Current problems in dating palaeolithic cave art

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We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain.The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol.Scientific understanding of the origins and early evolution of graphic and plastic imagery underwent a revolution in the 1990s and 2000s with the discovery and dating of Aurignacian (1) wall images in the Grotte Chauvet (2, 3) and the Grotte d’Aldène (4, 5), new ivory sculptures from southwestern Germany (6–14), our understanding of the chronological and cultural context of that early-discovered symbolic record has been limited by the crude archaeological methods and anecdotal descriptions of that pioneering era.In 2007, we excavated part of the engraved and ocre-stained undersurface of the collapsed rockshelter ceiling from Abri Castanet, Dordogne, France.

We report here on the 2007 discovery, in perfect archaeological context, of part of the engraved and ocre-stained undersurface of the collapsed rockshelter ceiling from Abri Castanet, Dordogne, France.There are also two unidentifiable images that have a vaguely butterfly shape to them.This combination of subjects has led experts in pre-historic art and cultures to believe that there was likely a ritualistic, shamanistic, or magical aspect to these paintings.Typical of most cave art, there are no paintings of complete human figures, although there is one possible, partial "Venus" figure that may represent the legs and genitals of a woman.A peculiar figure appears to have the lower body of a woman with the upper body of a bison.

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