Mapping of Prehistoric Walls to produce an Identity For Ancient French Cave Art

Recently, researchers have mapped the Grotte du Mammouth prehistoric rock art site in France with modern High-resolution cartography. The technique was used to do the various analysis of rock art.  At the prehistoric rock art site, researchers have established an innovative approach for mapping the walls of the cave at Grotte du Mammouth. The methodology comprises a geological & geomorphological investigation of the rock art walls. These two techniques are also combined with innovative mapping & modern recording methods to yield a comprehensive “identity card” of the rock art and its topographies.

Mammoth between two ceiling pockets located before the head and above the hindquarters (photo E. Lesvignes), source: Journal of Archaeological Science,

This archaeological site of Grotte du Mammouth is located in Domme city, near the Dordogne River. The place is a portion of a bunch of hollows in the limestone hills. According to the scholars, the caves belong to the Pleistocene or Pliocene as per their altitude that is eighty metres above the valley of Dordogne.  

The present morphology of the cave is the outcome of cracking of the limestone of the hills, and some other natural processes such as fluvial- or pseudo-karstic genesis. Grotte du Mammouth‘s one of the core features is the variation in cave walls due to the integration of limestone into sandy remnants in the entering area and the casing of the rock layers by a dense, dry calcite film in the deepest area.

Mammoth, Credits: photo by E. Lesvignes,  source: Journal of Archaeological Science,

Researchers have established a unified archaeological and geomorphological method to map the rock paintings and engravings that emphases on fundamentals of the sequence of events, elegance, and practices used within the geological situation. This method is based on a comprehensive geological study of Grotte du Mammouth merging results from sedimentology and karstogenesis for more consistently recognize probable signs. It can be implemented for forming a relative sequence of events of traces that are anthropic in nature.

The plotting technique used for rock art is an analysis on the basis of first-hand annotations of the rock art walls. The main objectives were to classify and measure anthropogenic specimens on artificial drafts. Formation of high-resolution image data of the art depicted on the rock walls along with considering the constrictions of orthogonality, bordering, image resolution, and illumination. Based on the separate wall features, 3D photogrammetric techniques are also used along with and instead of conventional photography. Digitalization of recording is also done with the help of original documents.

The team of researchers has made a thorough directory of karstic geographies existing in the Grotte du Mammouth for recording and relating the key stages of the cave system, enable talks between archaeologists. The recording and defining of basics of the micro-relief are also done which are not usually present in the literature.

The human past is written in the ancient books by historians. But humans are living on this planet much before the invention of writing and books. Prehistoric rock art is the most ancient book in the world. The picture is not drawn on the paper but on the rock surface. The usual analysis of prehistoric rock art is mainly concerned with the images and engravings, dating, their practical or technical features, typology, structure, and chemical composition. 

For more information, please read the original research Paper

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