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See detailPigments from the Middle Palaeolithic levels of Es-Skhul (Mount Carmel, Israel)
d'Errico, Francesco; Salomon, Hélène ULg; Vignaud, Colette et al

in Journal of Archaeological Science (2010), 37

Discovery of pigments at Middle Palaeolithic sites is of interest in the context of the ongoing debate about the tempo and mode of the emergence of modern human behaviour. Here we analyse four previously ... [more ▼]

Discovery of pigments at Middle Palaeolithic sites is of interest in the context of the ongoing debate about the tempo and mode of the emergence of modern human behaviour. Here we analyse four previously undescribed fragments of pigmental material from Es-Skhul shelter, layer B, Israel, McCown excavations, identified at the Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London. One of them is still partially embedded in the hard breccia characteristic of this layer. Inspection of breccia fragments from layer B has led to the identification of small pieces of red and orange pigmental material still enclosed in large clasts, further corroborating the attribution of the larger pieces analysed in this study to layer B. The four objects are studied using optical microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX), X-ray micro-diffraction (m-XRD), Particle-Induced X-Ray Emission Spectrometry (PIXE), and Proton-Induced Gamma-ray Emission (PIGE). The specimens display various hues of yellow, orange, red, and one of them presents a gradual variation of shade from yellow to dark orange. SEM/EDX analysis identifies two specimens (Skhul 1 and 2) as being composed of iron-rich calcium phosphate, the third (Skhul 3) of potassium-rich clay with titanium-rich iron oxide inclusions, and the fourth (Skhul 4) of pure iron oxide crystals. TEM/ EDX and m-XRD analysis demonstrate that three pieces (Skhul 1, 2 and 4) were heated to at least 300 C, a process that has partially or completely dehydrated goethite into haematite and changed their pristine yellow colour into orange or red. Skhul 3 shows no sign of heating, suggesting that its haematite content has a geological origin. The different mineral composition of the pieces suggests that they must come from a variety of sources. This implies that the associated collection strategies included the selection of materials that differed not only with respect to colour but also with respect to other physical and chemical properties. Although no formal proof exists that these lumps of pigmental material were deliberately heated, results obtained are consistent with this explanation. [less ▲]

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See detailStudy of the degradation mechanisms of Prussian Blue in paint layers by X-ray absorption spectroscopy
Samain, Louise ULg; Silversmit, Geert; Vekemans, Bart et al

Conference (2010)

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See detailLes matières colorantes au début du Paléolithique supérieur : sources, transformations et fonctions
Salomon, Hélène ULg

Doctoral thesis (2009)

Abstract : Despite an increasing number of studies, colouring materials are still poorly understood among excavation remains. Their attraction lies in their capacity to bring to light diverse and complex ... [more ▼]

Abstract : Despite an increasing number of studies, colouring materials are still poorly understood among excavation remains. Their attraction lies in their capacity to bring to light diverse and complex skills, but also in their intense colouring power and their contrasting colours : red and black, which still possess a symbolic value. These highly symbolic materials may, therefore, highlight the “conceptual” practices of prehistoric men and give access to their symbolic world and thought. In such a particular context as the transition between the Middle and the Upper Palaeolithic, these remains, which are very abundant in most excavations, offer the possibility, through analysis, to get an exceptional insight into the way of life of the last Neanderthals. The Châtelperronian site of the “Grotte du Renne”, in Arcy-sur-Cure (Yonne), is a landmark. It was excavated beween 1949 and 1963 by André Leroi-Gourhan : Numerous colouring materials were discovered there, and Leroi-Gourhan developed theories about their transformation and uses which so far have not been tested, and have remained unchallenged.Since their discovery, the assumption is that those minerals were heated in a controlled way, in order to modify their colour. It is indeed well-known that heat transforms yellow materials (iron hydroxides) in orange, red or purple materials (iron oxides). From this hypothesis originates the theory according to which Neanderthals exploited colouring materials as pigments for symbolic or even aesthetic purposes. But the theory has so far never been proved true. Our study combines several sets of data, obtained from different methods. Physico-chemical and petrological analyses were carried out on the colouring materials. These data were related to their location on the site, in association with exceptionally well preserved “hut” structures. Furthermore, a series of experimentations, aimed to characterize powders obtained via different methods (grinding and crushing on the one hand, abrasion on the other hand). The comparison of all these data enabled us to identify the various technical choices which informed the supply in colouring minerals in all the Châtelperronian levels of the Grotte du Renne. It was thus possible to demonstrate that none of these materials, either red or black, was heated before being used, contrary to what had been assumed so far. The supply in colouring materials was as carefully organised as for other materials (flint, for example) ; they were collected in geological formations occasionally showing on the surface, at more than 10 km from the cave. The exploitation of these geological sites did not vary during the whole Châtelperronian period, and privileged materials which can easily be ground into powder. Part of their supply was ground coarsely in order to cover large surface areas (soils or hides) as preservative or to clean them up. The remaining materials were destined to more meticulous activities, which required a fine, regular, and highly-colouring powder. In this latter case, the Neanderthals of the Grotte du Renne used those products when working on bone materials (bone or mammoth ivory), and used them also for their sheer colour. The set of colouring minerals from the Grotte du Renne reveals Neanderthals’ in-depth knowledge of materials ; they understood perfectly well their properties and qualities, and used them extensively, so that the Châtelperronian site must have been a literally dazzling sight, all red and black. The “chaîne opératoire” which transpires from our analysis shows very sophisticated techniques, and an advanced “technological” knowledge. They are witness to surprising capacities and a highly-evolved pattern of thought. [less ▲]

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See detailLes matières colorantes au début du Paléolithique supérieur
Salomon, Hélène ULg; Vignaud, Colette; Coquinot, Yvan et al

in Techné (2008)

A lot of settlements, some of which were occupied as long as 300 000 years ago, yielded small quantities of colouring matter. These quantities increased as time went by and as the palette of colours ... [more ▼]

A lot of settlements, some of which were occupied as long as 300 000 years ago, yielded small quantities of colouring matter. These quantities increased as time went by and as the palette of colours diversified, to reach a remarkable climax during the Upper Palaeolithic. Yet colouring matter has been widely ignored, notwithstanding the great potential information they contain about the technical knowledge, the cognitive capacities, the socio-cultural organisation of prehistoric societies and more generally about aesthetic and symbolic conceptions or  even language. The cave of Chauvet (Ardèche, France) is the most ancient testimony of cave drawing in Europe, with representations whose radiocarbon dating by AMS is 31 000 B.P. The origins of this form of art, which already evidences a perfect graphic mastery, are unknown and cannot be found in the previous periods. We thus have to search for clues of these artistic preoccupations in the colouring matter remains of more ancient cultures. But the use of colouring matter is far from limited to the production of parietal art, that was probably an exception among a large scope of more domestic uses, so far very little studied. We studied then a collection coming from the Chatelperronian layers in the “Grotte du Renne” (Arcy-sur-Cure, France), which was excavated in the 60’ by André Leroi-Gourhan. It is a very rich collection of pigments with various shades, which were systematically collected during the excavation. The ultimate purpose is to reconstitute the gestures that enabled the last Neanderthals in Europe to transform the colouring, abrasive, drying and prophylactic properties of these materials. This methodology also proposes to shed some light on their domestic and symbolic utilisations and to evidence the «chaînes opératoires» in the industry of colouring matter; and thus define the roles and the statutes of these materials in the societies of the Early Upper Palaeolithic period. [less ▲]

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See detailUn atelier de préparation des matières colorantes sur le site solutréen Les Maîtreaux (Indre-et-Loire)
Salomon, Hélène ULg; Pomiès, Marie-Pierre; Vignaud, Colette et al

Poster (2006)

L'abondance de matières colorantes sur certains sites d’habitat sans art pariétal indique qu’il existait probablement des utilisations artisanales et domestiques des ces minéraux. L’utilisation de ces ... [more ▼]

L'abondance de matières colorantes sur certains sites d’habitat sans art pariétal indique qu’il existait probablement des utilisations artisanales et domestiques des ces minéraux. L’utilisation de ces matériaux nécessitait l’élaboration de chaînes opératoires de production qu’il a été possible de reconstituer à travers l’étude des matières colorantes provenant des sites solutréens de Combe Saunière (Dordogne), Fressignes (Indre) et Les Maîtreaux (Indre-et-Loire). L'hématite, produisant une poudre rouge, et les oxydes de manganèse, produisant une poudre noire, sont les matières colorantes préférentiellement recherchées par les Solutréens. Il a été possible de mettre en évidence le chauffage des matières colorantes jaune, qui a pour but la production d'hématite. A Combe Saunière et à Fressignes, le contexte ne permet pas de trancher en faveur d’un chauffage volontaire. En revanche, sur le site des Maîtreaux, une aire de 20 m2 environ concentre des matières colorantes qui ont été triées, stockées et transformées par chauffage. Un certain nombre de matières colorantes rouges résultent du chauffage intentionnel et contrôlé des matières colorantes jaunes. De plus, des indices indéniables de réduction en poudre des matières colorantes rouges jonchent cet espace. L’aire de 20 m² définit un véritable atelier de préparation des matières colorantes, inédit à ce jour. Par ailleurs, le statut économique du site et la richesse des ressources de matières colorantes dans l'environnement immédiat du campement sont intimement liés à la nature des restes abandonnés sur les sites. Ainsi, sur le site d’habitat saisonnier de Combe Saunière, les matières colorantes, dont l'environnement immédiat est riche et varié, ont été clairement réduites en poudre et utilisées directement sans trop de transformations. Sur la halte de chasse de Fressignes, les matières colorantes, inexistantes autour du site sont extrêmement rares et ont été exploitées au maximum de leur capacité par réduction en poudre. Sur le site d’atelier de taille du silex des Maîtreaux, les matières colorantes ont été préparées, transformées, triées et stockées. Leur utilisation devait avoir lieu sur un autre gisement. [less ▲]

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See detailMinerals discovered in paleolithic black pigments by transmission electron microscopy and micro-X-ray absorption near-edge structure
Chalmin, Emilie; Vignaud; Salomon, Hélène ULg et al

in Applied Physics A : Materials Science & Processing (2006)

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See detailLe groupe des « bisons adossés » de Lascaux : étude de la technique de l’artiste par analyse de pigments
Vignaud, Colette; Salomon, Hélène ULg; Chalmin, Emilie et al

in Anthropologie (L') (2006)

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See detailLes matières colorantes
Salomon, Hélène ULg

in Julien, Michèle (Ed.) Le Châtelperronien de la grotte du Renne (n.d.)

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See detailOn the processing of red pigment by late mousterian Neanderthals in Ormesson, Seine-et-Marne, France, 47000 years ago
Salomon, Hélène ULg; Bodu, Pierre; Geurten, Stéphanie et al

in en cours (n.d.)

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See detailStratégies spécialisées d'acquisition de pigments rouges durant le Châtelperronien de la grotte du Renne à Arcy-sur-Cure, Yonne, France
Salomon, Hélène ULg; Coquinot, Yvan; Beck, Lucile et al

in Paillet, Patrick (Ed.) Actes du Colloque Micro-Analyses et Datations de l'Art Préhistorique dans son Contexte Archéologique (MADAPCA) (n.d.)

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