Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Illuminating the cave, drawing in black: wood charcoal analysis at Chauvet-Pont d'Arc

  • Isabelle Théry-Parisot (a1), Stéphanie Thiébault (a2), Jean-Jacques Delannoy (a3), Catherine Ferrier (a4), Valérie Feruglio (a4), Carole Fritz (a5), Bernard Gely (a6), Pierre Guibert (a7), Julien Monney (a3), Gilles Tosello (a8), Jean Clottes (a9) and Jean-Michel Geneste (a4)...
Abstract

The Grotte Chauvet is world renowned for the quality and diversity of its Palaeolithic art. Fire was particularly important to the occupants, providing light and producing charcoal for use in motifs. Charcoal samples were taken systematically from features associated with the two main occupation phases (Aurignacian and Gravettian). Analysis showed it to be composed almost entirely of pine (Pinus sp.), indicating the harsh climatic conditions at this period. No distinction in wood species was found between either the two occupation episodes or the various depositional contexts. The results throw new light on the cultural and palaeoenvironmental factors that influenced choices underlying the collection of wood for charcoal production.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence (Email: isabelle.thery@cepam.cnrs.fr)
References
Hide All
Allué, E., Euba, I. & Solé, A.. 2009. Charcoal taphonomy: the study of the cell structure and surface deformations of Pinus sylvestris type for the understanding of formation processes of archaeological charcoal assemblages. Journal of Taphonomy 7 (2–3): 5772.
Ascough, P.L., Bird, M.I., Francis, S.M., Thornton, B., Midwood, A.J., Scott, A.C. & Apperley, D.. 2011. Variability in oxidative degradation of charcoal: influence of production conditions and environmental exposure. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 75: 2361–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2011.02.002
Bergman, R., Cai, Z., Carll, C.G., Clausen, C.A., Dietenberger, M.A., Falk, R.H., Frihart, C.R., Glass, S.V., Hunt, C.G., Ibach, R.E., Kretschmann, D.E., Rammen, D.E., Ross, R.J. & Star, N.M.. 2010. Wood handbook: wood as an engineering material. Madison (WI): Forest Products Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
Boulet, P., Parent, G., Collin, A., Acem, Z., Porterie, B., Clerc, J.P., Consalvi, J.L. & Kaiss, A.. 2009. Spectral emission of flames from laboratory-scale vegetation fires. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18: 875–84. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF08053
Brodard, A., Guibert, P., Ferrier, C., Debard, E., Kervazo, B. & Geneste, J.-M.. 2014. Les rubéfactions des parois de la grotte Chauvet: une histoire de chauffe?, in Actes du colloque MADAPCA, Micro Analyses et Datations de l'Art Préhistorique dans son Contexte Archéologique, MNHN-C2RMF, 16–18 novembre 2011. Paleo (special issue 2014): 233–35. Les Eyzies-de-Tayac: Musée national de préhistoire.
Chabal, L. 1997. Forêts et sociétés en Languedoc (Néolithique final, Antiquité tardive). L'anthracologie, méthode et paléoécologie (Documents d'Archéologie Française 63). Paris: Maison des Sciences de l'Homme.
Chrzavzez, J., Théry-Parisot, I., Fiorucci, G., Terral, J.F. & Thibaut, B.. 2014. Impact of post-depositional processes on charcoal fragmentation and archaeobotanical implications: experimental approach combining charcoal analysis and biomechanics. Journal of Archeological Science 44: 3042. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2014.01.006
Clottes, J. (ed.). 2001. La grotte Chauvet: l'art des origines. Paris: Le Seuil.
Clottes, J. & Geneste, J.-M.. 2007. Le contexte archéologique et la chronologie de la grotte Chauvet, in Floss, H. & Rouquerol, N. (ed.) Les chemins de l'art aurignacien en Europe: 16–18. Aurignac: Musée-forum d'Aurignac.
Delannoy, J.-J., Geneste, J.-M., Jaillet, S.E., Boche, E. & Sadier, B.. 2012. Les aménagements et structures anthropiques de la grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc: apport d'une approche intégrative géomorpho-archéologique, in Delannoy, J.-J., Jaillet, S. & Sadier, B. (ed.) Karsts, paysages et préhistoire (Collection EDYTEM 13): 4362. Le Bourget-du-Lac: EDYTEM.
Delannoy, J.-J., David, B., Geneste, J.-M., Katherine, M., Barker, B., Whear, R.L. & Gunn, R.. 2013. The social construction of caves and rockshelters: Chauvet Cave (France) and Nawarla Gabarnmang (Australia). Antiquity 87: 1229. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00048596
Delhon, C. & Thiébault, S.. 2005. The migration of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) up the Rhone: the Mediterranean history of a ‘mountain’ species. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 14: 119–32. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-005-0068-9
Desprat, S., Díaz Fernández, P.M., Coulon, T., Ezzat, L., Pessarossi‐Langlois, J., Gil, L., Morales-Molino, C. & Sánchez Goñi, M.F.. 2015. Pinus nigra (European black pine) as the dominant species of the last glacial pinewoods in south‐western to central Iberia: a morphological study of modern and fossil pollen. Journal of Biogeography 42: 19982009. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12566
Ferrier, C., Debard, É., Kervazo, B., Brodard, A., Guibert, P., Baffier, D., Feruglio, V., Gély, B., Geneste, J.M. & Maksud, F.. 2014. Les parois chauffées de la grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc (Ardèche, France): caractérisation et chronologie. Paleo 25: 5978.
Fosse, P. & Philippe, M.. 2005. La faune de la grotte Chauvet: paléobiologie et anthropozoologie. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 102: 89102.
Fritz, C., Tosello, G. & Conkey, M.W.. 2015. Reflections on the identities and roles of the artists in European Paleolithic societies. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 23: 1307–32. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-015-9265-8
Geneste, J.-M. 2005a. L'archéologie des vestiges matériels dans la grotte Chauvet: paléobiologie et anthropozoologie. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 102: 135–44.
Geneste, J.-M. (ed). 2005b. La grotte Chauvet à Vallon-Pont-d'Arc: un bilan des recherches pluridisciplinaires. Actes de la séance de la Société préhistorique française, Lyon 2003 (Société préhistorique française Travaux 6; Karstologia Mémoire 11). Paris: Société préhistorique française; Lyon: Fédération française de spéléologie; Nîmes: Association française de karstologie.
Geneste, J.-M. 2012. La grotte Chauvet-Pont d'Arc 1994–2012: une rétrospective anthropologique, in Delannoy, J.-J., Jaillet, S. & Sadier, B. (ed.) Karsts, paysages et préhistoire (Collection EDYTEM 13): 1320. Le Bourget-du-Lac: EDYTEM.
Genty, D., Ghaleb, B., Plagnes, V., Causse, C., Valladas, H., Blamart, D., Massault, M., Geneste, J.-M. & Clottes, J.. 2004. Datations U/Th (TIMS) et 14C (AMS) des stalagmites de la grotte Chauvet (Ardèche, France): intérêt pour la chronologie des événements naturels et anthropiques de la grotte. Comptes Rendus Palevol 3: 629–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crpv.2004.06.005
Guibert, P., Brodard, A., Quiles, A., Geneste, J.-M., Baffier, D., Debard, E. & Ferrier, C.. 2015. When were the walls of the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Cave heated? A chronological approach by thermoluminescence. Quaternary Geochronology 29: 3647. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quageo.2015.04.007
Harrison, S.P. & Sánchez Goñi, M.F.. 2010. Global patterns of vegetation response to millennial-scale variability and rapid climate change during the last glacial period. Quaternary Science Reviews 29: 2957–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.07.016
Henry, A. & Théry-Parisot, I.. 2014. From Evenk campfires to prehistoric hearths: charcoal analysis as a tool for identifying the use of rotted wood as fuel. Journal of Archeological Science 52: 321–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2014.09.005
Korkut, S., Akgül, M. & Dündar, T.. 2008. The effects of heat treatment on some technological properties of Scots pine (P. sylvestris L.) wood. Bioresource Technology 99: 1861–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biortech.2007.03.038
Levi-Strauss, C. 1962. La pensée sauvage. Paris: Plon.
Médail, F. & Diadema, K.. 2009. Glacial refugia influence plant diversity patterns in the Mediterranean Basin. Journal of Biogeography 36: 1333–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2008.02051.x
Petit, R.J., Aguinagalde, I., de Beaulieu, J.-L., Bittkau, C., Brewer, S., Cheddadi, R., Ennos, R., Fineschi, S., Grivet, D., Lascoux, M., Mohanty, A., Müller-Starck, G., Demesure-Musch, B., Palmé, A., Martín, J.P., Rendell, S. & Vendramin, G.G.. 2003. Glacial refugia: hotspots but not melting pots of genetic diversity. Science 300: 1563–65. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1083264
Quiles, A., Valladas, H., Geneste, J.-M., Clottes, J., Baffier, D., Berthier, B., Brock, F., Bronk Ramsey, C., Delqué-Količ, E., Dumoulin, J.-P., Hajdas, I., Hippe, K., Hodgins, G.W.L., Hogg, A., Jull, A.J.T., Kaltnecker, E., de Martino, M., Oberlin, C., Petchey, F., Steier, P., Synal, H.-A., van der Plicht, J., Wild, E.M. & Zazzo, A.. 2014. Second radiocarbon intercomparison program for the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Cave, Ardèche, France. Radiocarbon 56: 833–50. https://doi.org/10.2458/56.16940
Quiles, A., Valladas, H., Bocherens, H., Delqué-Količ, E., Kaltnecker, E., van der Plicht, J., Delannoy, J.-J., Feruglio, V., Fritz, C., Monney, J., Philippe, M., Tosello, G., Clottes, J. & Geneste, J.-M.. 2016. A high-precision chronological model for the decorated Upper Paleolithic cave of Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, Ardèche, France. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 113: 4670–75. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1523158113
Sadier, B., Delannoy, J.-J., Benedetti, L., Didier, L., Bourlès, D.-L., Jaillet, S., Geneste, J.-M., Lebatard, A.-E. & Arnold, M.. 2012. Further constraints on the Chauvet Cave artwork elaboration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109: 80028006. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118593109
Stockton, E. 1981. Reflections around the campfire. The Artefact 6: 316.
Théry, I., Gril, J., Vernet, J.L., Meignen, L. & Maury, J.. 1995. First use of coal. Nature 373: 480–81. https://doi.org/10.1038/373480a0
Théry-Parisot, I. 2001. Economie des combustibles au Paléolithique, anthracologie, expérimentation, taphonomie (Dossier de Documentation Archéologique 20). Paris: CNRS.
Théry-Parisot, I. 2002a. Fuel management (bone and wood) during the Lower Aurignacian in the Pataud rock shelter (Lower Palaeolithic, Les Eyzies de Tayac, Dordogne, France): contribution of experimentation and anthraco-analysis to the study of the socio-economic behaviour. Journal of Archaeological Science 29: 1415–21. https://doi.org/10.1006/jasc.2001.0781
Théry-Parisot, I. 2002b. The gathering of firewood during Palaeolithic time, in Thiébault, S. (ed.) Charcoal analysis, methodological approaches, palaeoecological results and wood uses (British Archaeological Reports International series 1063): 243–50. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Théry-Parisot, I. & Chabal, L.. 2010. Anthracology and taphonomy, from wood gathering to charcoal analysis. A review of the taphonomic processes modifying charcoal assemblages. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 291: 142−53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.09.016
Théry-Parisot, I. & Thiébault, S.. 2005. Le pin (Pinus sylvestris): préférence d'un taxon ou contrainte de l'environnement. Étude des charbons de la grotte Chauvet. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 102 (1): 6975. https://doi.org/10.3406/bspf.2005.13338
Théry-Parisot, I., Chabal, L., Ntinou, M., Bouby, L. & Carré, A.. 2010. From wood to wood charcoal: an experimental approach to combustion, in Théry-Parisot, I., Chabal, L. & Costamagno, S. (ed.) The taphonomy of burned organic residues and combustion features in archaeological contexts (P@lethnologie 2): 7991.
Théry-Parisot, I., Henry, A. & Chrzavzez, J.. 2016. Apport de l'expérimentation à la compréhension des pratiques en anthracologie: gestion et utilisation du bois de feu dans les sociétés préhistoriques, in R. Scheel-Ybert (ed.) Paisagem, subsistência e uso de plantas na arqueología. Cadernos do LEPAARQ XIII: 484509.
Valladas, H. & Clottes, J.. 2003. Style, Chauvet and radiocarbon. Antiquity 77: 142–45. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00061433
Valladas, H., Clottes, J., Geneste, J.-M., Garcia, M.A., Arnold, M., Cachier, H. & Tisnérat-Laborde, N.. 2001. Palaeolithic paintings: evolution of prehistoric cave art. Nature 413: 479. https://doi.org/10.1038/35097160
Vidal-Matutano, P., Henry, A. & Théry-Parisot, I.. 2017. Dead wood gathering among Neanderthal groups: charcoal evidence from Abric del Pastor and El Salt (eastern Iberia). Journal of Archaelogical Science 80: 109–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.03.001
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed