Saturday, February 11, 2017


Photo credit: Limestone slab engraved
with an image of an aurochs, or estinct
wild cow, discovered at Abri Blanchard
in 2012 (Musee national de Prehistoire
collections - photo MNP - ph. Jugie).

Just when you decide that a site has been worked out, or that we have found out everything about a subject, fate has a way of surprising us. A recent example of that came from Abri Blanchard, in France, which had been extensively excavated early in the 1900s. A January 29, 2017, article from International Business Times, written by Himanshu Goenka, presented the discovery of a limestone plaque with the picture of an aurochs engraved on it from the collapsed rock shelter, Abri Blanchard. Goenka described a paper from the journal Quaternary International in which the discoverers of the rock slab discussed their findings.

"The limestone slab has an engraved image of an aurochs - an extinct wild cow - surrounded by rows of dots. The site it was found in had been previously excavated in the first half of the 20th century, but work on studying it in detail was started again in 2011 by a team led by New York University anthropologist Randall White. The aurochs engraving was found in 2012." (Goenka)

"'The discovery sheds new light on regional patterning of art and ornamentation across Europe at a time when the first modern humans to enter Europe dispersed westward and northward across the continent,' explains NYU anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavation in France's Vezere Valley. The findings, which appear in the journal Quaternary International, center on the early modern humans' Aurignacian culture, which existed from approximately 43,000 to 33,000 years ago." (NYU press release 2017)

We tend to lump anything before the neolithic into the category of "prehistory" and assume that human life from that period was hand-to-mouth and culturally unformed. Well to create art like this you have to be cultured, and have a tradition of creative imagination. 43,000 to 33,000 years is a long time by anybody's measure, and the discovery of art dated to that long ago puts the evolution of human cognition in perspective, as well as confirming the long history of modern human culture.


Goenka, Himanshu
2017 38,000-Year-Old Cave Art Found In French Cave, International Business Times, January 29, 2017.

NYU Press Release, January 27, 2017, New York City.

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