Zweifel an der Datierung von Grotte Chauvet

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Zweifel an der Datierung von Grotte Chauvet

Beitragvon hunasiensis » 10.01.2010 12:06

Schon lange bestanden Zweifel an der Datierung von Grotte Chauvet ins Aurignacien. Diese Zweifel an der Radiocarbondatierung und an der stilistischen Einordnung ins Aurignacien waren schon seit Jahren von Pettitt bzw. Züchner vorgebracht, aber vom Grotte Chauvet-Team nicht ausgeräumt worden.

In einer Festschrift für Alexander Marshak haben nun Pettitt, Bahn und Züchner ihre Zweifel zusammengefasst. Davon hier die Introduction und die Conclusion:

Paul Pettitt, Paul Bahn, and Christian Züchner

The spectacular Upper Palaeolithic art of the
Grotte Chauvet (Ardeche, France) includes over
420 images in two broad series, black and red.
Given the sophistication of the techniques and
artistic skill displayed in many of the cave’s
images, it plays an important role in our understanding
of the origins of art, Upper Palaeolithic
behavior, and wider issues such as the emergence
of ‘modern’ cognition. On the basis of a few radiocarbon
dates directly on black (charcoal) images
and a number of dates on charcoal from the cave
floor, the Chauvet team ascribe the art to the
European Early and Mid Upper Palaeolithic,
specifically the Aurignacian and Gravettian.
Such an early date (ca. 32–26 kyr BP) is remarkable
given that the style of the art, techniques of
surface preparation, execution, perspective and
the subjects depicted are found elsewhere only
from the Solutrean and Magdalenian, i.e., half
the suggested age of Chauvet. Previously, we have
raised the possibility that the Chauvet art is
much later than the team suggest, on the basis of
style and content (ZŸchner), and we have questioned
the robustness of the direct dating program
(Pettitt and Bahn). As the team have yet to
respond satisfactorily to the issues we raised, we
repeat and develop our themes here. In addition,
we raise objections to the Chauvet team’s archaeological
reasoning. We divide our comments and
concerns into the areas of style and the paradox
of “Chauvet evolution”; tautologies and anachronisms
in the Chauvet team’s case; the dating
program; available access to the cave in
Antiquity; the archaeology of Chauvet cave and
the surrounding region; analogies of the Chauvet
art with Aurignacian art; and technical problems
with the dating program. We put forward what
we hope is a falsifiable hypothesis, i.e., that most
of the art is of Solutreo-Magdalenian age, half
that of what the Chauvet team suggest.
We are happy to dedicate this paper to Alex
Marshack, a man who was constantly questioning
the orthodox view of the Palaeolithic. Like ourselves,
he was profoundly troubled by the inherent
contradictions in the data emerging from Chauvet
cave, and one of us (PB) had numerous discussions
with him about this problem.


Chauvet’s art remains undated to any satisfactory
degree. Attempts to prove its Aurignacian age by
comparison with other caves have so far failed,
and there is as yet no archaeological material
from the cave which can be attributed to the period
and which cannot be attributed to later periods.
There is an ever-growing list of features,
motifs and techniques in the cave’s art which are
normally – and securely – ascribable to later
phases of the Upper Palaeolithic. The official
researchers’ view is that Chauvet was only frequented
and decorated in the Aurignacian and
Gravettian (though one should recall that Clottes
has admitted a possible Magdalenian visit – see
Pettitt and Bahn 2003:139).
Two of us initially expressed no firm belief
about the age of the art, merely a concern that its
age had not been at all demonstrated. In the sad
absence of any attempt to address our concerns
by the Chauvet team, and with the accumulation
of additional problems, inconsistencies and contradictions,
we now suggest that the ‘younger
chronology’ suggested by one of us is at present
far more sensible, and at present fits the available
data far better. Thus, while one cannot rule
out the possibility of a limited amount of
Aurignacian art in Chauvet, by far the greater
amount of its parietal figures should be attributed
to the Gravettian, Solutrean and
Magdalenian. Hence, even if the radiocarbon
dates obtained on charcoal from the floor are
accurate, it is perfectly possible that later visitors
to the cave used the abundance of charcoal with
which to make drawings, as one could do today.
Thus, radiocarbon is dating the death of the trees
in question, not the use of the charcoal to make
art. This is a difficult proposition to prove or disprove,
but in our opinion this is the best-fit
hypothesis – otherwise, one would need to
assume that the Aurignacian and Gravettian
decoration of Chauvet was a unique episode in
the history of art, which left no subsequent trace,
and which had no effects at all even on the many
other decorated caves of the region. In effect,
Palaeolithic art would have to be divided into
two phases; Chauvet, and Post-Chauvet, with no
link between them. We find this extremely hard
to believe.

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