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17 October 2003
Britain and France in dispute over cave art

The age of the cave paintings at Chauvet, the Sistine Chapel of palaeolithic art in south eastern France, has become the subject of a war of words between British and French archaeologists. The British claim the French may have exaggerated their age by 18,000 years under official pressure to promote them as the oldest cave paintings in the world.
     In its final report on the paintings, released this week, a French culture ministry rejected the allegations and called the British dating methods "too slow and expensive" to bother with. Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield, accused the French yesterday of "not being honest and open" about the real age of the paintings.
     The French have dated the paintings to 33,000 BCE, which would make them the oldest paintings in the world. Mr Pettitt and Paul Bahn, an independent archaeologist, published a paper this year which said the style of the paintings suggested a date of about 15,000 BCE. "If the French are right, it would be as if they had found a Renaissance painting from the early Middle Ages," said Mr Pettitt. The French allowed only a single French laboratory to analyse the carbon in the charcoal used in the drawings and refused to send comparable samples to other facilities around the world for dating.

Source: telegraph.co.uk (16 October 2003)

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