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22 May 2012
Anthropologists discover earliest form of wall art

Anthropologists working in Abri Castanet - a rock shelter formerly occupied by a group of Aurignacian reindeer hunters in southern France - have determined that a block of engraved limestone about two meters above the floor on which the Aurignacians lived constitutes the earliest evidence of wall art. Both the engraved ceiling, which includes depictions of animals and geometric forms, and the other artefacts found on the living surface below are approximately 37,000 years old. Aurignacian culture existed until approximately 28,000 years ago.
     "This art appears to be slightly older than the famous paintings from the Grotte Chauvet in southeastern France," explained White, "but unlike the Chauvet paintings and engravings, which are deep underground and away from living areas, the engravings and paintings at Castanet are directly associated with everyday life, given their proximity to tools, fireplaces, bone and antler tool production, and ornament workshops."
     The team has been excavating at the site for the past 15 years. Abri Castanet and its sister site Abri Blanchard have long been recognised as among the oldest sites in Eurasia bearing artefacts of human symbolism. Hundreds of personal ornaments have been discovered, including pierced animal teeth, pierced shells, ivory and soapstone beads, engravings, and paintings on limestone slabs.
     This discovery, combined with others of approximately the same time period in southern Germany, northern Italy, and southeastern France, tells us something of the significance of art in the lives of modern human populations.

Edited from EurekAlert! (14 May 2012)

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