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The social construction of caves and rockshelters: Chauvet Cave (France) and Nawarla Gabarnmang (Australia)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Jean-Jacques Delannoy
1Laboratoire EDYTEM, Université de Savoie, F-73376 Le Bourget du Lac cedex, France (Email:
Bruno David
2Programme for Australian Indigenous Archaeology, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia (Email:
Jean-Michel Geneste
3Centre National de Préhistoire, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, UMR PACEA, Université de Bordeaux 1, 24000 Périgueux, France (Email:
Margaret Katherine
4Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation, Pandanus Plaza, First Street, PO Box 371, Katherine, Northern Territory 0851, Australia (Email:
Bryce Barker
5School of Humanities and Communication, Public Memory Centre, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia (Email:
Ray L. Whear
4Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation, Pandanus Plaza, First Street, PO Box 371, Katherine, Northern Territory 0851, Australia (Email:
Robert G. Gunn
6329 Mt Dryden Road, Lake Lonsdale, Victoria 3381, Australia (Email:
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Caves and rockshelters are a key component of the archaeological record but are often regarded as natural places conveniently exploited by human communities. Archaeomorphological study shows however that they are not inert spaces but have frequently been modified by human action, sometimes in ways that imply a strong symbolic significance. In this paper the concept of ‘aménagement’, the re-shaping of a material space or of elements within it, is applied to Chauvet Cave in France and Nawarla Gabarnmang rockshelter in Australia. Deep within Chauvet Cave, fallen blocks were moved into position to augment the natural structure known as The Cactus, while at Nawarla Gabarnmang, blocks were removed from the ceiling and supporting pillars removed and discarded down the talus slope. These are hence not ‘natural’ places, but modified and socially constructed.

Research Article
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2013


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