The discovery of Chauvet cave, at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc (Ardèche), in 1994, was an important event for our knowledge of palaeolithic parietal art as a whole. Its painted and engraved figures, thanks to their number (425 graphic units), and their excellent state of preservation, provide a documentary thesaurus comparable to that of the greatest sites known, and far beyond what had already been found in the group of Rhône valley caves (Ardèche and Gard). But its study – when one places it in its natural regional, cultural and thematic framework – makes it impossible to see it as an isolated entity of astonishing precocity. This needs to be reconsidered, and the affinities that our research has brought to light are clearly incompatible with the very early age which has been attributed to it. And if one extends this examination to the whole of the Franco-Cantabrian domain, the conclusion is inescapable: although Chauvet cave displays some unique characteristics (like every decorated cave), it belongs to an evolved phase of parietal art that is far removed from the motifs of its origins (known from art on blocks and on shelter walls dated by stratigraphy to the Aurignacian, in France and Cantabrian Spain). The majority of its works are therefore to be placed, quite normally, within the framework of the well-defined artistic creations of the Gravettian and Solutrean. Moreover, this phase of the Middle Upper Palaeolithic (26,000–18,000) coincides with a particularly intensive and diversified local human occupation, unknown in earlier periods and far less dense afterwards in the Magdalenian. A detailed critique of the treatment of the samples subjected to AMS radiocarbon dating makes it impossible to retain the very early age (36,000 cal BP) attributed by some authors to the painted and engraved figures of Chauvet cave.
Category Archives: Aurignacian
|Illustration by Arturo Asensio
Decorating Altamira Cave
|Lamps found in France with chronology and type of site (Beaune & White 1993)|
|Lamps found in Iberia (by David Sánchez)|
Paleolithic cave art is an exceptional archive of early human symbolic behavior, but because obtaining reliable dates has been difficult, its chronology is still poorly understood after more than a century of study. We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain. The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol. These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.
- Latest Mousterian: 45.5 Ka calBP (42.1 Ka BP, uncalibrated C14)
- Earliest Aurignacian: 44.7 Ka calBP (41.1 Ka BP, uncalibrated C14) [but see comments on the nature of this “Aurignacian”]
|El Castillo rock art (several periods) – source|
It is worth reminding however that rock art from Australia depicting the long-gone Genyornis giant duck is probably older than this European art and without any reasonable doubt was made by Homo sapiens.
Update (Jun 15): Pileta includes now a video of the presentation of the study in Spanish language (scroll down).
Update (Jun 16): I strongly recommend any interested reader to take a look at the comments section. Prehistorian and Neanderfan Millán Mozota makes many most interesting comments on the chronology and arguable Transitional Aurignacian nature of layer 18 from El Castillo cave.
Update (Jun 19): Jean Clottes and others question the certainty of the dating method.
AbstractThere is a dearth of diagnostic human remains securely associated with the Early Aurignacian of western Europe, despite the presence of similarly aged early modern human remains from further east. One small and fragmentary sample of such remains consists of the two partial immature mandibles plus teeth from the Early Aurignacian of La Quina-Aval, Charente, France. The La Quina-Aval 4 mandible exhibits a prominent anterior symphyseal tuber symphyseos on a vertical symphysis and a narrow anterior dental arcade, both features of early modern humans. The dental remains from La Quina-Aval 1 to 4 (a dm1, 2 dm2, a P4 and a P4) are unexceptional in size and present occlusal configurations that combine early modern human features with a few retained ancestral ones. Securely dated to ∼33 ka 14C BP (∼38 ka cal BP), these remains serve to confirm the association of early modern humans with the Early Aurignacian in western Europe.
Found via Neanderfollia[cat].
|Doe of Arenaza|
|Fig. 4 Multivariant analysis|
|Animal type indicated only where more than 60% of all figures per tab. 1|
|Fig. 7 – comparison of three proposed timelines (right: Ruiz Redondo)|
Group 3, which is much better dated than the others, is clearly dominated by the bison, painted almost obsessively, as in the famed Altamira ceiling. Another important animal is the goat, usually painted in black, as well as the horse.
|Santimamiñe rock art|
The origins of Neanderthals could be in Atapuerca
Update: the reference paper is this one (hat tip to Neanderthalerin):
Mirjana Roksandic et al., A human mandible (BH-1) from the Pleistocene deposits of Mala Balanica cave (Sićevo Gorge, Niš, Serbia). Journal of Human Evolution 2011. Pay per view.
|Beautifully preserved bulls of Qurta|
|Shell ornaments from Franchthi|
Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age
- Iruina: La juez exige un segundo informe y ordena a la Ertzaintza analizar las piezas de Veleia
- En el ángulo oscuro: La juez exige un segundo informe y ordena a la Ertzaintza analizar las piezas de Veleia
- La juez exige un segundo informe y ordena a la Ertzaintza analizar las piezas de Veleia . Diario de Noticias de Alava
|1-China (Han), 2-Austronesian speakers (Maluku), 3-Papuan speakers (Maluku), 4-Highland New Guinea|
Let’s assume that there are 20 well-documented companions [of William the Conqueror]. Only one of these (William Mallet) has possibly passed on his Y chromosome to the present time and even that male line of descent is disputed. This is fully consistent with our understanding of genetics when you consider that most male lines are likely to die out in a few generations. Those that survive ten generations or so are unlikely to become extinct since there will likely be several male lines at that time.
Stories of interest are accumulating at my “to do” folder these days. While I may later on deal with some of them in detail, here there is a synthesis:
Prehistory & archaeology:
Unusual hanging decorative/utilitarian retouching stone (left) found at Irikaitz (Zestoa, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country). The item has been dated to c. 25,000 years ago, what may well make it Aurignacian (Gravettian is of very late arrival to the area).
Hanging objects of stone are rare and most belong to later periods (cf. Praileaitz of Magdalenian era).
Bronze Age pottery at Hala Sultan Tekke (Larnaca, Cyprus), indicates mayor contacts with Mycenaean Greece, including import of pottery. Also goddess figurine found, which may be local. ··> Cyprus Mail.
Claims of grave goods indicating when old men became powerful in Traisen Valley (Austria). The study compared burials of the 2200-1800 BCE period (Late Chalcolithic) with the 1900-1600 BCE one (Early Bronze Age). Both elderly women and men gained burial goods in the later period but men elder were buried with copper axes (quite useless but surely a prestige item), which appears more valuable than the regular axes of young and adult men. ··> Live Science.
A new paper on autsomal variation of Basques in comparison with other populations (by Kristin L. Young, freely accessible at PubMed) is something I want to dedicate some more time when I have it. By the moment:
|Fig.2 – Multidimensional Scaling plot of genetic distance (click to expand) – Basques: black dots|
Neanderfollia[cat] also mentions a research on several full human genomes that estimates that Humankind may have shrank suddenly c. 100,000 years ago, at the same time that the various populations scattered through the world. They also claim that genetic exchange however continued (with Bushmen too) until c. 20 Ka ago. It raises my eyebrows so high that they have melted with my other hair but must mention anyhow. ··> Daily Mail.
Dienekes mentions a couple of somewhat interesting open access papers:
- A study on genotypes and surnames in the UK (which I have not read yet)
- A study on Przewalski horse genetics that finds that they are not ancestors of domestic horse but a parallel branch
Bigger heads (and eye sockets) meant to process dimmer light, not to increase intelligence, research claims. ··> SD.
Jaw bones shaped mostly by diet, not genes. Narrow jaws indicate soft cooked diet, broad ones a harder type of food. Researched on two isolated Native American populations but IMO lacks controls and it could be argued that the differential evolution is genetically programmed in each population regardless of diet. ··> SD.
IQ-specific genes too diluted to be found ··> Medical Press.
Math ability is inborn (but don’t count on the genes to be found anytime soon) ··> SD.
Endurance gene found. A gene exists that makes us non-Olympic or marathon-level quality meat. ··> SD.
Chimpanzees are spontaneously generous and don’t like demanding friends ··> SD.
|Aurignacian population est. (Bocquet-Appel 2005)|
|Fig. 1. Site densities. Left: Chatelperronian, right: Aurignacian|
Is this for real?
For example, if the lowest genetic estimates would be correct, then European Neanderthals would be c. 5000. Following Mellars & French, the earliest (Aurignacian) Sapiens population could be then 45,000 (almost double than the maximum figure estimated by Bocquet-Appel), what in turn would make the Late Upper Paleolithic (Magdalenian and Epigravettian) population of Europe (6.5 times that of Aurignacian) roughly of 292,500 people (200,000 or so in the Franco-Cantabrian region).
Update: comparing with the Aleuts
A very interesting observation is made by Joy in the comments section: the Aleut people, whose technology and way of life can well be compared with that of Late UP or Epipaleolithic Europeans, numbered 25,000 people upon contact with modern Europeans (now they are only 15,000 however).
This is a quite sizable population for a relatively small and cold territory. I have calculated that the traditional Aleut territory has some 30,000 km², what is just 5.3% of the territory of modern France (552,000 km², excluding overseas dependencies) and just 0.3% of all Europe. Extrapolating only to “France”, we’d get some 500,000 people. Sure that “France” is not all coast, as the Aleut territory was but it’s neither so far North and cold (the Aleut lands’ climate and geography is more comparable to Norway in fact).
In any case, what I find with this comparison is that the figures mentioned above of 300,000 or more people in late UP Europe are perfectly plausible, even maybe a bit shy and low.