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Prehistoric pigment characterisation of the Abri Pataud rock-shelter (Dordogne, France)

Matthieu Lebon, Lucile Beck, Sylvain Grégoire, Laurent Chiotti, Roland Nespoulet, Michel Menu, Patrick Paillet
  • Matthieu Lebon
    UMR171 CNRS, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France - C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, Paris; UMR 7194 CNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France | lebon@mnhn.fr
  • Lucile Beck
    UMR171 CNRS, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France - C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Sylvain Grégoire
    UMR171 CNRS, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France - C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Laurent Chiotti
    UMR 7194 CNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France
  • Roland Nespoulet
    UMR 7194 CNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France
  • Michel Menu
    UMR171 CNRS, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France - C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, Paris, France
  • Patrick Paillet
    UMR 7194 CNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

Abstract

Iron oxide pigments found in archaeological context constitute an important source of information for the understanding of cultural and subsistence activities of ancient human cultures. In order to complete archaeological contextual information, many analytical methods have been applied to characterise pigments and to provide further information on this material (e.g. supplies, selections, mechanical or physical transformations of raw material, use and application processes). Several studies have demonstrated that the elemental composition of iron oxide pigments can be used to discriminate between several geological provenances. In this study, non-destructive micro-particle induced Xray emission analysis was applied in order to distinguish different kinds of reddish pigments from the prehistoric site of Abri Pataud, more especially from the Layer 2 attributed to Final Gravettian period (22,000 BP). By using an external beam, this technique required no sampling, and enabled us to perform localised analyses directly on raw material, on ochre residues applied on artefacts or on fragments of the wall of this rock-shelter. The results obtained by this technique demonstrate that the pigments covering the decorated fragments of the rock-shelter wall, found during the excavation of the Layer 2, have elemental compositions similar to the composition of a raw pigment found in the same layer. These results suggest that the shelter was decorated during the Final Gravettian period and thus provide new insights for the understanding of the archaeological context of this occupation layer.

Keywords

pigment characterisation, Abri Pataud rock-shelter, Dordogne

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Submitted: 2014-04-23 16:44:48
Published: 2014-06-18 12:02:29
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