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Cave Art

First discovery of charcoal-based prehistoric cave art in Dordogne



Source: Scientific reports

A large number of Carbon (charcoal)-based black graphical entities was discovered by our team between the 27th and the 29th of February 2020 in the décor of the main galleries of the Font-de-Gaume cave, Dordogne, Southern France. The Dordogne is one of the world’s richest regions in terms of decorated Paleolithic caves such as the famous Lascaux cave1,2. The decoration recognised in 1901 by Capitan, Peyrony and Breuil was known to be created using different iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) oxide-based coloring matters, thus preventing direct radiocarbon dating3. The discovery of C-based cave art is therefore not only crucial for the Font-de-Gaume cave but for the whole Dordogne region.

The décor of the Font-de-Gaume cave shows naturalist mono-, bi- and polychrome paintings as well as engravings of different animals and signs in their main galleries. A little over two hundred figurative depictions were counted and can be divided in approximately two thirds to animal art and one third to signs (tectiforms)4,5. Mainly bison (N 80), mammoths, deer, horses and two negative hands are represented, which is why Font-de-Gaume is also called “Bison Cave”3.  Although the identification and numbering of the figures present at Font-de-Gaume by Capitan et al.3 is lacking accuracy with respect to our current practices, it is still the only one published on the whole cave to our knowledge. Therefore, this numbering is adopted in this publication.

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