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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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