During the Magdalenian, there were different types of occupied sites. These may be divided according to their geomorphology (outdoor sites, rock shelters and caves) and their ostensible functions, based on the vestiges and structures that have been unearthed (habitat, hunting stop, "sanctuary", etc.). Magdalenian sculpted rock-shelters are difficult to define as the vestiges they contain fulfil all of these various functions.
During the Magdalenian, rock shelters were visited repeatedly. The accumulation of archaeological layers reflects multiple occupation of the same site.
These visits, however, should not be thought of merely in terms of length; on certain occasions, a number of Magdalenians came at once. This can be seen at the Roc-aux-Sorciers site, whose layout and wall art – located in an imposing setting and intended for remote viewing – appear to be destined for larger groups. The major extension to the rock shelter could accommodate several dozen individuals simultaneously. Roc-aux-Sorciers fulfils most of the criteria for an aggregation site as defined by Margaret Conkey: a large surface area, a strategic location, a density of individuals, a quantity of symbolic creations (portable art, ornaments, wall art) and the reuse of the site.
These sculpted shelters are characterised by occupation traces that indicate stays by Magdalenians. An accumulation of vestiges, such as animal remains and large amounts of waste products from flint knapping, reflect time spent at the site. The refurbishment of hunting weapons but also the remains of every stage in the creation of these weapons is indicative of continuous occupation during one or more seasons. In the same way, several elements, such as large hearths and changes to the shelter floor attest to these stays. The occupants organised the site and looked after their living arrangements.
Since the Aurignacian period (Castanet Shelter), loops were carved into rock walls and stones. The rock was pierced to allow a line to be threaded through, and their placement was deliberate. In the Magdalenian era, at Roc-aux-Sorciers for example, these loops are located on the vertical edges of walls and sometimes on horizontal ridges, and are grouped in series from the top to bottom of the frieze, from the vault down to bedrock. Loops may have played a role in the installation of enclosing structures for protecting and closing off various living areas. Beyond this functional aspect, the rings play a part in the organization of figures by making separations between various thematic registers. They frequently are associated with figurative sculptural elements, including bison at Roc-aux-Sorciers and horses at Cap Blanc.
Evidence of recutting has been observed at several sculpted shelters. These involve partial or total destruction of figures – more than once in some cases. At each site, various successive wall registers emerge. Bison, which are the most frequently recut figures, are transformed into horses (Cap Blanc, Roc-aux-Sorciers and Chaire-à-Calvin) or ibex (Roc-aux-Sorciers). Recutting scraps found in archaeological layers allow us to date these interventions. The different phases of wall redevelopment reflect an ongoing appropriation of the wall by the Magdalenians. These interventions alter the species represented and the distribution of the different themes found in the frieze. The symbolic elements in Magdalenian sculpted shelters evolved independent of any identifiable technological innovation based on the archaeological evidence.