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Humans of Chauvet-Pont d'Arc

Symbolic expressions

The Aurignacian  culture was one of the first cultures to prevail in such a homogeneous fashion throughout south-western Europe, during a period of demographic expansion of populations of modern sapiens identical to ourselves. Over 40,000 years ago, the Aurignacian was preceded in Europe by a set of cultures known as Protoaurignacian, with different approaches to the concept of their tools.

Personal ornamentation is omnipresent in the Aurignacian in the form of objects taken from different animal species: the teeth of ungulates and carnivores (wolf, lion, fox etc.) and seashells.  Some of these artefacts – beads and pendants – were produced from hard organic materials (bone, reindeer antler and ivory). Music, evidenced by bird bone and ivory flutes, and probably the bodily arts (such as dance) would have played an important role in artistic expression.

Statuettes of mammoths, lions, horses, bears and rhinoceros make up the majority of portable Aurignacian portable art, such as those of the Aurignacian sites of the Swabian Jura around 40,000 years ago. This figurative bestiary is also to be found in the cave art of the Chauvet Cave. It shows the power and strength of the animal, which was both hunted and consumed.

The part-human, part-animal representations of the Aurignacian constitute original imaginary works attesting to the artistic brilliance with which myth was transposed into plastic creation. This is the case of the mysterious man-lion discovered in the Swabian Jura, which integrates the animal spirit into a resolutely human silhouette, or of the Venus pendant in the Chauvet Cave.