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Discover the cave

Research

Combined approaches

The multidisciplinarity explored at Chauvet for studying decorated caves has led to new work methods for each of the specialisms present. Certain questions raised by the observations of one discipline are addressed by the work of other specialists. Certain problems that call upon two research domains have even created new disciplines.

Parietalists and geoarchaeologists

For example, when studying decorated panels, the parietalists noticed an order in the execution of the figures.  

  • The first decoration was done using charcoal on hardened walls.
  • Bears then scratched the decorated surface.
  • An unquantified time passed, and humans came back, drawing and sketching again, but this time on a surface that had become softer.  

This chronology is clearly visible in the superpositions, but aside from the possibility of humans and bears cohabiting together in the cave, meaning that there must be at least one season between their respective traces, parietalists have no way of evaluating the time elapsed between the two events. Analysis of the graphic technique has made it possible to establish that charcoal was used for both phases of drawings, but the first time using dry charcoal, and the second time using smudged charcoal. The latter effect plays on the plasticity of the limestone. Consequently, the question was: what natural phenomenon could have turned dry, hard limestone into wet, soft limestone? And how long does this take to happen? These answers could be provided by the work of geoarchaeologists. So far, there is no formal response, but a new discipline has emerged and is looking into this, as well as other wider matters. This discipline is the taphonomy of decorated walls.