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Castel-Merle - Vallon des Roches

Castel-Merle

Panorama of some of the main sites in the Vallon des Roches, Castel-Merle, including l'abri Blanchard, l'abri Castanet, and l'abri Castanet II.

Because this is stitched together from a number of photos, it appears that the cliff falls away on each side of the viewpoint. In fact the cliff line is relatively straight.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014


The site of Castel-Merle is also known as Vallon des Roches, also the name of the small creek that runs through it and joins the Vézère. It is located near the town of Sergeac on the Vézère River between Lascaux and the shelter of Moustier, near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac . This prehistoric site has the distinction of having its own museum where there are many artefacts from the various excavations of rock shelters, with six necklaces dating from the Aurignacian and Magdalenian (among the oldest in Europe). the Vallon des Roches has a unique geological formation. It consists of high parallel cliffs closer than 100 metres and comprising six shelters spread over 400 metres, giving one of the highest concentrations of prehistoric settlements of Aquitaine. The overhanging parts of these shelters have collapsed, mainly towards the end of the last glaciation, and thus ensured very good protection for the archaeological layers.

These shelters were occupied successively by Neanderthals at l'Abri des Merveilles and at Blanchard II, then by Cro-Magnons, who mainly occupied the shelters located in the opposite cliffs of the Vallon des Roches, with more sunlight, as they face east and west instead of north. These abris include Reverdit, Roc de l'Acier, Labattut and Souquette as well as Castanet and Blanchard I. These are now able to be seen more easily by visitors as they have been partially cleared and excavated. In this research, deposits dated to the Aurignacian, Gravettian, the Solutrean and Magdalenian have been discovered. Thousands of flints have been assigned to specific Cro-Magnon, industries, and painted and carved and engraved blocks have been found as well as eyed needles.


Text above adapted from Wikipedia.


My sincere thanks to Carolyn Hailstones, a UK archaeologist, for making available many of the photographs on this page.


Castel-Merle is an archaeological area beside the Vézère River and in a side valley consisting of these sites:

Castel-Merle drawing


Looking towards Abri Blanchard (left) and Abri Castanet (right) down the Vallon des Roches, towards the Vézère River, from the position of Abri Reverdit.

Photo: © By kind permission of Eric Le Brun http://elebrun.canalblog.com/

Eric also has an excellent site for children, in French, about a Cro-Magnon child, at:
http://ticayou.canalblog.com/


Castel-Merle drawing


The east cliff face of the Castel-Merle vallon. Shown are the sites of Abri Castanet I on the left, below the distinctive tree shaped dead creeper on the cliff, and Abri Castanet II on the right with the temporary roof.

Because this is stitched together from a number of photos, it appears that the cliff falls away on each side of the viewpoint. In fact the cliff line is relatively straight.

(Note that this photo demonstrates that the whole area has been cleaned up of rank vegetation since I was there in 2008 - Don )

Photo: © Mathew Sisk
Date: 2010.07.10
Source: http://www.gigapan.org/gigapans/56797/snapshots/178383


Castel-Merle

By 2014 stinging nettles had started to take over the area, but the distinctive tree shaped dead creeper was still visible.
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014


castel merle map
Map of the important archaeological sites of Castel-Merle.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)

(note that Peyrony had north and south reversed. I have corrected this and fixed the lettering on the map - Don )

Text to accompany the map:

Carte de situation des gisements préhistoriques de Castelmerle, commune de Sergeac (Dordogne):

 1. abri des Merveilles
 2. partie vierge (blank area, presumably unexcavated)
 3. Second abri Blanchard
 4. partie vierge (blank area, presumably unexcavated)
 5. abri Blanchard des Roches
 6. abri Castanet
 7. partie vierge (blank area, presumably unexcavated)
 8. abri Reverdit
 9. rochers de l'Acier
10. abri Labattut
11. abri de la Souquette
12. ferme de Castelmerle





Abri Castanet I and II

Abri Castanet

Abri Castanet I

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014



Abri Castanet Abri Castanet

Abri Castanet I

The red rectangles delineate recognisable features on the cliff face to compare this photo with others.

Photo: Père Igor, 12 September 2011
Permission: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




Abri Castanet Abri Castanet

Abri Castanet I

Abri Castanet I in 2008. At that time there was a lot of vegetation obscuring the cliff line, so I walked close to the abris from Abri Castanet I to the head of the Vallon des Roches, taking photos along the way.

Fortunately, vegetation had been cleared immediately in front of the cliff line.

The red rectangles delineate recognisable features on the cliff face to compare this photo with others.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Castanet and Blanchard Abri Castanet and Blanchard

Abri Castanet I

The end of the Vallon des Roches, showing Abri Castanet on the right, with Abri Blanchard further on down the cliff line.

The distinctively tree shaped creeper on the cliff face has turned brown by this time, probably because its lower trunk was cut off when the vegetation was cleared away. It was still alive in 2008, as can be seen in my photo above.

The red rectangles delineate recognisable features on the cliff face of Abri Castanet to compare this photo with others.

Photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html
Date: ~ 2011.








Abri Castanet

Abri Castanet II

Two stitched photos of the ongoing excavations at Abri Castanet II

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Castanet Abri Castanet
Abri Castanet II

Abri Castanet II has been the subject of an ongoing French-American excavation under the direction of Randall White that has uncovered hundreds of stone tools, bone and antler weapons and ivory beads.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




randallwhite
Dr. Randall White is Professor of Anthropology at the Center for the Study of Human Origins (CSHO) in the Department of Anthropology at New York University.

Photo: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/programs/csho/white.html




Dr White writes, at White (2007):
New excavations at Abri Castanet, first begun in 1994 in collaboration between Jacques Pelegrin, and myself continue today under my direction. The stratigraphy is proving to be much more complicated than that proposed by Denis Peyrony (1935), who recognized two Aurignacian levels.

In our terms, a primary archaeological level situated on bedrock is attributed to a variant of the Early Aurignacian very poor in burins and perforators. This level (Niveau archéologique de base or NAB) is composed of a number of sedimentary subdivisions that are still being sorted out by our research. The total area excavated for the moment is approximately 10 m2.

Table 24.2.
AMS dates from Abri Castanet II.
Lab no. Stratigraphic layer Date cal. bp
GifA 99165 Stratigraphic Zone 114 31 430±390
GifA 99179 Stratigraphic Zone 122 32 310±520
GifA 99180 Stratigraphic Zone 122 32 950±520
GifA 99166 Stratigraphic Zone 131 34 320±520


A first series of four AMS dates (Valladas et al. 2007) yielded values as shown in Table 24.2. More dates are currently being processed in collaboration with Paul Mellars and the Oxford accelerator.

Abri Castanet

Abri Castanet II.

On the right are the recent excavations by Randall White of Castanet II. Peyrony's 1911-1912 excavations (Castanet I) are further to the left, out of frame in this photo.

Photo: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/programs/csho/whiteimages.html




Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet



Abri Castanet II excavation.

This was the only part of the whole Abri Castanet/Abri Blanchard area under active exploration in 2008. The rest of the site was under tangled vegetation, though by 2012 that had all been removed.

I presume that the recent publication of the discovery of a vulva (see below) on a 1.5 tonne limestone block was from the excavation in these photos.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008



Abri Castanet

M. Castanet showing visitors the dig at Castanet II. There is now the opportunity to get a guided tour of the whole Castel-Merle/Vallon des Roches area.

See http://www.castel-merle.com/

The site is open from April 9 to 30 September from 10.00 to 18.00, closed most Saturdays.

M. Castanet is a wonderful man, a living national treasure.

Photo: http://www.castel-merle.com/




Abri Castanet III

This may be the next area to be dug, between Castanet II and Castanet I. Perhaps it will be called Castanet III.

The caption says:

A view of the excavation site at Castanet. The central sector has not yet been excavated, while the southern sector has been explored since 1995.

Photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




Abri Castanet III

I presume that the 'central sector' mentioned above is the area circled on this photo.

Photo: Google Earth




Castel-Merle





The locations of the two sectors of Abri Castanet discussed.

Photo and text: White et al. (2012)




castenet vulva




A vulva from Abri Castanet, showing the relief by careful lighting.



Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for the photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




castenet vulva




Another vulva from Abri Castanet, showing a vulva on a triangular piece of rock.



Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for the photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




castanet vulva




Yet another vulva from Abri Castanet showing a section of the limestone on which it was engraved.

There may be two other, fainter images of vulvas below this one, and there appear to be other engravings on the right hand side.

Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for this photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




castanet vulva




This is a decorated Pierre à Anneau from Abri Castanet.

Pierres à Anneaux were holes tunnelled through the overhanging roof or cliff to form a 'handle' which could then be used to tie the hide curtains to which protected the occupants of the abri from wind and rain and snow. Fallen Pierres à Anneaux may have been used to tie down the bottom of the hide curtains.

This one has been decorated with what is described as female genitalia.

Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for the photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




castanet vulva




This enigmatic painting may represent either a horse or a bison.

Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for the photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




castanet photos tools, shells








Artefacts characterising the Castanet-type Aurignacian. (Left) 1, Split-based antler point. 2, Bone awl. 3, Tongued piece in antler. 4, Decorated smoothing tool in herbivore rib. 5, Carinate scraper. 6, Basket-shaped beads and production stages. 7, Facsimile in ivory of a red deer vestigial canine, perforated for suspension. 8, Limestone block engraved with 'vulvar' images. (Right) Different species of Atlantic and Mediterranean gastropod species represented in the ornament assemblage at Abri Castanet.

Photo and text: White et al. (2012)




castanet horse
Horse, apparently pregnant, labelled as being from l'Abri Castanet.

Delluc (1978) identifies this painting as being from l'Abri Blanchard.

It has certainly been known for a long time, it is not recently dug up at Castanet II.

This sort of mislabelling by news outlets often happens when a new discovery is made, but in this case, as also often happens, the new photo is much better than the one I had, though I wish the extra piece (see below) had been included in the better photo.

Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Source for the photo: http://www.livescience.com/20278-gallery-europe-oldest-rock-art.html




Castel-Merle



The display at l'Abri Labattut from this photo taken in 2008 implies that this rock painting comes from that shelter.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at l'Abri Labattut.






Notice Board museum







This very useful summary of the main art discoveries in the Castel-Merle complex lists the horse as coming from l'Abri Blanchard.

The sizes of the two rocks shown are given as 128 x 70 cm and 38 x 28 cm.

The authority given is B and G. Delluc.

Delluc (1978) identifies this painting as being from l'Abri Blanchard.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle



This is the cross section of Abri Castanet I of Aurignacian I and II age, according to Peyrony (1935)

It would seem from the diagram that the overhanging roof which provided protection for the inhabitants during the Aurignacian I and II has collapsed on the sediments below.

While this could have been a natural occurrence due to normal processes of weathering and erosion, the possibility exists that it could have been because of an ash fall from a volcano settling on top of the rock overhang, which subsequently provided the impetus for the collapse when the ash became wet (and thus heavy) from following rain. (M. René Castanet, Pers. Comm.)




There are several candidates for the source of the volcanic ash, in particular the chain of Puys in the Puy de Dôme area, which is only about 150 km away from Les Eyzies. Tephra columns and plumes reached 20 km into the atmosphere and spread over wide areas aided by wind. (Puy is a geological term used locally in the Auvergne, France for a volcanic hill.)

See the quote below from Vernet et al. (1998)

Late-Glacial and Holocene Tephra



For the period between 15 and 7 ka (Older Dryas to Atlantic), numerous volcanoes were active in the Chaîne des Puys and neighbouring areas. Strombolian phases built numerous cones and poured out long lava flows which disorganized the drainage pattern.

Trachytic and trachyandesitic maar eruptions occured (Kilian, Nugère, Pariou, Pavin). Plinian eruptions were followed by trachytic plugs and dome erection (Puy-de-Dôme, Sarcouy, Chopine...). Tephra columns and plumes reached 20 km into the atmosphere and spread over wide areas aided by wind (GOER DE HERVE et al, 1991). Some volcanoes have been directly TL dated :

- Puy de Côme, 15900 ± 1500 and11600 ± 830 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Lassolas, 15700 ± 1700 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Tartaret, 13700 ± 1600 (PILLEYRE et al., 1992).
- Puy de Gorce, 13200 ± 1300 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Barme, 11900 ± 1200 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de la Nugère lava flow, 10900 ± 1200 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Dôme, 10800 ± 1100, 9300 ± 1100 (FAIN et al. , 1986, 1991).
- Puy de Pariou lava flow, 8180 ± 810 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de la Vache, 8100 ± 800 (HUXTABLE et al., 1978), 9150 ± 550 et 8820 ± 870 (GUERIN, 1983), 9130 ± 720 (MONTRET et al., 1992).
- Puy de Montchal,7560 ± 770 BP (GUERIN, 1983).




Peyrony described 2 Aurignacian levels. The first one stands on the bed-rock and shows split based points and has been attributed to the aurignacian I (Peyrony 1935).

On top, was an Aurignacian II level that contained a lithic industry with blades, notches, scrapers, and burins, a poor bone industry with flattened lozenge-shaped points and awls, and engraved limestone blocks. Faunal remains were rare. Reindeer dominated, followed by horse, bovids, wolf, fox, and brown bear.

Below this, resting on bedrock, an Aurignacian I level yielded a blade industry very rich in scrapers and poor in burins, with a number of other tool types. At this level, the fauna was dominated by reindeer and included roe deer, horse, bovids, deer, wild boar, ibex, lion, hyena, wolf, fox, wild cat, lynx, brown bear, and seal. Harlé made the identification of brown bear on the basis of a canine

Text above from: Peyrony (1935), quoted in Armand (2006).

Castel-Merle




(Left) Peyrony’s stratigraphic section, drawn in 1913 and published in 1935. A and C are the archaeological levels recognised by Peyrony.

(Right) Our stratigraphic analysis in the same sector showing existence of only one level on bedrock. Arrow indicates engraved and red-stained block K.

Photo and text: White et al. (2012)




Castel-Merle




Block K.

(A and B) Arrangement of fragments 1–13 of the engraved surface in contact with the archaeological layer.

(C) Broken anneau.

(D) The principal engraved figure.

(E) Detail of zoomorphic figure (rotated 90°).

Photo and text: White et al. (2012)




castanet  vulva
Vulva from Abri Castanet, shown above as part of block K.

This engraving of a vulva comes from Abri Castanet. It has been dated to 37 000 BP, a similar age to the magnificent paintings of the Grotte Chauvet.

A 1.5 tonne piece of limestone was first discovered by Dr Randall White in 2007, where it was found face down on the floor of the abri. The block of limestone was broken up into smaller chunks to be lifted off, when the engraving was discovered. "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," Dr White said.

The works in Chauvet and Castanet are both products of the Aurignacian culture, the first modern humans in Europe that replaced the Neaderthals and lived 40 000 to 28 000 years ago. The inhabitants of Abri Castanet hunted reindeer, horse and bison.

"They had relatively complex social identities, communicated through personal ornamentation, and they practiced sculpture and graphic arts," White said.

Photo: © Raphaëlle Bourrillon
Text: an amalgam from a large number of newspaper sources, all drawing on the same NYU press release, from http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2012/05/14/anthropologists-discover-earliest-form-of-wall-art.html
Source for the photo: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/340938/20120514/female-genitalia-rock-carvings-europe.htm




placenta
The 'vulva' above is not the usual type of engraving of a vulva. There appears to be a cord leading out from the centre of it, something which does not appear on any vulva engravings I have seen.

What it looks like is a placenta, as shown here.

My thanks to Ralph Frenken for pointing this out.

Photo: http://img.fotocommunity.com/Schwangerschaft/und-die-Zeit-danach/baby-mit-Plazenta-a18228790.jpg




Castel-Merle





Block K.

The principal engraved figure (A) with macro views of engraving (B) and surface preparation (C).

(note that the 'cord' from the vulva is well defined in this photograph, and is about 15 mm wide and 10 mm high - Don )

Photo and text: White et al. (2012)




Castel-Merle
Abri Castanet I dig, excavated by M. Marcel Castanet during 1908/1909 and 1911/1912/1913.

In the excavation, red ochre was abundant, there were many cupules dug into stones, there were many ringed stones (see comment below), engravings of phallic and vulval designs. There were remains of paintings on stones fallen from the roof, and there was a major industry in flint, bone, and reindeer antler, as well as workshops for the preparation of the equivalents of the basket beads so evident at Abri Blanchard.

Photo, and text translated from: Castanet (2006)




Castel-Merle
Pierres à Anneaux

Dans toute l'etendue de la couche, il a été rencontré des pierres, parfois très volumineuses, présentant généralement, dans un angle, ou sur un bord, un anneau creusé profondément, avec un trou parfois assez grand. Deux des plus gros ont un aspect bizarre: l'un d'eux, trop pesant, a été laissé sur place, l'autre a été déposé au Musée des Eyzies. Ce dernier a été l'objet d'un travail de raclage dans toute sa partie supérieure, comme pour lui donner une forme plus régulière. L'anneau a été fait latéralement, mais de telle façon que l'aspect général de cette pièce est celui d'un animal à corps massif retournant la tête, les deux trous de l'anneau formant les yeux. Il est possible que le hasard seul ait guidé l'ouvrier: cependant les raclages remarqués dans le haut, sur le champ et sur les deux faces, sont de nature à faire prendre en considération l'hypothèse d'une grossière oeuvre d'art.




Sur quelques pierres à anneaux, on remarque des cupules peu profondes identiques à celles trouvées par L. Didon à l'abri Blanchard et par moi-même à La Ferrassie. Quelle était leur valeur magique ou leur destination? problème difficile à résoudre pour le moment.

Photo and text: Peyrony (1935)

Pierres à Anneaux

Through the whole layer, one found stones, sometimes very large, which generally presented on a corner or an edge, a deep hollow ring, sometimes with quite a large hole through the stone. Two of the largest have a strange aspect: one of them, which was too heavy to move, was left in place, the other was deposited at Les Eyzies Museum. This was made so that it looked like an animal with its head turned, the two holes of the ring forming the eyes. It is possible that this appearance is by chance, but the occurrence of reworking of both sides of the stone leads to the hypothesis that it was a large work of art.

On some pierres à anneaux, there were cupules identical to those found by L. Didon at l'Abri Blanchard, and by myself at La Ferrassie. What was their magical value or purpose? This is a difficult question, which cannot be solved as yet.

Text above translated from Peyrony (1935)



Delage (1936) found similar pierres à anneaux, at L'Abri Reverdit:

Des pierres à anneaux gisaient parmi les blocs amoncelés à l'extrémité Sud de l'Abri; enfin quinze blocs calcaires portant des cupules ont été recuellis et leur abondance est un des traits les plus remarquables de ce gisement.

Pierres à anneaux lay piled among the blocks at the southern end of the shelter and finally fifteen limestone blocks bearing cupules were recovered. Their abundance is one of the most remarkable characteristics of this site.

They were originally in the low roof of the abri, and were probably created in order to hold up the hides used to keep out the weather from the abri, and keep some of the warmth in the abri from the fires, while keeping out a lot of the wind. Those which fell from the roof could have been then used to tether the bottom of the hides as necessary.

Abri Labattut Abri Labattut

Pierres à anneaux

The large stone in the right hand photo has two holes bored in it.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Abri Labattut

Pierres à anneaux - I believe these individual stones were used to hold up the hide tents or curtains of the original inhabitants. The only photographs I have so far are of fallen blocks. I would be grateful for any information or photographs, especially of Pierres à anneaux in position in the roof of an abri.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




barrier reef trip

I was amused to see the same solution to the same problem on a trip to the Barrier Reef in Australia. This is a caravan annexe at Hervey Bay on the Queensland south coast. To stop the canvas curtains flapping, the owners have filled plastic bags with sand, and placed them on the ends of the curtains, modern Pierres à Anneaux!

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2012




Castel-Merle vulvas

Gravures

Une pierre calcaire profondément gravée, dont plusieurs fragments ont été rencontrés épars dans la couche, a été en partie reconstituée. Elle présente quatre images plus ou moins bien conservées d'organes sexuels féninins. Dans l'angle d'un bloc, plus volumineux, on en remarque un autre.

Ces dessins, dont les contours sont formés d'un double sillon, se sont rencontrés plus nombreux à l'abri Blanchard des Roches, tout à côté, mais traités plus simplement. On les observés dans beaucoup de gisements de même époque du Périgord: La Ferrassie, l'abri du Poisson*, l'abri Cellier au Ruth, etc.

* Dans cet habitat, les gravures ont été trouvées dans les déblais des anciens fouilleurs qui ne s'étaient pas aperçus de leur présence. Il est probable qu'il en a été de même dans d'autres gisements fouilles aussi peu méthodiquement.

Peyrony (1935)




Engravings

Several fragments of a deeply carved piece of limestone which were encountered scattered in the layer were fitted together as far as possible. There are four representations, more or less well preserved, of feminine sexual organs. In the corner of another larger block, another was discovered.

These drawings, whose contours are formed by a double groove, were more numerous in the abri Blanchard des Roches, next door, but were treated more simply. They are observed in many gisements of the same Perigord perios: La Ferrassie, l'abri du Poisson*, l'abri Cellier au Ruth, etc.

*In this habitat, the prints were found in the rubble of the old diggers who did not notice their presence. It is probable that there were many more similar carvings in other gisements which had as little care and methodology in their excavations.

Peyrony (1935)

Castel-Merle bear tooth

Ursus arctos: cut marks on the first phalanx

During recent work for the new museum project at the Musée National de Préhistoire in les Eyzies, Stéphane Madeleine discovered a bear phalanx with cut marks in the Castanet Aurignacian I collection.

Butchery marks linked to the skinning process are rather frequent on the first phalanges. These are found at Castanet, as well as other sites.




(Although most of the skin can be removed without using a knife at all, the hide can in fact be "fisted" from the rest of the body, thus avoiding the possibility of cuts or nicks in the hide, the skin on the lower legs and phalanges of most animals needs a knife to take it off the bone in my experience - Don)

Photo: P. Jugie, MNP, les Eyzies, France.

Source: Armand (2006)

Castel-Merle bear tooth Perforated bear molar from Abri Castanet.

The perforation indicates that it was used as jewellery.

Photo: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/programs/csho/whiteimages.html




Faunal data from the Aurignacian I, Abri Castanet I

Faunal data from the Aurignacian I, Abri Castanet
Bovinae (Aurochs, Bison)16
Canis lupus (wolf)52
Capra ibex (Ibex)1
Cervus elaphus (Red Deer)7
Crocuta spelaea (Cave Hyena)1
Equus sp. (Horse)32
Rangifer tarandus (Reindeer, Caribou)336
Rupicapra rupicapra (Chamois)2
Ursus sp (bear)4
Vulpes/Alopex (arctic fox)15


Source for the information in the table above: Armand (2006).

Study of the Rodents and Birds of the Abri Castanet

This is a systematic study, published in 1952, by J. Bouchud, of the small animals found by Peyrony in 1935 at Abri Castanet.

Rongeurs: 12 sujets
1Lepus timidusMountain Hare
1Eliomys quercinusGarden Dormouse
1Lemmus lemmusNorway Lemming
1Evotomys glareolusBank Vole
6Arvicola amphibiusEuropean Water Vole
2Apodemus sylvaticusWood Mouse
Insectivore: 1 sujet
1Erinaceus europeusHedgehog
Oiseaux: 20 sujets
1Pica picaEuropean Magpie
2Garrulus glandariusEurasian Jay
3Pyrrhocorax alpinusRock Chough
1Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocoraxRed-billed Chough
1Anthus spinolettaWater Pipit
1Turdus merulaWhite-collared Blackbird
1Falco naumanniLesser Kestrel
1Anas platyrhynchusMallard Duck
1Limosa aegocephalaBlack-tailed Godwit
2Squatarola squatarolaBlack-Bellied Plover
1Charadrius morinellusEurasian Dotterel
5Perdix perdixGrey Partridge


Source for the information in the table above: Bouchud (1952)

Abri Castanet lames grattoirs




1, 2, 7 - blades with the edges retouched and notched.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 various types of grattoirs (scrapers with retouched ends) made on blades.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanet lames grattoirs



No. 1, grattoir caréné (keeled scraper). No. 2, grattoir à museau (muzzle shaped scraper). No. 3 pic (pick).

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanet burins



Various types of burins.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanet lames a troncature oblique



1, 2 - Lames a troncature oblique.
3, 4 - Lames tronquées obliquement et à base abattue.

1, 2 - Blades with oblique truncation.
3, 4 - Obliquely truncated blades with blunted bases.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanetpointes



Pointes à base fendue et poinçons.

Points with a split base, and awls.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanet reindeer antler tools



Nos 1 et 3, objets en bois de Renne à biseau double (rallonges).
No 2, lissoir pointé.
No 4, ciseau.
No 5, fragment d'objet à biseau double.

Nos 1 and 3, objects made of reindeer antler, double bevelled, very long.
No. 2, pointed polisher/smoother.
No. 4, chisel. (this looks as though it might have been used to split apart previously grooved bone or antler by hitting the thick end, which seems obviously in poor condition, as is the tip - Don)
No. 5 fragment of a double bevelled reindeer antler.

Photo: Peyrony (1935)




Abri Castanet

The Abri Reverdit/Abri Castanet area is serviced by a paved road, and this hut has been erected near the turning circle in order to provide weather protection for those engaged in the French-American excavation of Abri Castanet II, so that sorting and extraction of artefacts can continue without interruption because of inclement weather.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Castanet


During the digging season, the hut is a very useful area, set up with tables and equipment for examining finds and sieving the earth removed from the digs, as well as providing an area for rest and meals for the students and supervisors.

Photo: http://beauvert.over-blog.com/article-21688485.html




Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet


Abri Castanet


At the time I was there, within the turning circle, there was a mini-excavation being undertaken, with a surprising amount of interesting material, mostly debitage.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle


There is an ongoing programme of trenches and full scale excavations going on in the area, this trench is beside the road, in the area of Abri Blanchard I.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008






Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



These six photographs of the cliff line are presented here in order from Abri Castanet I (left hand photo here) to the end of the Vallon des Roches.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



Abri Castanet I and Abri Blanchard I have been thoroughly investigated, but it looked as though someone had been through recently, and cleared away the vegetation just at the base of the cliff, but not between that point and the road.

By 2011 - 12 the whole area had been cleaned up.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



This was as far as the preliminary clean up had got to when I was there. The last photo of the sign was in front of dense vegetation, at the end of Vallon des Roches, at the point where the road takes a sharp right hand bend, and the sites of Sous le Roc, Abri Blanchard II and Abri des Merveilles angle away from the river on the other side of the promontory.








Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



This is the end of the ridge and valley of Vallon des Roches. The top of the ridge would have formed an ideal lookout post when watching for approaching game.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle



This is the view from the top of the ridge.

Photo: Castanet (2006)


Castel-Merle



So far as I could tell, and as can be seen here, taken just around the corner of the ridge, the other sites of Abri des Merveilles and Abri Blanchard II on the other side of the ridge, facing the Vézère, were not accessible in 2008 because of the growth of vegetation since they were last excavated. However, in 2014 I was able to investigate the cliff line and find l'abri des Merveilles.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Blanchard






Abri Blanchard des Roches

L'abri Blanchard des Roches
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014



Castel-Merle



Photograph of the far end of Vallon des Roches, showing Abri Blanchard on the left, and Abri Castanet I on the right.

The raw earth and black plastic in this photo and the ones below show that a dig has been re-started at Abri Blanchard.

Photo: Père Igor
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Date: 12th September 2011


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



The new dig at Abri Blanchard.

The photo on the right is a zoomed in version of the one on the left.

Photo: Père Igor
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Date: 12th September 2011


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle



Close up of the new dig at Abri Blanchard.

The photo on the right is a zoomed in version of the one on the left.

Photo: Père Igor
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Date: 12th September 2011




Castel-Merle
Engraving of a bear on a rockface from Abri Blanchard.

Photo: Castanet (2006)


Castel-Merle




Bâtons percés, Abri Blanchard.

1 and 2 are held at Musée de Saint-Germain, 3,4,5,6 are at the Musée de l'Homme.

Photo: Leroy-Prost (1975)


Castel-Merle
Stages in the making of 'basket-shaped' or 'stomach' beads, probably from Abri Blanchard and Abri Castanet, and discovered by M. Marcel Castanet.

So-called basket-shaped beads were first recognized by Marcel Castanet (see photograph below) at Abri Blanchard in 1909 (Didon 1911; 1912; Delluc & Delluc 1981) This discovery prompted Castanet, a farmer at Sergeac in the Dordogne, to wet-sieve all of the sediments from Blanchard (more than 200 such beads), as well as the proximate sites of Castanet (Peyrony 1935) and La Souquette (White 1989). Also recovered from the sieves were hundreds of unfinished beads and production debris, allowing the reconstruction of a complex and ingenious chaîne opératoire for bead production. Experiments suggest that from one to three hours of labor per bead are required using this process.

Text: White (2007)

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Techniques for producing Aurignacian ivory and stone beads vary from one European region to the next. In France, the most common form, represented by more than 1000 specimens and dated to between 33 000 and 32 000 years ago, is 'basket-shaped.' They were created from pencil-like rods of ivory or soapstone that were then circuminscribed and snapped into cylindrical blanks from one to two centimetres in length. These were then bilaterally thinned at one end to form a sort of stem. A perforation was then created at the junction of the stem and the unaltered end. This was done by gouging from each side, rather than by rotational drilling.

These rough-outs were then ground and polished into their final basket-shaped form using hematite as an abrasive.

Text above: http://www.insticeagestudies.com/library/representation-technology-and-society-before-lascaux.shtml

Castel-Merle



'basket-shaped' or 'stomach' beads from Abri Castanet.



Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac


making basket beads

The five main production stages for the manufacture of Aurignacian basket-shaped beads. Those pictured are from Abri Blanchard, the type-site for such objects.

Stage 1: creation of cylindrical, pencil-like rods of talc/chlorite or of ivory.
Stage 2: circumincision of these rods into segments of 1 to 2 cm long, which are then snapped off the longer rod.
Stage 3: bifacial thinning of one end of the detached cylinders to create a kind of stem at one end and a bulb at the other.
Stage 4: perforation by bifacial gouging or rotational drilling at the junction of the stem and the bulb.
Stage 5: reduction of the stage 4 roughout by coarse abrasion and eventually by fine polishing in order to obtain the characteristic basket shape.

Photo and text: White (2007)

(Note that the beads from Roc-aux-Sorciers have been made with the hole further away from the near end than those from Abri Castanet and Abri Blanchard, and have then been further shaped to create either a teardrop shaped bead, or one which closely resembles a red deer tooth - Don )


necklace Abri Blanchard
Abri Blanchard
Necklace

Late Mousterian, ca. 35 000 BP
137 stone, bone and ivory beads and pendants
Largest pendant 4.8 cm
Abri Blanchard, Sergeac (Dordogne), France
Logan Museum of Anthropology Purchase
LMA 4.7.253
This piece was assembled from the many beads recovered from the site and purchased from Louis Didon in 1924. There is no specific evidence that these artifacts were assembled as a necklace, but as they are all pierced it is clear they were intended for some similar purpose. Once dated much later, recent excavations in an adjacent abri have revealed a bead workshop dating to the Late Mousterian.

(right) A detail of several of the pendant pieces in the 'necklace' reveals the variety of color and materials employed. The largest piece, of ivory, is decorated with a highly organised series of tiny punctuations.

Photo and text: http://www.beloit.edu/logan/exhibitions/virtual_exhibitions/before_history/europe/abri_blanchard.php




necklace necklace necklace
Abri Blanchard

Engraved Bones, Late Mousterian, ca. 35 000 BP, Logan Museum of Anthropology Purchase

(left) Bone, 6.0 cm LMA 4.5.373
(centre) Bone, 4.0 cm LMA 4.5.374
(right) Bone, 4.1 cm LMA 4.5.372


Photo and text: http://www.beloit.edu/logan/exhibitions/virtual_exhibitions/before_history/europe/abri_blanchard.php




Abri Blanchard


Engravings from Abri Blanchard dating to the old Aurignacian, 34 000 BP.

Displayed here at Abri Reverdit.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Castanet


Engravings from Abri Blanchard dating to the old Aurignacian, 34 000 BP.

Displayed here at Abri Reverdit.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




vulve l'abri Blanchard


Limestone block carrying two images of vulvas engraved on the stone, from l'abri Blanchard.

© Musée d'archéologie nationale.

Photo: http://www.creap.fr/imgsExpo/expo-module2.htm




Abri Blanchard Abri Blanchard
Aurignacian of l'abri Blanchard des Roches à Sergeac, Dordogne

Gravure figurant une vulve, calcaire. Engraving of a vulva, in limestone.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014
Source: Original, Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye









Abri Blanchard II

 l'abri Blanchard II


I scoured the entire overgrown area above the road from the sharp corner to l'abri des Merveilles, and this cliff face was the only candidate that looked like it could be l'abri Blanchard II. It was in the right place, and was flanked by gradual slopes on either side, the "blank areas" noted by Peyrony.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014









Abri des Merveilles



Abri des Merveilles


Abri des Merveilles as it is today.

It was originally inhabited by Neandertals, with cordiform (heart shaped) mousterian axes found there. (Mellars, 1996)

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014



Abri des Merveilles


Abri des Merveilles

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Abri des Merveilles


The 1925 trench into the talus at l'Abri des Merveilles. George Grant MacCurdy is visible in the distance as is the wall of the abri.

Photo and text: Straus (2001)




Abri des Merveilles


Abri des Merveilles - Excavations by G.G. MacCurdy 1927

This photograph is particularly notable for the child taking part in the excavations - M. René Castanet (R. Castanet pers. comm. 2008) was about five years old at the time of this photograph - truly he has had a lifetime of experience in the study of the Palaeolithic, and is a national treasure.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Abri des Merveilles


Tools of rock crystal and Spanish topaz dug from the rock shelter of Les Merveilles (Dordogne) by students of the American School of Prehistoric Research, Mousterian Epoch.

Photo and text: McCurdy (1931)




Abri des Merveilles


This is mute evidence of the collection by Neanderthals of objects of no great use, except for their beauty. Rock crystal, or quartz, is, surprisingly, not so good for tools as flint and other similar microcrystalline forms.

The objects are on display at the Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye, and are listed as being collected by Neanderthals, and as coming from Sergeac, with no more detailed provenance, but they are plainly the same as those in the photograph above from the American School of Prehistoric Research dig at Les Merveilles.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014
Source: Display, Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye




Complete tools of rock crystal dating back to the Mousterian epoch are exceedingly rare. We appreciate all the more the good fortune which has come to our American School of Prehistoric Research in the finding of seven perfect rock crystal tools not only in a single rock shelter but also at one level in that rock shelter (the lower of two Mousterian levels). This shelter is known as Les Merveilles and is at Castel-Merle near Sergeac (Dordogne).

Of the seven tools of rock crystal from Les Merveilles No. 1, found in 1924, is transparent and tinged with just enough yellow to give it the appearance of a topaz. It is a combination scraper and point. The ventral face is marked by a bulb of percussion and an uneven resin-like surface of fracture. The outer or dorsal face is everywhere reduced by means of chipping except for a small area at the level of the greatest diameter. Half of a scraper of the same quality of rock crystal was found in 1924 in the cultivated field just below and adjoining our leased site.

During the season of 1926 there was found a scraper of purest rock crystal without a tinge of color (No. 2). The portion opposite the edge is perfectly adapted to fit the curve of the forefinger and the dorsal face along the edge has been retouched more than once. The present edge shows the effect of wear; a short bit of it was carried away by a chip accidentally removed in Mousterian times.

Number 3, found in 1928, is amethystine in color. Two of the adjacent hexagonal faces of the original crystal are retained on the part opposite the edge and form a fitting handhold. The edge is retouched along the dorsal face only. During the same season Number 4 was found. It had been struck from an exquisite crystal yellowish in tone, but somewhat paler than the parent core of No. 1. The specimen is completely bounded by a series of delicate retouches confined to the dorsal face only.

Numbers 5, 6 and 7 were all found in 1929. Number 5 resembles Number 4 in shape and size and Number 1 in color. Its dorsal face has been completely retouched except for a small area near the base. Here, as in Number 1, the untouched facet represent a bit of surface of fracture made at some preceding time rather than a bit of one of the hexagonal faces of the original crystal.

In so far as quality of crystal is concerned, Number 6 is the poorest of the lot. It is colorless but not flawless. That the crystal mass from which it was struck had been reduced to a pebble by water action is shown in the unworked part opposite the edge and reserved as the handhold.

The last and largest of the series of rock crystal tools (No. 7) was likewise struck from a crystal that had been reduced to a pebble; it was not the same pebble as in the preceding case but a much larger one formed from a crystal of great purity-absolutely clear and flawless. On the unretouched end there is a fine bulb of percussion. The dorsal face is completely retouched except at the base and the retained bit of the pebble surface on the lower half of the side opposite the long retouched margin.

The retention of a portion of the pebble surface on two of these rock crystal tools and of a slightly waterworn surface of fracture on two others (1 and 5) may serve as a clue to the location of the original source of rock crystal supply. The nearest source is the region of eruptive rock lying near to and beyond the headwaters of the Vézère in the direction of the Limousin and Puy-de-Dôme. They were carried from this region to Sergeac either by Neandertal man or by the Vézère river. The fact that at least two of the rock crystal tools were struck from pebbles points to their transport by the river. Neandertal man had only to pick up the pebbles in the river bed at the foot of his Abri des Merveilles. They were carried to the rock shelter before the chipping was done just as was the supply of quartzite pebbles for hammerstones. Chips of rock crystal were found in situ in the lower Mousterian level. We know that tools of flint were shaped on the spot because we were able to fit one tool to its parent core which when found was only some 15 cm. removed from the tool itself.


Text above adapted from: McCurdy (1931)

Abri des Merveilles


Les Merveilles cave (Rocamadour, Lot). Forequarters of a black horse painted with a stencil, or pochoir.

Photo and text: Jaubert (2008)






Abri Reverdit


Castel-Merle

Abri Reverdit at Castel-Merle - the reception area. The refurbished building has been very well set up, and there is ample parking for visitors.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014

Castel-Merle

The abri has been protected by a stone wall, with entry via the door on the left.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014

Castel-Merle

Panorama of Abri Reverdit interior

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014

Abri Reverdit


Abri Reverdit, showing the cliff wall and the archaeological site at the far end, and a display of engravings coming originally from Abri Blanchard.

Photo: Père Igor
Date: 12th September 2011
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




Abri Reverdit


Abri Reverdit, Stratigraphic Sections of the deposits from the 1935 excavations.

D - spoil from excavations
TV - topsoil
S - sandy layer
E2 - mainly fallen rocks
TR - rust coloured soil
C2 - upper bed with lenticular hearth
E1 - lower bed of fallen rocks with traces of occupation
C1 - lower bed
P - loose stones
T - sterile layer

Photo: Delage (1935)




Abri Blanchard


Engravings from Abri Blanchard dating to the old Aurignacian, 34 000 BP.

Displayed here at Abri Reverdit.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Castanet


Engravings from Abri Blanchard dating to the old Aurignacian, 34 000 BP.

Displayed here at Abri Reverdit.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Reverdit


Mme Isabelle Castanet, a very knowledgeable archaeologist who provides a wonderful introduction to the gisements in the Vallon des Roches for visitors to this very important privately owned archaeological site and museum.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri
The Rowan, a prehistoric Tree in the Castel-Merle area, this example is in front of Abri Reverdit.

Rowan Berry trees are particularly hardy, and were in the area during the last ice age.

Rowans are mostly small deciduous trees 10-20 m tall, though a few are shrubs. The leaves are arranged alternately, and are pinnate, with (7-)11-35 leaflets; a terminal leaflet is always present. The flowers are borne in dense corymbs; each flower is creamy white, and 5-10 mm across with five petals. The fruit is a small pome 4-8 mm diameter, bright orange or red in most species, but pink, yellow or white in some Asian species. The fruit are soft and juicy, which makes them a very good food for birds, particularly waxwings and thrushes, which then distribute the rowan seeds in their droppings. Due to their small size the fruits are often referred to as berries, but a berry is a simple fruit produced from a single ovary, whereas a pome is an accessory fruit.

Rowan is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species.

The Rowan is closely related to apples and hawthorns in the rose family.

The best-known species is the European Rowan Sorbus aucuparia, a small tree typically 4-12 m tall growing in a variety of habitats throughout northern Europe and in mountains in southern Europe and southwest Asia. Its berries are a favourite food for many birds and are a traditional wild-collected food in Britain and Scandinavia. It is one of the hardiest European trees, occurring to 71° north in Vardø in Arctic Norway, and has also become widely naturalised in northern North America.

The wood is dense and used for carving and turning and for tool handles and walking sticks. Rowan berries are a traditional source of tannins for mordanting vegetable dyes.

The berries of European Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) can be made into a slightly bitter jelly which in Britain is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruits. The berries can also be a substitute for coffee beans, and have many uses in alcoholic beverages: to flavour liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavour ale.

Rowan cultivars with superior fruit for human food use are available but not common; mostly the fruits are gathered from wild trees growing on public lands.

Text above: Wikipedia

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Reverdit



General view of Abri Reverdit, showing the dig on the left, as well as the locked door and the stone wall put up to protect the area under the abri.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Reverdit


Abri Reverdit, showing the new dig, as well as the stone wall and locked door put up to preserve the area beneath the abri.

Photo: Père Igor
Date: 12th September 2011
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




Abri Reverdit Abri Reverdit


The area under the abri, behind the stone wall.

The two black ends of a hole through a Pierre à Anneau are very noticeable if you click on the right hand photo to see the zoomed version.

Photo: Rayando, via Photobucket
Date: May 2007




Abri Reverdit


The area under the abri, behind the stone wall.

Note the Pierre à Anneau on the floor.

The wall of the shelter is organised in two sub-parallel horizontal levels, offset, giving a stepped profile.

Photo: Bourdier (2008)




Abri Reverdit frieze


Photo montage of the frieze at Abri Reverdit.

The sculptures here are thought to date from the middle Magdalenian, around 14 000 BP. There is a well-preserved fireplace in the shelter.

Photo: Bourdier (2008)




Abri Reverdit frieze


Drawing of the frieze at Abri Reverdit.

Fracture - crack in the wall
Arête supérieure - convex ridge
Arête inférieure - concave ridge, valley
Surface non écaillé - surface which has not been touched
Brossage - scraped surface
Tracé digité récent - recently scraped lines using fingers
Coup métallique - blow from a metallic tool
Mousse - moss

Photo: Bourdier (2008)




Reverdit bison
Abri Reverdit bison from the carved frieze of the abri.

(This bison appears to have been carved using a natural boss on the wall of the cave as a starting point, in much the same way as some of the bison on the roof of Altamira in Spain. This appears especially evident in the poster of the same bison below - Don )

Photo: A. Maulny with permission from I. Castanet-Daumas.

Text: translated and adapted from Bourdier et al. (2010)




Reverdit bison


Abri Reverdit bison in false colour and with side lighting to reveal the contours.

Photo: A. Maulny with permission from I. Castanet-Daumas.




Abri Reverdit frieze


The sculptures have also been modified in the form of fingers dragged across the surface, in order to more easily see the outlines of the animals. They make the contours blurry while the rest is sharp. Again, these digital marks highlight the softness of the walls. Others appear more randomly, without apparent intention, and seem more consistent with the imprints left by curious visitors touching the wall.

This shows the fingered outlines of the first bison foreleg, graphic unit no 2, the main bison, shown above.

Photo: Bourdier (2008)




Abri Reverdit frieze


This represents the best drawing possible of the original bison number 1, the bison to the left, relying on the evidence apparent today.

Photo: Bourdier (2008)




Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet
Posters of parietal art (cave engravings or sculptures in situ) and art mobilier (portable pieces of art) found at the abris of the area.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Reverdit roundel Abri Reverdit roundel

Decorated bone disc or 'roundel' cut from a scapula. There is a perforation in the centre and another at the edge of the piece which has an ancient break. One face is decorated with the forequarters, mane and part of the jaw of a horse, facing left; the opposite has the forequarters and part of the back of one horse, superimposed on the mane, neck and part of the head of another, both facing left. This thin bone has ancient damage around two thirds of its circumference.

Length 6.8 centimetres, width 6.4 centimetres, thickness 0.15 centimetres
Acquisition date: 1919
Excavated by Reverdit in 1878 and identified by one of his labels with the site name and location, as well as his initials AR. Sold to W.A.Sturge then bequeathed to the BM.

Photo and text: http://www.britishmuseum.org/




Abri CastanetAbri Castanet
Posters of (left) an unattributed dig in the Castel-Merle area, and (right) M. René Castanet giving a demonstration of flint knapping. He is a highly skilled practitioner of the art.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Castanet Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Abri Reverdit.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Castel-Merle
The drawing to the left shows clearly how the shelters were used. Rings were carefully and patiently chipped out in the limestone about 50 cm apart to accept thongs which held up animal skin walls. These provided shelter from wind and driving rain and snow.

If I were to do it, I would chip a deep and wide hole first, then tunnel into one side of the hole at its base, then chip away the rest of the stone, leaving a knob with a hole in it. It could not have been easy or fast to do, and I would love to see a closeup of any of these ancient "curtain rings".

The drawing to the right shows stages in the making of necklaces, many of which were found in the Castel-Merle complex.

Photo: © By kind permission of Eric Le Brun http://elebrun.canalblog.com/




Castel-Merle



A typical scene at Vallon des Roches, with a child learning how to knap flint, a man chiselling out a bison on the cliff wall, and a woman stringing beads.

Photo: © By kind permission of Eric Le Brun http://elebrun.canalblog.com/




Castel-Merle


Chiselling out a bison on the cliff wall

Photo: © By kind permission of Eric Le Brun http://elebrun.canalblog.com/




Abri Reverdit


Abri Reverdit

Lower part of a Bison, Abri Reverdit

I must confess, it is not easy to make out the shape!

However, I can make out what appears to be a small front leg, possibly two at the back and a penis (?), and the lower line of the animal, facing to the right.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac




L'Abri Reverdit was found to contain Magdalenian material. It is about 15 m wide, up to 5 m deep and 3 m high. In about 1923 it was also found to contain a little horizontal frieze, about halfway up the wall, of very eroded sculptures in bas- and haut-relief. From left to right, a small horse head (very doubtful), a horse about 1 m long, a bison of the same length, the dorsal line of a possible small bison and finally another longer bison. Part of the horse and the two larger bison are the easiest to discern. They are thought to date to the Middle Magdalenian, around 14 000 years ago. A stratigraphic section can also be seen in the shelter, containing a well preserved fireplace.
Text above adapted from Bahn (2007)

Abri Reverdit

This is a very useful sketch of the bison shown above.

Bottom half of bison in bas-relief (MNP 35-1-1, 35-1-2 MNP, MNP 35-1-3): synthetic picture and tracing.

Photo: © MNP, photo B. and G. Paillet Delluc 1999, tracing C. Bourdier.

Source: Bourdier (2011), http://paleo.revues.org/2070




Abri Reverdit
Sandstone Lamp from Abri Reverdit

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Abri Castanet
Artist's impression of the Castel-Merle area at the time of its occupation during the last ice age, perhaps 15 000 years ago.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Castanet
Map of the Castel-Merle area. It includes rock shelters along the banks of the Vézère and below the cliffs of the side gorge of Vallon des Roches.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Castanet
Display board showing the major divisions of cultural artefacts according to age, type and sophistication.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Castanet
Abri Reverdit

Habitat de l'époque magdalénienne.
Monument historique. (16 000 - 13 000)BP.
Fresques sculptées en bas-relief.
Blocs graves à cupules. Anneaux.
Une importante industrie lithique.
Premier sondage M. Reverdit, en 1878.
Fouilles M. C. Stanet. Delage. Robin.
Coupe stratigraphique. Foyers.
Faune: cheval, bison, cervidé.


Habitat of the Magdalenian period.
Historic monument. (16 000 - 13 000) BP.
Frieze carved in low relief.
Blocks carved with cupules. Pierres à Anneaux.
An important lithic industry.
First survey M. Reverdit in 1878.
Excavations M. C. Stanet. Delage. Robin.
Stratigraphical cross-section. Fireplaces.
Fauna: horse, bison, deer.


Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Reverdit in the Vallon des Roches




Abri Roc d'Acier



Abri Castanet Castel-Merle
Abri Roc d'Acier

Habitat de 50 m de long et 6 m de large, avant l'effondrement de la voûte.
Epoque périgordienne et solutréenne. (28 000 - 18 000) BP.
Premier sondage M. Reverdit en 1878.
Fouilles M. Castanet et F. Delage.
Importante industrie lithique.
Faune: bison, aurochs.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




A rock shelter 50 m long and 6 m wide, before the collapse of the overhang.
Périgordienne and Solutrean era. (28 000 - 18 000) BP.
M. Reverdit first survey in 1878.
Excavations M. Castanet and F. Delage.
Important stone industry.
Wildlife: bison, aurochs.

Abri Roc d'Acier Abri Roc d'Acier
Abri Roc d'Acier

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009


Abri Castanet Abri Castanet
Abri Roc d'Acier

Les sondages effectués sur cette zone révélent la présence d'une stratigraphie identique aux habitats paléolithiques voisins sur 200 m. d'occupation continue.

Surveys carried out in this area reveal the presence of a stratigraphy similar to neighboring Palaeolithic habitats continuously occupied for 200 thousand (???) years. (This seems somewhat optimistic to me. The abbreviation used is m. which usually stands for mille, or a thousand, on the sign. I think it must be an abbreviation for century, which would make it 20 000 years).

Note the ubiquitous use of bamboo for guard rails and so on. Bamboo has taken over large parts of the Vézère valley, and is starting to be used as what Australians call "bush timber". That is, rough uses where milled timber is not necessary.

I understand that this is certainly a former shelter, but the large rocks collapsed on it have made excavations too expensive for the present. No doubt when funds become available it will be excavated.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Abri Castanet Abri Roc d'Acier


Abri Roc d'Acier.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Labattut



Abri Castanet Castel-Merle
L'Abri Labattut

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Habitat de 50 m long et 20 m de large.
Monument historique.
Epoque périgordienne et solutréenne.
(28 000 - 18 000) BP.
Fouilles M. Castanet, H. Breuil, L. Didon.
Gravures et peintures sur blocs.
Industrie lithique et osseuse.
Squelette d'enfant solutréen avec parures de coquilages et dents de cerfs.
Faune: cheval, mammouth, bison, cerf.
Fouilles M. Castanet de 1911 à 1914.


This abri was 50 m long and 20 m wide.
Historical monument.
Perigordian and Solutrean deposits.
28 000 - 18 000 BP.
Excavations carried out by M. Castanet, H. Breuil, L. Didon.
Engravings and paintings on rocks.
Stone and bone industries.
The skeleton of a Solutrean infant was found, with jewellery of shells and deer teeth
Animals: Horses, Mammoths, Bison, Deer.
The excavations by M. Castanet were from 1911 to 1914.

(Note that the skeleton of the infant has been reported rediscovered in the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and is currently being studied - Don)

Labattut

The excavations in 1912.

From left to right M. Féaux, D. Peyrony, L. Didon, A. ou G. de Fayolle, A. Delugin.

Abri Labattut was named from the original owner, Jean Labattut (or Labatut), who sold it to the archaeologist Louis Didon on 23rd May 1911.

Photo: G. de Fayolle, 1912 (SHAP)
Source and text: Brigitte et Gilles Delluc, http://www.hominides.com/html/lieux/abri-labattut.php




Abri Labattut

Fouilles à L'Abri Labattut (Marcel Castanet 1921)

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Abri Labattut Abri Labattut

L'Abri Labattut

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Labattut Abri Labattut

L'Abri Labattut

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Labattut

L'Abri Labattut

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Castel-Merle Abri Castanet Castel-Merle

L'Abri Labattut had a display featuring an engraving and painting of a horse. The painting of a horse is actually from Abri Blanchard, although the engraving of a horse does come from L'Abri Labattut.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at l'Abri Labattut.




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
The display had deteriorated somewhat with time and weather, but was a useful indicator of what had been found there.

The engraving of a horse is now in the American Museum of Natural History.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at l'Abri Labattut.


Castel-Merle

Another version of the horse engraving.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




horse engraving



A better version of the horse engraving.

Photo: http://www.istmira.com/foto-i-video-pervobytnoe-obschestvo/3924-iskusstvo-predystorii-pervobytnost-2.html




Abri Castanet

Engraved horse, enhanced with red ochre.

This is a museum quality facsimile.

The original is housed in the Museum of Natural History, New York.

Photo: http://www.castel-merle.com/




The horse was acquired in the course of a 1912 expedition to Europe to obtain prehistoric artefacts for the collection of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The horse, sculpted in bas relief and found in an early Upper Palaeolithic context at Abri Labattut was probably carved on the wall of the shelter, but was found buried within Palaeolithic archaeological levels. The fact that it was found in a securely dated context makes it particularly valuable. It was taken to New York, where it has remained ever since.

The horse was purchased by Henry Fairfield Osborn, director of the AMNH, and George Grant MacCurdy of Yale University from Louis Didon of Périgeux for 1000 Francs, or $200.

Text above from Simek (1986)

M. Rene Castanet


M. René Castanet in L'Abri Labattut, making a large tool of silex.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Abri Reverdit mammoth and bison

Block from Labattut, broken into three pieces.

Lines and black areas drawn by Abbé Glory who identified at the left a silhouette of a bison, at the centre an unidentified animal, and on the right an incomplete mammoth.

Period: Gravettian, Solutrean. Classified as a Historical Monument 24th August 1931 Sources: L'art des cavernes, atlas des grottes ornées paléolithiques françaises (excluding specific references) Neekoo and Kroko for Hominides.com.

Photo and text: http://www.hominides.com/html/lieux/abri-labattut.php




Deer


L'Abri Labattut had paintings and engravings of a large deer, mammoth, bison, and a hand in negative. This copy of a drawing of a deer in manganese dioxide (a black pigment) is by Abbé Glory.



Photo: Castanet (2006)




Labattut cerf

The original painting.

Photo: Brigitte and Gilles Delluc




Castel-Merle


Engraving of a vulva symbol on a limestone block from Abri Labattut, shown here at Abri Blanchard.



Photo: http://www.svnw.de/bericht/praehistorie.htm




hand negative


The negative image of a hand appears to have been done by the classic method of blowing a suspension of an oxide held in the mouth over a hand placed on the rock, a technique and subject so much favoured in the rock paintings of Australian aborigines.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




L'Abri du Four



Abri Castanet Abri Castanet


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
L'Abri du Four is a natural cave used during the Middle Ages from the 9th to the 15th Centuries, and at one time was a refuge from the invading Norsemen. As with many other shelters or abris, it bears the scars of rafters put in to support roofs of houses which leant against the limestone cliff. Often there is also a thin channel cut in the limestone to accept a leaden sheet which stops seepage down the back wall of the house from rain beating on the cliff wall above.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri du Four Abri du Four
Abri du Four

Habitat du IXème au XVème ème siècle.

Vestiges d'aménagement de constructions en bois intégrées à la paroi rocheuse.

Evier, foyer, four.

Boulins, larmiers.


Abri du Four

Habitat from the 9th to the 15th century

Traces of supports for wooden buildings built into the cliff face.

Sink, fireplace, furnace.

Holes for structural timbers, driplines cut into the rock for roofs.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri La Souquette



Abri Castanet Abri Castanet

Abri La Souquette

Note the line of vegetation above the entrance to the abri. This could be the remnants of a channel dug out of the limestone during the middle ages to accept lead sheet to seal a roof from seepage down the cliff.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008



Abri Castanet Castel-Merle Abri Castanet

Abri La Souquette

Epoques
Aurignacienne (34 000 - 28 000 BP)
Solutréenne (21 000 - 18 000 BP).
Magdalénienne (16 000 - 13 000 BP).

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Habitat médiéval aménagé.
Premier sondage par A. Landesque en 1902.
Fouilles M. Castanet, A. Roussot.
Gravures et peintures sur bloc.
Industrie lithique et osseuse.
Grand nombre d'éléments de parure.
Faune: renne, cheval, bison, ours.



Etageries du IX ième siècle.

Couche 1: superficielle stérile.
Couche 2: argilo-sableuse stérile.
Couche 3: éboulis calcaire, poteries.
Couche 4: déchets de taille de la paroi.
Couche 5: argileuse, silex taillés, poterie.
Couche 6: argilo-sableuse, céramiques.
Couche 7: argilo-sableuse, dallage de pierres.
Couche 8: argileuse, magdalénien.
Couche 9: sableuse, solutréen.
Couche 10: sableuse, fosse silo (Moyen-Age).
Couche 11: sablo-argilée, aurignacien, foyer, gravures sur bloc, colorants.


Site developed during the Mediaeval period.
First survey by A. Landesque in 1902.
Excavations by M. Castanet, A. Roussot.
Engravings and paintings on the stone of the abri.
Lithic and bone industry.
A large amount of personal jewellery.
Wildlife: elk, horse, bison and bear.

Layers starting with IX th century deposits:

Layer 1: sterile surface.
Layer 2: sterile clay and sand layer.
Layer 3: limestone boulders, pottery.
Layer 4: Waste from the abri wall.
Layer 5: clay, worked flint, pottery.
Layer 6: sandy clay, ceramics.
Layer 7: clay and sand, paving stones.
Layer 8: clay from the Magdalenian.
Layer 9: sandy deposits from the Solutrean.
Layer 10: sandy pit silo dug in the Middle Age.
Layer 11: Sandy clay, Aurignacian, fireplace, wall engravings, ochres.

Abri La Souquette carved bison

Engraving of a bison from l'Abri La Souquette. I can make out the lower part of the body, a front and back leg, and part of the dorsal surface.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Abri La Souquette Abri La Souquette

Abri La Souquette.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri La Souquette Abri La Souquette

Abri La Souquette.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri La Souquette Abri La Souquette

Abri La Souquette.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Saïga Antelope, showing only the head, facing to the right, found at La Souquette

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Facsimile (?), Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac

Drawing: Guthrie (2005)


Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet
Parures

Eléments de parures constitués de perles en ivoire de mammouth, en stéatite, ainsi que des couillages marins et dents d'animaux percés.

Dans cet abri fut d'écouverte en 1920 un atelier de fabrication de perles unique au monde. Cet atelier a permis à M. Castanet de comprendre le processus de fabrication des perles 'panier'.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Souquette


Abri Castanet Abri Castanet Abri Castanet
Necklaces

Elements of necklaces made from beads of mammoth ivory and soapstone, as well as marine shells and drilled animal teeth.

In this shelter was discovered in 1920 the workshop production of unique beads. This workshop allowed Mr. Castanet to understand the process of making 'basket beads'.

See the photos from M. René Castanet's museum for the process. Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display at Abri Souquette




Abri du Guetteur




Abri du Guetteur 
Abri du Guetteur
Abri du Guetteur

Cantonnement du IXème siècle et de la Guerre de cent ans.

Post de guet creusé dans le roc en surélévation.

Vestiges de fixations de structures de bois et cordages.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009


Abri du Guetteur (Abri of the Guard)

A cantonment, a temporary or semi-permanent military quarters of the 9th century and the Hundred Years War.

A watchman's post was carved into the rock higher up.

There are traces of the construction of wooden structures and cables. A rough table and chairs has been placed there, useful for students and supervisors in the area, as well as walkers along the river bank.






Continuation of the cliff along the Vézère



Castel-Merle Castel-Merle

The cliff continues for some distance beside the Vézère, with occasional holes in its face where roof rafters had been placed for houses from the Middle Ages.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
This is a very interesting part of the cliff. There is a spring under the overhang which has been protected by stonework, and provides large amounts of crystal clear drinkable water.

This would have been a very valuable resource, both in prehistoric times, and during the Middle Ages when the spring was first probably protected by a stone cover.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle
The first photo shows the spring in the distance, then a shot of the spring, and this photo shows the clarity and abundance of the water. Note what looks like a later addition of a thin layer of mortar or concrete.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
It is a very pleasant walk along the riverbank, and continues for a considerable distance.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
The well beaten path shows that many other people enjoy the walk regularly.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle


Known locally as "le Fort des Anglais", this is an important dovecote, or pigeon house, or pigeonnier. There are holes in the rock to accommodate floor joists, with 148 much larger rectangular holes above for the pigeons. These larger holes would presumably have had wooden or metal grilles as doors.

It also appears that the original cavity has been enlarged and squared off to accommodate a larger, rectangular structure.

Pigeons were an important source of food in Mediaeval times, and were kept for their eggs, flesh, and dung.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle

A former bridge across the Vézère now in disrepair, with canoeists on the opposite bank. The Vézère is well serviced in terms of kayak and canoe rental.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008


Castel-Merle This was a sad sight. The sign was at an abandoned "prehistoric" park, one that was no doubt started with high hopes - but there was little of interest in the area that was not available elsewhere in the Les Eyzies region. It was closed when I was there in 2008, and the sign says the opening was to be in June 2005.

I turned around and retraced my steps.

When I went to the website in May 2009, there was supposed to have been an opening of the park in March 2009, but it was obvious little had been done to the website, since all pages bore the date © 2005. However in June 2011 the website had been updated, and it appears that the park is now open during the summer months.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
The walk back was just as enjoyable.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
This abri looked to me as though it might repay excavation. It would have been a prime site for a shelter, high and wide, offering good views across the river towards the movement of game on the broad grassy opposite bank during the ice age when the trees would have been much smaller or non-existent.

Indeed, this is the abri which had the spring with a plentiful supply of good drinking water, which had been covered by a roof of stone, and a pool dug out as part of the construction. It was certainly occupied at one time.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008









Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac

Abri Castanet
The area is famous for its walnuts. My campsite was beside a walnut orchard. I found that the less civilised the camping area, the better was the camping, with soft ground and (usually) well maintained bathroom facilities. I camped every night of my month long archaeology field trip in the south of France. The weather was generally very kind to me!

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Castanet
The entry to M. René Castanet's Museum at Castel-Merle.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Abri Castanet
Poster on the door of the museum showing M. Castanet's father sieving excavated materials, looking for artefacts.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




 Castanet family

My thanks to Carolyn Hailstones for this charming photo of the Castanet family, including M. René Castanet, Mme Andrea Castanet and Isabelle Castanet, their grandaughter, at their garden/museum in Castel Merle.

It is with great sadness that I must write that M. Castanet died on 28th February 2013, aged 90. His wife Andrea was at his side when he passed away. His funeral was held on Saturday 2nd March 2013 at 4.30 pm at the Church of Sergeac, the town where he had lived all his life, and where he had been mayor for thirty years.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri Abri

M. Castanet uses a wide range of tools for knapping flints, depending on the size, type and quality of the material, as well as the size and type of tool he is making, and the particular size and type of flake he wishes to detach.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Abri

Some of M. René Castanet's store of stones for knapping. Note the red & black obsidian.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009




Castel-Merle
M. René Castanet in his museum. He is a very erudite man, and has been mayor of Sergeac for many years. As well, he is a strong man, and highly skilled in flint knapping, which requires dexterity, skill, strength, and a great understanding of flint. When I was there, he spent two hours showing me the exhibits, and permitted me to take many photographs.

He was kind enough to speak slowly and distinctly, so that I was able to understand his explanations, even though my knowledge of French is limited. I was very grateful for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

He is a true gentleman.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
M. Castanet has written a very useful and interesting book about the local area of Sergeac,
"Les Perles de Sergeac en Périgord Noir" which he was kind enough to sign for me.



Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Castanet (2006)




This post on the Palanth Forum by trehinp expresses my feelings also when I visited M. Castanet's museum a few months later:

I feel so good about sharing with you a wonderful experience. Last Thursday, I went to a visit in Sergeac, near Montignac, on the Vallee de la Vézère, world famous location of the Lascaux Cave.

In Sergeac, a small village on the river side, I met with René Castanet, probably in his mid eighties. He has dedicated his life to the passion he has for the prehistory of his region. It must be said that he was blessed by living in an area where such prehistoric memories are abundant...

Sergeac is located near one of the most well known prehistoric sites : "Abri Blanchard", and the area has preserved, in several stratas, remains of human activities dating from 500K BP up to the Neolithic period. There is also a decorated cave that is open to the public.

René has installed a small museum containing various artefacts from all these periods... Between you an I, this is the most comprehensive collection of original flint stone tools I've ever seen. Unlike other museums, you will see there real prehistoric tools, not facsimile ones as is the case in most museums... There is also a collection of some of the most beautiful Aurignacian necklaces available in the world. And the organisation of the museum is extremely well thought out.

René receives visitors, in small number, in his tiny garden, offering you to take a seat, while he will pick up a flint stone cortex and endeavours to work, in front of your eyes, on the knapping of a prehistoric stone tool. His explanations are wonderfully clear and definitely based on a deep knowledge of the subject and a great experience with the activity. In the end he will give you (he doesn't sell) the final stone tool he just made, which differs only with the prehistoric ones because it doesn't have the wear of a real prehistoric one.

I have learned more about stone tools in this two hours visit with him than in the reading of several books written by scholars... I may comment on this later on.

If you ever get to be near Montignac, you should pay a visit to René, you won't regret it... But do it soon as here is the answer he made when I told him that I would be back to spend more time with him:

"Come back soon, while I'm still here..."

You will find the visit worth it...


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Display at the museum.

Mousterian points.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Display at the museum.

Mousterian points and raclettes (scrapers).

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Poster of a bas-relief of a bison from L'Abri Reverdit, which M. Castanet is indicating with his pointer.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Poster of an engraving of a horse from Abri Labattut.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Engraving of a vulva from Abri Blanchard.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Photo of an engraving of an animal from Abri Blanchard (possibly an ibex -Don)

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Another version of this engraving of an ibex.

Photo: Castanet (2006)


Castel-Merle
Photo of a painting of a horse on the wall of l'Abri Labattut.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
This is a very useful summary of the main art discoveries in the Castel-Merle complex.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Engraved block, with the 'ring' of a Pierre à Anneau, and a vulva.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Engraved block, vulvas.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Engraved block, vulvas.

Dated Aurignacian

L'Abri Blanchard

Photo: http://adamcope.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Saïga Antelope, showing only the head, facing to the right, found at La Souquette

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Facsimile (?), Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac

Drawing: Guthrie (2005)


Castel-Merle
Cupules.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Cupules.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Two cupules with a channel cut to the edge of the block, left and lower right.

These remind me of the portable lamps carved in stone, burning oil or fat, using a wick, which have been discovered in similar deposits.

I am unsure what the carved depression in the upper rock on the right hand photo is for.

Photo: (left) Don Hitchcock 2008
Photo: (right) Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklaces.

I have included the flash photo despite the glare on the glass, because finer detail can be seen on the other parts of the necklace.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Necklaces. Note that the necklace on the left is essentially the same as the necklace in the photo above, with the same shells and teeth.

Photo: Castanet (2006)

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklaces.

I have included the flash photo despite the glare on the glass, because finer detail can be seen on the other parts of the necklace.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklace and a pierced tooth closeup. Careful examination of the tooth reveals that the original almost circular hole has been extended by wear from the thong used to hold the necklace together. This type of wear is well recognised, and is called "keyholing".

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklaces.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklace of animal teeth.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Necklaces.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Perles et pendoloques en ivoire, steatite, coquillages marins et dents perforées. Collections Castanet, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac.

Photo: Castanet (2006)

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Castel-Merle
This is the famous lunar calendar from Abri Blanchard, carved from reindeer antler.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Probably a facsimile, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Another photograph of the lunar calendar.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Castel-Merle
Explanation of the lunar calendar.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Display, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac




Phases of the moonPhases of the moon
Bone plaque from the Abri Blanchard, Sergeac, France, with enlargement of the series of pits, suggested to indicate phases of the moon (drawing after Marshack, A. 1970. Notation dans les Gravures du Paléolithique Supérieur, Bordeaux, Delmas.) Colour photo: source unknown




The following text is from the useful book, 'The Prehistory of Europe' by Patricia Phillips, Allen Lane 1980:

A controversial but imaginative approach to Palaeolithic art has been used over the past decade by Alexander Marshack. This worker believes he has detected notation and symbolism in Upper Palaeolithic art. He investigates artifacts by means of a high-powered microscope, and is also working on the development of spectroscopic techniques for analysis of compositions in the painted caves. The majority of his published results concern mobiliary art; a more recent publication of his draws together evidence for symbolism in the Mousterian, which he regards as the background to the sophistication evident in the early Upper Palaeolithic.

One of Marshack's early reports concerned the lines of pits, strokes or notches cut into six bone or stone plaques of the Aurignacian period, housed at the Musée des Antiquités Nationales at St-Germain-en-Laye. He concluded that the pits occurred in multiples of thirty to thirty-one, and were produced by a series of techniques, for instance stabbing, curving to the left or to the right. In a bone plaque from the Abri Blanchard, Sergeac, Dordogne, in sixty-nine marks there were twenty-four changes in the type of pitting (see figure above). According to Marshack the type of technique changes with the different phases of the moon, when the moon becomes crescent-shaped, full or dark. The Abri Blanchard plaque bore eighty-one marginal marks which, in addition to the original sixty-nine, would comprise a record of about six months. Similar analysis suggested that the marks on both sides of a schist pebble from Barma Grande on the Riviera amounted to a total tally of fifteen months. A decorated bone bearing the design of a horse and rows of pits from La Marche, central France, bore a lunar notation of seven and a half months; the horse had been 're-used' several times. These markings could possibly have been used to represent the seasonal sequence of regional phenomena or economic activities, or ceremonies.


Castel-Merle

I find this photograph of M. Marcel Castanet (father of M. René Castanet) sieving deposits very evocative. It is very well composed and executed. His work was ground-breaking in the understanding of "basket shaped" beads.

Photo: Castanet (2006)




Castel-Merle
Stages in the making of beads.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
This is a very interesting phallus carved from a bison horn from Abri Blanchard. The carving is about 36 000 years old and is 250 millimeters long. It must be one of the largest such phallus shapes ever found. The carving shows clearly the cleft at the end of the phallus, seen especially in the photo on the right.

Note also the carved bone in the foreground.

Photo: (left) Don Hitchcock 2008
Photo: (right) Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: Facsimile, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


blanchard penis





Another version of the phallus above, length 250 mm

Photo: Roger Joussaume, CNRS


Abri Blanchard Abri Blanchard Abri Blanchard
Aurignacian of l'abri Blanchard des Roches à Sergeac, Dordogne

28: Sculpture figurant un phallus, corne, sculpture of a phallus, horn.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014
Source: Original, Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye




Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
Phallus carved in stone from Abri Castanet, showing testicles as well. I have outlined the carving in the version on the right.

The flat stone in front is there just to prop up the carved stone, as far as I can tell.

Photo: Carolyn Hailstones 2009

Source: original, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle
Reindeer antler is a very useful raw material for a wide variety of tools, since it is freely available, easily carved, yet tough in use.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle Castel-Merle
M. Castanet has displays of prehistoric tools from many parts of Europe and Africa. I was particularly interested in the Mousterian tools from Vienna, Austria, in the photograph on the right. To me, the material looks very similar to some types of Australian common opal.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals, Musée de la préhistoire à Sergeac


Castel-Merle


Tools of the Upper Paleolithic found at Castel-Merle

Photo: Castanet (2006)




References

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  2. Bahn, P.G., 2007: Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe Published by Frances Lincoln ltd, 2007 ISBN 0711226555, 9780711226555 224 pages
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  5. Bourdier, C., 2011: Specifications and relatives of the rock system of protected Reverdit (Sergeac, Dordogne) Paleo22 | 2011, 53-68.
  6. Castanet, R., 2006: Les Perles de Sergeac en Périgord Noir Grapho 12 Imprimeur, 12200 Villefranche-de-Rouergue, ISBN 2 9510260 1-3
  7. Delage, F., 1927: Sergeac : un beau site périgourdin, un centre de recherches préhistoriques, Imp. de la Vézère, 22 p. ill.
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  10. Delluc B. & Delluc G., 1978: Les manifestations graphiques aurignaciennes sur support rocheux des environs des Eyzies (Dordogne), Gallia Préhistoire , Tome 21 fascicule 2, 1978. pp. 333-438.
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  12. Didon L., 1911: L’Abri Blanchard des Roches (commune de Sergeac). Gisement aurignacien moyen, Bulletin de la Société Historique et Archéologique du Périgord, 87, 246–61 & 321–45.
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  15. Jaubert J., 2008: L'art pariétal gravettien en France: éléments pour un bilan chronologique, Paléo, 20 | 2008, 439-474.
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  17. MacCurdy, G.G., 1931: Anthropology: Vol. 17, 1931 pp 633-637
  18. Mellars, P., 1996: The Neanderthal legacy: an archaeological perspective from western Europe Published by Princeton University Press ISBN 0691034931, 9780691034935 471 pages
  19. Peyrony, D., 1935: Le gisement de Castanet, Vallon de Castelmerle, commune de Sergeac (Dordogne). Aurignacien I et II.- Bull. S.P.F., T. XXXII (19): 418-443.
  20. Simek, J., 1986: A Paleolithic Sculpture from the Abri Labattut in the American Museum of Natural History CollectionCurrent Anthropology, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Aug. - Oct., 1986), pp. 402-407
  21. Straus, L.G. (ed.), 2001: The Role of American Archeologists in the Study of the European Upper Paleolithic, Actes du XIVème Congrès UISPP, Université de Liège, Belgique, 2-8 septembre 2001
  22. Vernet et al., 1998: Quaternary International, vol 47/48, 139-146 - Vernet et al., Tephrostratigraphy of the last 160 ka in Western Limagne (France)
  23. White R., 1989: Production complexity and standardisation in early Aurignacian bead and pendant manufacture: Evolutionary implications, in The Human Revolution: Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origins of Modern Humans eds. C. Stringer & P. Mellars. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 366–90.
  24. White R., 2007: Systems of Personal Ornamentation in the Early Upper Palaeolithic: Methodological Challenges and New Observations. In, Mellars, Paul, Boyle, Katie, Bar-Yosef, Ofer and Stringer, Chris (eds.) Rethinking the Human Revolution: New Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origin and Dispersal of Modern Humans. Cambridge, UK, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 287-302. (McDonald Institute Monographs).
  25. White R., Mensan R., Bourillon R., Cretin C., Higham T., Clark A., Sisk M., Tartar E., Gardere P., Goldberg P., Pelegrin J., Valladas H., Tisnerat-Laborde N., de Sanoit J., Chambellan D., Chiotti L., 2012: Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France, PNAS May 29, 2012, vol. 109, no. 22



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