Institute of Archaeology

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Institute students gain insights into Palaeolithic cave art

16 July 2012

IoA, UCL team and CNP team in Les Eyzies, Dordogne, June 2012

A group of Institute students has recently returned from a field trip in the Vezere Valley in Dordogne, gaining unprecedented access to Palaeolithic decorated cave sites. 

The field trip was organised by Didier Bouakaze-Khan in conjunction with his Masters courses on World Rock Art: from Palaeolithic to Present and Rock Art Studies: Theories, Methods and Management.

A group of 9 students accompanied by Jeremy Tanner and Didier were hosted by the Musee National de Prehistoire and its Director, Jean-Jacques Cleyet-Merle and the team of the Centre National de Prehistoire, headed by Prof Jean-Michel Geneste, in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in Dordogne from 24-28 June 2012.

Vincent Meijer (IoA, UCL) presenting his research at MNP, Les Eyzies de Tayac, June 2012

Three students from the group (Vincent Meijer, Adam Lord and Felipe Armstrong) presented their current research at a seminar attended by some of the leading expert in rock art studies in France.

The rest of the field trip concentrated on visiting decorated caves, some of which have restricted access for conservation reasons. The group was also allowed access to other caves closed to the public and benefited from a detailed guided tour of Font de Gaume, Les Combarelles and Rouffignac caves as well as the rock-shelters of Cap Blanc and Le Poisson.

Dr Catherine Cretin (CNP) explaining the experimental rock art research being undertaken at Abri Castanet to the UCL team

An Inspector from the Monuments Historiques guided the students to the caves of Le Domme and Pigeonnier, where they were able to see Gravettian engravings and sculpted reliefs of mammoth.

The group then visited excavations at Abri Castanet, directed by Prof Randall White (New York University). During this visit students were able to observe experimental work being undertaken to study the impact of engraving tools on the rock surface.

The field trip ended with a visit to Lascaux II in Montignac, which is an exact replica of a portion of the famous Lascaux Cave, in order to gain an insight into the conservation of a Palaeolithic decorated cave.

Prof Randall White (NYU) explaining his work at Abri Castanet to the UCL team

The very successful field trip, made possible thanks to the financial support provided by the Institute of Archaeology, was instrumental in enabling the students to get a real insight into Palaeolithic cave art.

Read more about collaborative links being developed by the UCL Institute of Archaeology in this subject area here»