. They used two different tool traditions at this time. People south of the Sahara had the same Middle Stone Age tools between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago. The first migrants into Europe transmitted this tradition. In North Africa and Western Europe, a new tool tradition started 35,000 years ago. These are associated with early Cro-Magnon cultures, called the Aterian culture in Tunisia and Libya."

Cro-Magnon has traditionally been called "Atlantic" because of his geographical distribution: Abbe' Breuil (1912) called the areas of Cro-Magnon occupation "Atlantic"; Lundman (1977) used the term "Paleo-Atlantic" when referring to Cro-Magnon culture; Prof. J. L. Myers (1923-1939) described Cro-Magnon culture as "a well-marked regional culture of the Atlantic coastal plain." (Click for Map)

Cro-Magnon is a big man. He averages nearly six feet in stature, sports rather heavy cheek bones, a heavy brow and a strong jaw. The original race de Cro-Magnon was extremely dolichocephalic (long-headed from front to back) and yet had a short face and large forehead. This odd combination is known among anthropologists as "disharmonism," and is considered a diagnostic (or defining) trait of Cro-Magnon Man (Briggs, 1955).

Replica of the "Old Man of Cro-Magnon" (notice the disharmonism)

His brain is so large that even with the large jaw and prominent chin, his forehead-to-chin line is basically vertical. Where Combe Capelle and Brünn Man averages 1525 c.c. (Pfeiffer, 1969), Cro-Magnon's brain averages 1617 c.c. in volume. The largest fossilized brain case ever found was a Type D skull from North Africa at 1743 c.c. (Briggs, 1955).

The commonly portayed image of Upper Paleolithic humans skulking about the forest in animal-skins, paint on their faces, with woolley hair and beards, living only in natural caves, is a total misconception of how these people lived. In Aurignacian times caves were most likely used as living quarters during cold winters, but they were also employed as shelters for their animals—the deepest recesses reserved for religious or ceremonial activities.

Numerous villages consisted of houses. Pits, hearths, and post hole patterns are the usual remains of such residences, so overall materials utilized would be only a guess: wood and mammoth bones likely made up the framework. According to Coon (1962), communities consisting of over a thousand inhabitants were not uncommon, and this pattern continued on into the Mesolithic. Cro-Magnon did not have to follow migrating herds of animals to survive.

Excavations in central Europe have revealed that during the Solutrean period there were locations where entire villages once stood with rows of houses, and neat piles of mammoth bones often decorating graves containing skeletons (Coon, 1954). For the most part houses were partly underground for protection from the cold. One can't help but wonder if homes weren't occasionally decorated with colorful wall hangings.

The "home art" of Magdalenian artists consisted of intricate carvings on bone or antler—less frequently on stone. Implements, such as batons (wands), knife handles, harpoons, or other utensiles were often decorated with miniature carvings of the faces of mammoths or reindeer, but sometimes depicting complete animals—less often by depictions of their own kind. Ofttimes the details are so minute that a magnifying lense is necessary to make them out.

The few representations we have found of man himself are somewhat startling. Cro-Magnon Man often depicted those of his own kind with a sense of humor: many are caricatures, although some examples are done in realistic style. Males are often depicted as short-haired (haircuts?), clean-shaven, wearing shoes, pants with legs, coats, and even hats (Hadingham, 1979).

No shaggy-haired, animal-skin covered savages here! Instead we have sewn clothes, tailored with collars and sleeves, pants with legs, even bracelets and necklaces! In fact real jewelry begins at this time (Kuhn, 2001). Numerous bone needles have been found (with tiny eyes), too thin to punch through tough hides, but which could easily penetrate cloth. (Click here for a rock drawing of a Magdalenian woman.)

The world famous cave art, found mostly in the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains in France and Spain is Cro-Magnon in origin. Sometimes they are in simulated bas-relief, exploiting naturally contoured surfaces. The quality of perspective and proportion depicted in these paintings astounded the art world when discovered (noted artists believed them to be modern fakes). However, it was noticed that some of them had thin mineral coatings deposited over their surfaces, which allowed for dating of the paintings: some have been dated in excess of 30,000 years (Pfeiffer, 1969; Thorndike, 1977; Hadingham, 1979). This remarkable cave art appears to have begun with the Aurignacians, ending in Magdalenian times.

Even non-Cro-Magnon individuals dressed pretty nice. An ice age grave found in Russia, reveals much. The body, excellently preserved by the permafrost, was fitted with shoes, fur trousers, an embroidered shirt, and was decorated with ornaments of shell and bone. Anthropologists have suggested an age of 33,000 years for this individual. Buttons (unknown even in Classical times) have also been found, indicating a degree of technical attainment unsuspected by anthropologists a century ago. On the female side, 30,000-year-old so-called "Venus" figurines show clear evidence of sophisticated hairstyling.

Dr. David Whitehouse (2000) writes that accessories for ice age women "included caps or snoods, belts and skirts . . . and bracelets and necklaces." He quotes a recently published article that the finest weaves are "comparable to not only Neolithic but even later Bronze and Iron Age products." (Soffer, Adovasio & Hyland, 2004) Dr. Soffer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, is an expert on the life styles of Upper Paleolithic people.

Dr. Soffer and her associates compared impressions left in soft clay (90 of them) to the representation of clothing on the so-called "Venus" figurines which date back roughly 25,000 years. A large variety of weaving techniques were noticed, some of which would require a loom. According to Soffer, Paleolithic people knew how to create fine fabrics that closely resembled linen. Dr. Adovasio stated: "Scholars have been looking at these things for years, but unfortunately, their minds have been elsewhere. Most of them didn't recognize the clothing as clothing." (Soffer, et al., 2004) This is probably the reason why information on the subject has been so difficult to come by.

Cro-Magnons had spear throwers, harpoons, bows and arrows, arrow shaft straighteners, obsidian razors, needles, musical instruments, even bone calendars (carved with symbolic notations bordering on writing; Marshack, 1964). They domesticated several species of animals (a so-called "Neolithic" trait), which may have included the horse (Spence, 1926; Thorndike, 1977; Hadingham, 1979). To my mind, these are civilized people attempting to make do while surrounded by primitive conditions with no infrastructure!

A number of sites dating back as far as 16,300 B.C show evidence of the practice of agriculture. Archeologists, not knowing how to account for such a circumstance, have labeled these activities as "a false dawn" (Smith, 1976). Professional anthropologists realize that without agriculture, Atlantis is no more than a myth. During the Magdalenian Period (16,000-10,000 B.C.) the innovations in technology came so fast that archeologists had to divide it up into Magdalenian I-VI.

Some have speculated that the four "invasions" occurred simply because Atlantis was geologically unstable, and every few thousand years underwent serious upheavals, sending hordes of refugees onto several Atlantic islands and the western coasts of the continents of Europe and Africa (Spence, 1926).

A large question looms before Paleolithic specialists: Where is the evidence of the necessary "gestation period" for the advanced technologies of Cro-Magnon Man? Absolutely no such evidence has ever been uncovered on any mainlands known to us! As stated by Prof. Bordes, the Aurignacian arrived "ready-made" from "elsewhere"—as did the Aterian in North Africa (vide supra).

Significantly, the final "invasion" of Azilians and Capsians, occurred approximately 10,000 B.C., embarrassingly close to the date when Plato says Atlantis sank. Although occurring at the beginning of the Mesolithic period, both of these are markedly Upper Paleolithic in character (the Capsian evidences some mixture). If not another invasion from Atlantis, why this peculiarity? All other Mesolithic tool industries are noticeably Mesolithic in character.

In conclusion, we have four Cro-Magnon invasions (each more advanced than the last) happening over a period of just under 25,000 years—the Aurignacian, Solutrean, Magdalenian and Azilian—the last one occurring just when Atlantis was said to have subsided, and since that magic date, no more Cro-Magnon invasions. ATLANTIS, THE APPARENT SOURCE OF THE INVASIONS, IS GONE.

Anthropologists describe the Mesolithic Age following the Upper Paleolithic as "gloomy" (Pfeiffer, 1969). Human populations—which had just achieved the highest Upper Paleolithic levels during the Magdalenian period—dropped catastrophically "overnight" anthropologically speaking. In fact, the numerous Upper Paleolithic cultures scattered over Europe, Africa and the Near East, without exception, all ended at the same time—circa. 10,000 B.C., which archeologists have never explained!

  • Glossary of Terms


    *It's beginning to look like Modern Man appeared in Eastern Europe at least 45,000 years ago. At Kostenki, near the Don River in central Russia, a previously unidentified assemblage, exhibiting a sophisticated tool kit of prismatic blades, burins, bone, antler, and ivory artifacts, as well as small perforated shell ornaments, underlies the CI Tephra and Aurignacian Dufour assemblage (Anikovich, et al., 2007) dating back 42,000-45,000 years. Cro-Magnon did not enter Western Europe for another 10,000 years. [Back]

    **"In South Africa, two sites, the Klasies River Mouth and Border Cave have yielded H. sapiens sapiens fossils dating from around 60,000 to 80,000 years ago. Others put fossils from Klasies River Mouth Cave, with modern appearance, at between 115,000 and 80,000 years old" (Burenhult, 1994). However, brain sizes indicated are somewhat below modern, ranging from 1000-1200 c.c. [Back]


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