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The Cro-Magnons form the earliest known examples of Homo sapiens sapiens, the subspecies to which modern humans belong. Archaeologists believe them to have lived from about 45,000 to 10,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic period of the Pleistocene epoch.

The geologist Louis Lartet discovered the first five skeletons in March 1868 in the Cro-Magnon rock shelter at Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France. The definitive specimen from this find bears the name 'Cro Magnon I'. The skeletons showed the same high forehead and upright (gracile) posture as modern humans. Other specimens have since come to light in other parts of Europe and in the Middle East. The European individuals probably arrived from north Africa and (via?) the Middle East.

Surviving Cro-Magnon artifacts include huts, paintings, carvings and antler-tipped spears. The remains of tools suggest that they knew how to make woven clothing.

The Cro-Magnon have associations with the Aurignacian culture that archaeology had identified before Lartet found the skeletons.