Saturday, February 2, 2013
THE OLDEST ART IN EUROPE?
In the January – February, 2013, issue of Archaeology magazine, a fascinating article entitled Structural Integrity, by Nikhil Swaminathan, discusses domestic spatial utilization by Paleolithic people in the ancient rock shelter of Abri Castanet. Randall White, of New York University, has been conducting studies there for eighteen years and has recovered about 150,000 artifacts, from limestone blocks to burnt reindeer bone and minute beads. White has also found markings engraved on stone (petroglyphs) that he estimates at 35,000 years old (lab results will be back early in 2013). These engravings seem to have mostly been found on block and slabs of stone that had fallen from the roof of the cave and there are both aesthetic and functional examples.
Anneaux with engraved line on limestone block.
Abri Cansanet, France. From Archaeology Magazine,
January - February 2013, Structural Integrity,
by Nikhil Swaminthan, pages 55 to 63.
Perhaps the most interesting functional examples are called anneaux. These are pairs of pits or gouges cut into the rock next to each other which have then been joined with an undercut down by the bottom of the pits leaving what is essentially a stone ring or stanchion. Thirty anneaux on 18 different slabs of rock, both from the ceiling and the floor have been found. It is believed that they served as tying points or anchors to tie up a reindeer hide curtain for protection from harsh weather conditions making them part of an early mechanical system.
Petroglyph identified as a vulva. Abri Castanet, France.
From Archaeology Magazine, January - February 2013, p. 29.
As early as 1909 the landowner, Marcel Castanet, was digging at the site, prompted by his discovery of an ivory bead nearby in a fox hole. After a couple of months he found a limestone slab which had the petroglyph of what he thought at first to be a heart on one side, later identified by Abbe Henri Breuil as a portrayal of a vulva.
One block of stone had lines on it that had been identified as the hindquarters of an animal. The adjoining piece of stone was recovered later and displayed the remainder of the creature, allowing the team to identify it as an aurochs.
Estimates of the age of material from the excavation of Abri Castanet (37,000 b.p.) make this material possibly the oldest rock art in Europe made by modern (Cro Magnon) humans. I sincerely hope that Archaeology will keep us updated on this.
2013 Structural Integrity, pages 55 – 63, Archaeology Magazine, January-February 2013.