Palaeolithic Decorated Cave In Normandy

Gouy is a very small cave. This characteristic has been amplified during modern times. The cave's natural entrance disappeared during the construction of the highway, which cut through the side of the hill. All that remains is a narrow corridor, about 12 m long and 2 m wide (at its start) which grows narrower towards the back, until it forms a kind of impenetrable fissure. The rock descends twice to almost 50 cm above the archaeological floor, and thus these low passages delimit three very small chambers (Fig. 9.1). The cave is hollowed into a white chalk dating to the Senonian (Cretaceous). It is a soft rock containing flints: (1) in layers several centimetres thick, which are discontinuous and more than a metre equidistant (one ofthese layers constitutes the cave's ceiling); (2) in the form of flint nodules, with protuberances of different sizes, that are scattered over the walls.

History and Research

We discovered the cave and the engravings it contains in 1956 after a major clearance at the back of the first chamber (Graindor and Martin 1972). However, next to the magnificent engraved horse there were inscriptions in black: 'a Gouy', 'Jamelin', 'Narcisse Reboursier', and '1881'. I carried out some research and found traces of these two people in the commune's archives; they were both inhabitants of Gouy. The first was a road mender and the second a mason. It is very probable that these men were aware of the importance of their discovery, which took place only two years after that of Altamira. But at

Fig. 9.1. Plan and sections of Gouy, with location of the graphic registers

that time parietal art had not yet been recognized by the scientific community. Moreover, the discoverer of Altamira, Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, was accused of naivety and imposture, and died in 1888 before his brilliant intuition was unanimously confirmed. Hence the difficulties that these two modest inhabitants of Gouy would have encountered, if they had tried to make their discovery known.

Having carried out a collective recording of the horse wall, with former speleological companions, P. Martin presented it to the curator of the Musee des Antiquites in Rouen, R. Flavigny, who immediately informed the director of the Circonscription des Antiquites Prehistoriques, M. J. Graindor, who visited the cave and recognized its scientific importance. Shortly after the visit by H. Breuil, on 16 December 1958, the excavation of the cave began, directed by M. J. Graindor.

The stratigraphy observed was as follows, from bottom to top:

• blocks of chalk, sterile rubble;

• chalky, yellow, powdery limestone sand (average thickness 30 cm);

• chalky, yellow, packed limestone sand (average thickness 3 cm): archaeological floor;

• chalk powder with chalk blocks scattered through it (average thickness 3 cm);

• chalk blocks (thickness 0 to 30 cm): rubble of the historic period.

Conservation and Moulding

In 1961, all of the walls of the first chamber were cleared of the rubble beneath which they had hitherto been buried. The full extent of the cave's dilapidated state became apparent. Large fissures and a whole network of more slender cracks led to fears that blocks and entire panels of rock might become detached. Everything pointed to the possibility that the cave might collapse at any time.3

3 This is all the more troubling as transparent filaments tend to grow on this fragile rock support. They come from the plant cover. They were delicately eliminated, in the course of the research programmes (before they could develop, and damage the walls). As the last programme was regrettably postponed (despite the favourable decision of the Commission Interregional de la Recherche Archeologique Grand Ouest), I no longer have access to the cave. The monograph on Gouy is in preparation. Official authorization is necessary to resume studies in the cave, in order to finish the research and publish it as intended. In the mean time vigilance has not been maintained. These past few years, on three occasions when I was invited to be present at the cave, I have pointed out that these roots have seriously developed over several square metres of engraved wall.

An emergency support was installed under the passage leading to the second chamber, and injections of 'glue' were applied to the base of the walls to stabilize this sector. A campaign of tracing and photography was undertaken, as well as a study of the possibilities of making casts. Different techniques were tested to try and produce replicas with the exact relief of a part of the decorated walls. These casts were also to become an important resource in the study of the cave.

The tests were carried out with a variety of products, on limestone blocks and slabs that were placed in the cave to give them similar hygrometric and thermal conditions. Our top priority was that the fragile walls should be preserved intact and undamaged, and no deterioration should affect them in the course of the operation. As surprising as it may seem, it was a process involving a 'stamping' with clay which proved to be particularly appropriate in meeting the requirements of the invaluable cave (Martin 1974, 1993).

The limestone of Gouy is porous, but saturated with water because of a high ambient hygrometry (90 to 95 per cent relative humidity) though its surface does not exude. During tests, it became clear that the clay, of appropriate consistency, did not stick to it, but did produce a precise imprint of the engraved wall and a very faithful reproduction of it (with the help of clay negatives).

Although the casting of the Gouy engravings by this process benefited from highly favourable factors, this procedure is not definitely reproducible elsewhere, nor repeatable at Gouy. Any operation requiring a direct contact with the wall should really only be used once: in an extreme case, where there is a clear and inescapable danger (for example, of extreme urgency linked to conservation) or as in the very specific cases of Font-de-Gaume (Brunet and Vidal 1981), or the Grande Grotte of Arcy-sur-Cure (Baffier and Girard 1998).

These casts are very useful for study. New elements are discovered thanks to observation of the replicas in the laboratory. Through their great handiness, the casts obtained enable one to make complementary observations which cannot be carried out in the cave—for example, because more varied and prolonged illumination is possible. Modification of the reproduced surfaces is possible, if necessary (for example, by darkening them), in order to be able to better read the fine details of the engraved lines. This brings them out clearly and accurately in white on the dark background.

Moreover, an unexpected benefit of the casting at Gouy was the restoration to the wall of detached blocks whose original position had been unknown. The imprint of the broken part of these blocks helps to fit them to the wall (by comparison), because the negative image is identical to that of the original location and thus facilitates this kind of investigation.

Parietal Layout

Gouy's walls comprise two very different registers (Figs. 9.1 and 9.2):

(A) a lower register, with engravings that are mostly strongly incised and highly visible;

(B) an upper register, with extremely light engravings, that are barely visible. These two registers are themselves subdivided into three homogeneous but distinct groups.

Group I comprises most of the engravings in the lower register (engravings with strong incisions with thick and thin strokes and varying depths, basrelief). The representations are conventional, but fairly close to nature.

Group II comprises the six animal representations of the small engraved assemblage (9-10-11), unique of its kind. A stone engraved with a small mammal also belongs to this group. Two heads out of the six are distinguished by an internal fill of criss-cross lines (engravings with strong incisions with thick and thin strokes and varying depths). The representations are conventional, but again fairly close to nature.

Group III comprises most of the engravings in the upper register and is found only in the first chamber (engravings: extremely fine, rock barely incised; lines: discreet, hesitant, uniform, and monotonous, static animals). The representations are conventional, schematic, and is far removed from nature. Frequent internal fill (bovid and triangular signs), made up of various assemblages of criss-cross lines.

Lower register

About sixty groups of engraved lines, signs, and often small figurative subjects (around 10 to 40 cm) can be made out quite easily at this level. Hence, in an abundant and peculiar tangle of engraved lines, nineteen clearly drawn animal depictions have been recorded so far: seven horned animals (aurochs mostly); eight horses; one bird; three undetermined animals. In addition to these easily readable animals, there are also four depictions of vulvas and several triangular signs. A few other depictions were made by lines completing an evocative natural relief.

It is possible to stand upright in three places in the cave. For this reason they have been conventionally called 'chambers', although they are very small.

A simultaneous reading of the two walls is often necessary at Gouy because of their proximity. Indeed, the correspondence of the drawings on them is such that, from one wall to the other, they sometimes seem to be 'answering' each other. This 'mirror' or 'echo' layout is adopted in the reading and the presentation of Gouy's parietal art (Fig. 9.2).

Fig. 9.2. Plan of Gouy, with distribution of the engravings in the lower register

First chamber

Immediately beyond the present entrance (left wall), the wall forms an angle with the masonry of the entrance wall that is too closed to allow observation from in front. Without a photographic decentring chamber, photos produce deformed images.

Intentional incisions are neatly cut through at the point where the cave was truncated to build the road. Enclosing eleven parallel lines, a head (probably that of a horse or aurochs), at the bottom of the wall, miraculously escaped destruction. Both ears (too big for a horse) are present. The right one curves back at the top and provides a supplementary argument in favour of aurochs. The mouth, cut from the end of the nose to the lower jaw, has disappeared. This mutilated head is one of the clearest witnesses to the damage the cave has suffered (Image 01; see Figure 9.2). But this vestige does not make it possible to assess exactly the probably great extent of what has been destroyed (Figure 9.3).

To the right, lower down and at eye level, there are two very visible vulvae (4). Each of them is surrounded by the drawing of the pubis (Figures 9.4 and 9.5). The curved upper line gives them a 'badge' or 'shield' shape (15 and 10 cm high). These vulvae are deeply marked with intentional cupules.

The second, the smaller of the two, is next to the depiction of a bird with two complete legs (5). This engraving of a bird is complex, and comprises very numerous superimpositions (Martin 1988). Further left, the engraving (3) is another vestige, probably a segment of the outline of a pubis (through comparison: the right upper angle of a third vulva). Some traces of red ochre paint, intentionally applied to the wall, accompany this engraved assemblage. They survive, often as simple traces, and sometimes very diffuse, concentrated only on what remains of the walls of the first chamber (cf. 'Use of paint in Gouy' below).

The chronological order of the superimpositions has made it possible to deduce five phases in the production of this assemblage (4-5):

(1) fine engraving;

(2) red ochre paint;

(3) more or less fine engraving;

(5) blows struck to the wall and the engraving, marked by six very visible impacts, some of which destroyed several square centimetres of engraving.

On the opposite wall (right wall), a very realistic vulva (15 cm) was carved in bas-relief (55). The sculptor probably took advantage of a natural triangular protuberance, efficiently reworking its curves in order to highlight the pubis (Fig. 9.6). The wall around it was also unquestionably sculpted (to a large extent).

Fig. 9.3. Gouy; aurochs head (probable)
Fig. 9.4. Engravings (4-5): vulvas and bird
Fig. 9.5. Two possible vulvae (4), surrounded by the drawing of the pubis in a 'badge'; or 'shield' shape

Above, there are a few 'barbed' lines (54). At the same level, further towards the back of the cave, there are two vulvae, but this time simple geometric triangles (5 cm), with deeply hollowed-out cupules (Figures 9.7, 9.8, and

Fig. 9.6. Vulva (55): Gouy is one of the very few Palaeolithic sites and caves to have an exceptional bas-relief vulva on its walls

Fig. 9.7. Vulva (51), with an oval cupule, clearly gouged into the lower point of a simple equilateral triangle

Fig. 9.8. Vulva (53), with a firmly gouged cupule at the lower point of a triangle sloping to the right

9.30) at the lower point of the triangles (51-3). They are accompanied by a 'branching' sign; a third, bigger cupule is accompanied by a vertical line. Further left, there is a third triangular form with a fine line (50). Below the latter are two signs drawn with a few lines (49).

On the left wall, at the same height, near the entrance, there is an aurochs head (2).

Above, three animals with very visible heads (1), seem to leap to the right; their lines are very spontaneous and particularly fine and lively (cervids and equids?).

Thanks to scaffolding, it was possible to restudy this assemblage (see below), and this led to the discovery of another animal (20 cm x 14 cm) (Figure 9.9). It is engraved less deeply than the three animal heads that seem to follow it (Martin 1973). It is a horse (the only one in the whole cave, practically complete) drawn

Fig. 9.9. Small horse, followed by other animals that are less clearly identifiable

realistically (faithful to nature). Its head seems partly destroyed, its two ears are very visible. Its mane is indicated by a series of short parallel vertical lines (sometimes criss-cross), as was done for an engraved horse in Fontanet no. 66, both of them being the same size (Vialou 1987). It ends in a tuft-shape at the level of the withers. Its dorsal line is well indicated, as is its rump and tail.

With this little horse we have, at Gouy, the first and only complete depiction of this animal: legs, hocks, fetlocks, pasterns, and hoofs (rounded). The belly is very rounded and, at this spot, the wall caused a reworking of the line in the middle of the belly. The drawing continues towards the front sections (which are very hard to read). The line used for the whole of the animal is very fine. A horizontal fracture separates the animal's flank into two. The rock support is very damaged, and contains numerous fissures and microfissures. Some elements of the wall have alas disappeared, along with their engraved surfaces. However, a small animal head (unidentified) survives above the horse, while the biggest part of the body has disappeared (probably a fourth head forming part of the group).

The first of the three animal heads, already known before this discovery (on the left), is engraved on the tail of the 'new horse'. Despite the trace of a blow

Fig. 9.10. Deterioration of the rock support and successive phases of decoration

which slightly obliterated the engraving, the superimposition is clear. The small horse was thus engraved before these three animals. It should be noted that its pose is rather static, whereas the other animals give an impression of running.

Fragments of an older wall that was decorated earlier

On the right, some 2.1 m towards the back of the cave, there is an assemblage of lines with a small cupule, here again clearly made by the engraver's tool (6). There is also a sign that has remained unpublished until today because of the difficulties in achieving the lighting necessary to make it appear in its totality (Martin 1973: 39). This original sign is made up of extremely brisk, deep incisions. A series of short lines radiates, more or less, from the cupule.

At the same level, and just nearby, there is a horse (8), made with multiple light lines, among which one can recognize the head, the dorsal line, and the beginnings of a leg.

The examination of the wall reveals the great interest of these engravings, which include some superimpositions. These very clear superimpositions could make it possible to deduce different stages in the cave's decoration, that is, successive artistic episodes.

Following the superficial disintegration of the decorated wall (at this spot), the newly created surface was also engraved in its turn. Hence, it takes the

"Goonarsdiyf

Fig. 9.11. The animal stampede (9-10-11): a dynamic composition that is extremely well thought out

"Goonarsdiyf

Fig. 9.11. The animal stampede (9-10-11): a dynamic composition that is extremely well thought out form of fragments of engraved wall which survive today. These are a little like islets on a new available surface (Figure 9.10). These 'fragments' are the only evidence of the ancient decorated wall, which has largely disappeared. They are surrounded by grainy surfaces that appeared later, after the superficial disintegration of the old decorated wall. The grainy surfaces were also engraved afterwards, but differently. The new lines never look like those found on the 'fragments'.

The incisions (on the 'islets') are remarkably precise and fine (when seen through a binocular magnifying glass). Opposite, on the other wall (right wall) and at the same height, some extremely similar elements correspond to the same processes of deterioration of the wall and of successive decorations (see Fig. 9.30).

The stampede

On the right, and above (9), in the 'passage' from the first to the second chamber, is an assemblage of six animals. These extremely visible, dynamic, and original drawings convey the impression that this group is rushing

Fig. 9.12. (left) Detail of the engraving (9): two heads (one above the other) Fig. 9.13. (right) Horse head (clearly identifiable)

leftwards in a herd. The 'stampede' (also called assemblage II or designated by numbers 9-10-11) was made with brisk, asymmetrical V-shaped incisions, on the rims of which one can clearly see the marks left by the engraver's tool.

The lines still look fresh because this engraving was made at the back of a sort of niche, where it was protected. This assemblage includes the deepest incisions of all the engravings in Gouy (Fig. 9.11).

Here we are faced with a veritable graphic composition: its layout on the wall was extremely well thought out, as was the choice of an exceptionally flat surface at the back of a recess.

Among the animals, five are essentially represented by their heads. The body of the second animal from the left was made with a succession of lines, placed so that they also suggest the bodies of a few others. Seven vertical parallel lines are grouped in the middle of the body and cross it. Just above, seven others are grouped together, but outside the animal. The absence of legs (purposely not depicted) does not reduce the impression of movement, of a leftward momentum.

Two heads, one of which is that of a horse that is clearly identifiable because of the precision of its lines, are completely enhanced with criss-cross parallel lines (Fig. 9.12 and 9.13). They are separated by a flaked-off area of rock, which unfortunately has not been recovered. On this flaked-off area, a block about 10 cm wide must have contained the next part of the drawing (the rest of the head of the fourth animal). Without this missing piece, it is unfortunately impossible to identify the animal in question with any certainty.

Nevertheless, the surviving drawing is sufficiently extensive to show that it is not a failed second horse head (Figures 9.11 and 9.12). One can rule out clumsiness in view of the shape produced, and the technical mastery of the assemblage (in its smallest details)—especially as it is easy to make a correction in this soft rock by redrawing the line. No rethinking has been detected. Quite the contrary—the

Fig. 9.14. Aurochs head (11) using a natural relief shape has been clearly emphasized in its layout. On the other hand, a few (i.e. imaginary) fine details added to the surviving shape suggest the possibility of an unreal depiction.

The method of infilling the two heads obviously reminds one of certain portable engravings such as that of the abri Morin, in Gironde (Deffarge et al. 1975); that of the cave of La Borie del Rey, in Lot-et-Garonne (Coulonges 1963) and those of Pont d'Ambon, in Dordogne (Celerier 1980, 1984). However, this does not necessarily mean that Gouy has a real connection with them—their techniques and styles are not as close as one might suppose. The fact that they are covered with criss-cross parallel lines is not sufficient to link them. Moreover, this mode of internal fill is also found in earlier periods, though that does not mean that this assemblage in Gouy corresponds to those periods either.

Somewhat apart and to the right, a sixth head, that of an aurochs is evoked by a precisely engraved pair of horns (11), and clearly forms part of the same group. A natural relief (a flint) was chosen to depict the animal's head, and the horns start there (Figures 9.11 and 9.14). The assemblage is accompanied by parallel lines, a 'branching' line (10), a sign comprising double rods, and what could be the 'sketch' of another pair of horns.

This important assemblage (9-10-11) probably occupies a crucial place, from the point of view both of its position on the wall and of its chronology (cf. below, 'Bovid decorated with criss-cross lines').

On the right wall, a few engraved lines survive on a detached block (52) which it was possible to restore to its original position. The first chamber, or what is left of it, has suffered a great deal since the Palaeolithic. Although numerous figures have survived, it is certain that others are missing. One can see evidence for this in the neatly sectioned engraved lines (3) (Fig. 9.2) at the start of the gallery (present entrance), and also in the engraving (01) (Fig. 9.3) and the blocks that have been pulled from, or have become detached from, the walls as well as the numerous more or less superficial areas of flaking (explosives having been used to make the road).

Fig. 9.15. Schematic sign (16) linked to the female outlines depicted in profile (among the most rudimentary known) of la Roche-Lalinde, and some of those from Fontales, Gonnersdorf, and Hohlenstein

Fig. 9.16. Sign (16) from the lower register and (8g) from the upper register

Second chamber

The second chamber, smaller and oval in shape, rises in the form of a chimney.

Its ceiling forms a kind of small dome. An overhanging band of flint in the middle crowns the base of this little rounded vault.

On the left wall is a sign (12); a group of lines (mostly vertical) (14); and a 'barbed' sign (15) which could also be seen as a horse head.

Immediately after (Figs. 9.15 and 9.16), towards the back of the cave, a schematic sign (16) has a shape that is similar to female profile outlines (albeit the most rudimentary ones known)—the closest examples stylistically are those of La Roche-Lalinde, some of those at Fontales, Gonnersdorf, and Hohlenstein, but these are found in series, whereas the Gouy example seems isolated (Martin 2001).

On the right there are numerous engraved lines (18-19); above and on the left is an assemblage of lines interpreted as the possible depiction of a 'mammoth' (13). To its right is another assemblage of lines (17). Opposite, on the right wall, where one can see perhaps more clearly than elsewhere a particular utilization of the rock with its jagged reliefs (39-48), each niche, each flat part contains an assemblage of engraved lines (a total of ten times on a surface that is 1.3 m wide by 80 cm high).

When, either lying or crouching, one enters the passage that leads to the third and last chamber, one can see five signs (20) on the start of the low ceiling.

Third chamber

Once the passage has been crossed (crouching for a distance of 1.8 m) one emerges in an even narrower little space (50 cm wide, by 4 m long), but which is of similar height to the two previous chambers. As one stands up, one cannot miss seeing the famous horse, on the left wall (Figs. 9.17, 9.18, 9.19, and 9.25).

The curve of its slender neck, as far as the chest, is repeated inside the animal's body by a series of undulating parallel lines (22). The lines are intentionally refined, especially the 'swanlike' neck. The head is also filled with parallel lines. The forehead, the end of the nose, the mouth, the hollow of the cheek, and the jaw are represented in a characteristic way, but the eye is absent. The breast is deeply cut. Two well-drawn little ears stand on the top of the head. On the neck, a line that starts at one of the ears perhaps suggests the beginning of the mane which, in this case, turns down on the other side of the neck.

It is not a depiction that is absolutely faithful to the wild animal, but it is not far from it. The aesthetic of the lines seems to be deliberate. The front and hind legs have purposely not been depicted. Hence the animal seems both static in places and in movement to the left.

A small animal drawn with rather schematic lines faces the horse (21). This is the only animal facing the back of the cave. Its body, its legs, tail, and probably its head are depicted. There are three possible readings: the animal is headless; its head is against that of the horse; or it overlaps that of the horse. It is impossible to identify the animal species; foal, bear, boar, and badger are among the species which have frequently been suggested.

Above the horse there is an animal head that is pretty difficult to determine, covered by three parallel lines. Finally, under the engraving itself, other lines are visible but abraded, and consequently very difficult to read (Figs. 9.19a and 9.19b). This wall has clearly been worked quite heavily, before the production of the engravings that can be seen today, and probably several times (cf. 'experimental reproduction of the horse' (22)).

Opposite the horse, and slightly higher on the right wall (38), a relatively large horse head is accompanied by lines that more or less repeat its outline (30 cm). At the junction of the jaw and the neck, there is a network of tortuous but parallel lines, some of them slightly displaced, which create a complex design (Fig. 9.19c).

Fig. 9.17. Horse (22), with wavy lines, intentionally refined

Fig. 9.18. An engraving from La Griega, Spain, as well as several horse heads from Escoural, Portugal, can be compared to the horse of Gouy

On the left (33-36-37), there are three figures, whose very precise outlines have not been identified, They are clearly subjects which were well known to the author of the drawings: series of grouped lines, oblong and circular shapes.

Fig. 9.19 a & b. Tracings of the walls of the third chamber (the best preserved)
Fig. 9.19 c. (Continued Figure)

At the extremity of this last panel is a depiction comprising two very elongated 'S' lines (30): these lines very likely represent an aurochs horn (15 cm). The natural shape of the wall, as well as a few lines, may well comprise the head that supports the horn. Below there are two signs side by side, which are made up of grouped vertical lines (32-5); the one on the right is cut by oblique parallel lines.

Opposite, on the left wall, there are other parallel lines (23-5), six of which are very clear above (23). Also on the left wall is the engraving of a small head and one or several aurochs bodies (24). The little head with shallow engraved

Fig. 9.20. Aurochs head with a single horn

Fig. 9.22. Seventeen oblique and parallel lines are crossed by an elaborate form

Fig. 9.21. Aurochs, whose head was purposely not drawn

Fig. 9.22. Seventeen oblique and parallel lines are crossed by an elaborate form lines has only one horn (Fig. 9.20). This head does not belong to the aurochs body which is immediately to its right. The aurochs body is apparently headless, and the two lines that make up its neck were stopped purposely and abruptly, without the head being drawn (Figures 9.19a, 9.19b, and 9.21).

The aurochs is the same size as the horse (22) which precedes it, and occupies the centre of the composition, as well as the centre of the narrow chamber. The back line, from the withers to the forequarters, is solidly drawn. The thighs, hocks, and legs (with the knees) are firmly planted, slender, and apart. The pasterns and hoofs are depicted.

The pose is somewhat rigid, but the forelegs are projected forwards, the right one more than the left which comprises the fetlock, in a real effect of perspective. About fifteen parallel and vertical lines, somewhat similar to those covering the horse's hide, are superimposed on the aurochs' flank. A deep oblique and natural groove was included by the engraver in order to suggest a particularity of the animal's flank or to evoke a second aurochs.

Two lines are placed too low to depict the tail. Above the back, where the tail should be placed, the decorated wall was mutilated before the visit of H. Breuil in 1958. Some individuals erased the inscription of 1881. This vandalism caused the irreparable loss of engraved elements of some importance, especially for reading this engraving (28).

Higher up, an animal (26) is evoked by a minimum of incisions: a back line and a horse head. After a few lines (27), there follows another figure (28) which is composed of seventeen oblique parallel lines covered by a shape which is difficult to interpret (Figure 9.22), as for (33-36-37). A little further to the right, an oval sign, comprising two parenthesis-lines, is the engraving that ends this assemblage (29) in the deepest part of the cave.

All the figures are surrounded on both walls by multiple intentional lines (up to the flint vault), as if it was crucial to incise a maximum of rock surfaces. One can even make some out towards the back of the cave, made at arm's length, where Gouy ends in an impenetrable fissure.

Upper register

This section of wall, located close to the ceiling of the first chamber, has been the subject of examinations and recording of its engraved art, under the direction of M. J. Graindor, since the start of my participation in the study of the cave.

Several animal depictions have been detected among the very fine incisions. Following this location work, carried out with a view to planning the research, the decision was taken only to record, at the start, the surfaces that were easily accessible, with very visible engravings (those of the lower register).

Until 1986, the material means at our disposal for the general examination of the walls did not permit their study—taking into account their inaccessibility, the height one needed to reach, the means of lighting, the photographic material available (not adapted to this work), and the need to work from macrophotographs. From 1987 onwards, thanks to programmed operations every few years and the acquisition of the first scaffolding installed in Gouy, the upper level of the cave became accessible to study.

At this level, the appearance of the engravings is extremely disconcerting (the contrast with the lower register is obvious)—so much so that, instead of engravings one might almost ask oneself if these are not, rather, natural elements. Certainly, a large number of these lines (as fine as hairs) seem, at first glance, impossible to produce by human hands. They evoke rather the light imprint of very fine roots, which might have left the trace of the networks of filaments on the soft rock before decomposing and disappearing.

State of conservation near the ceiling

Four factors make it possible to envisage the disappearance of part of this very fine decoration, in a zone between the ceiling and the top of these engravings (the highest):

• Without protection, this zone was covered with algae up to the ceiling.

• This upper part of the engravings close to the ceiling, as well as the surface of the rock support could have been weathered (because of the development of algae).

• The general fineness of the engravings only affected the rock support very superficially and hence could disappear without leaving any trace (through simple weathering of the support).

• The flaking-off of engraved surfaces occurred due to natural phenomena and shocks caused by the work that destroyed the porch (Martin 2005).

The engravings of the upper register

One hundred and eleven groups of engraved lines, signs, and small figurative subjects (from about 10 to 5 cm) can be distinguished with great difficulty at this level in the first chamber (between 3 and 4 m in height): sixty-six on the left wall, forty-five on the right wall, among which:

18 triangular signs (15 on the left and 3 on the right); 8 animal depictions (7 on the left, and 1 on the right); 1 horse, 5 aurochs, 1 'bovid' (79g), 1 undetermined animal; 7 natural rings, sometimes intentionally coloured with red ochre (4 on the left wall, 3 on the right wall).

From the present entrance (left wall) onwards, the difficulties in examining the wall, already evoked for the lower register, are also encountered in the upper register (difficulties produced by the entrance wall as well as by destruction). A band, 35 cm wide and 1 m high, is affected by these complications.

Nevertheless, one can recognize a small horse head with its neck. The outline from the end of the nose to the cheek, passing by the mouth, has the peculiarity of being in relief (3g).

To its right is a triangular sign (12g) whose upper horizontal line curves leftwards, without joining the 'V-shaped' part of the sign. In this graphic detail one can see a particular author's hand. This reflection also applies to the way in which several other triangles were drawn (cf. 'A peculiar way to draw a triangle', below).

Above there is an engraving whose very fine lines seem to contain the depiction of an aurochs head with a single horn (13g).

Fig. 9.23. Unusual association of a sign of Lalinde/Gonnersdorf type with three triangular signs

Above that there is a particularly original association of signs (Figure 9.23), a sign derived from female outlines (Martin 2001, 2004) depicted in profile (8g), and three triangular signs (6g-7g-9g), two to its left and one to its right.

Some probable vestiges of animal depictions are close to this assemblage (7g). Various signs occur immediately below (4g-5g-10g).

On the opposite wall (right wall), two other triangular signs are also finely drawn. Despite a very rudimentary technique the engraving ofthese two triangles is meticulously regular (Figure 9.26). The first purposely uses (in its upper part) a fossil that is embedded in the rock support (11d). The internal fill of the sign, in its 'V-shaped' part, was made with series of parallel lines crossing each other in three different directions (for the most part). The second, with a curved upper line (the only one of this kind at this height on the walls), contains a particularly great abundance of finely crossed and intermingled lines (13d).

The integration of the fossil in the production of one of these triangular signs is especially interesting. The utilization of the natural relief is obviously

Fig. 9.24. Aurochs head (24g), barely visible, drawn very precisely with a refined, extremely fine line, whereas the animal's horns are mingled with an abundance of lines

well known, but here the appropriation of a very small element of the support reveals the high degree of attention paid to the slightest detail of the wall. This extraordinarily fine fossil is barely perceptible.

Below it is a sign: an elongated and inclined oval seems to be related to an undetermined animal (8d), that is schematic and stiff (7d). The rump and the raised tail are apparently present, as well as some very strange forelegs. The recording of this engraving, which is very difficult to light, still needs to be completed.

On the opposite wall (left wall), an aurochs head (24g) has a good position on a relatively flat surface. Numerous lines, mostly vertical, and grouped in a

Fig. 9.25. Comparison which brings out some elements of several 'decorative' conceptions and phases

bundle, are located at the top of this head, and conceal horns of a fine size. The outline of the head is precise, and comprises the forehead, the muzzle, and the tuft of the chin. The neck is massive, from the throat to the withers, and the head is carried high. A semi-vertical fissure has split the engraving since its creation. It crosses part of the bundle of lines and passes through the neck, just before the withers (Fig. 9.24).

Above, a triangular sign, slightly stretched out at the top, has no particular internal fill (29g). A sign with a shape that is a little like an animal foot accompanies it, as well as two vertical parallel lines (30g). These two lines join at the top, where they cross to form an 'X'.

To the right one can make out an aurochs head, much more rudimentary than the previous one, and schematic and angular (31g). On the left, and to the right of the head, a great quantity of tangled lines still have to be deciphered (32g).

On the opposite wall (right wall), there are two elongated vertical oval signs, one of them measuring 6 cm (35d), and the other 4 cm (36d).

Opposite (left wall), a triangular sign only has a few rare internal lines (35g), whereas immediately to the left, five other triangular signs all have varied internal infills (Figure 9.26). The second (51g), which is meticulously decorated, also has several chevrons overlapping in horizontal bands. The upper right extremity is not angular but rounded. This graphic detail is also found on four other triangles. As with (12g) it is possible to see in it a kind of graphic mania, the peculiarity of an author's hand.

This triangular sign (51g) is connected from its lower angle to a shape which is not a triangle (despite an identical internal infill). The form has not yet been recognized despite its precision, but is perhaps an animal (50g).

To its right, a third triangular sign, perfectly equilateral, is meticulously drawn. Its interior is carefully filled with regular lines that form numerous little lozenges. The horizontal upper part is edged with three parallel lines (53g). But another reading is possible, where one can see it as a series of nested triangles. This triangle is connected to an aurochs head (54g) by a line that crosses this head—it is a big head for the cave (17 cm), made with a few schematic lines and no detail. The well-drawn horns display the same graphic treatment.

At the same height and to its right, a fourth triangular sign (52g) possesses the same 'trademark' as the others, and this also applies to the following triangular sign (75g). A little higher, and again to the right, another triangular sign (76g), with a deteriorated upper part, shows the weathering of the rock at this level close to the ceiling (cf. 'State of conservation near the ceiling').

Close to the 'big aurochs head' (54g) two very detailed signs are present, the smaller one, to the left, having a 'hooked' shape (49g). The other one, under the head, is similar to two joined lozenges, forming a kind of'X' closed at top and bottom (55g).

Bovid decorated with criss-cross lines

Between 2 and 3 m towards the back of the cave, a surprising quadruped is in fact a 'bovid', probably a young aurochs. It is entirely covered with a fill of criss-cross parallel lines forming multiple lozenges (78g). This disconcerting little animal depiction is complete. Its graphic conception has absolutely nothing to do with the animal figures of the lower register, and this probably applies to all the engravings located at this level of the walls (Figure 9.26).

The morphotechnical study of the engraving shows an extreme desire for moderation—the soft rock is barely penetrated by the engraver's tool (like all the engravings in this register). Originally this drawing was no more visible on the white chalk than it is today. The wall and the incisions have scarcely been modified by the passage of time.

Three vertical parallel lines, slightly 'more pronounced', cross the animal's withers and shoulder, and then continue along a foreleg. On the animal, and in several areas around it, some limestone powder and small fragments are agglomerated. They obliterate the engraving several times. One should also

Fig. 9.26. Unpublished engravings among the eighteen triangular signs in Gouy

note the presence of two vertical fissures which occurred after the engraving was made. As elsewhere, the tracing still needs to be finalized because of the fineness of the incisions.

The animal's head is difficult to light and to see, being small, and covered in uncrossed parallel lines. The forehead and nose are curved as far as the muzzle, which is elongated and rather square. At the level of the chignon, one can see two small horns merging with ears. The neck is a bit long and especially narrow, while the chest is flat, with no dewlap. On the other hand, the

Architecture Drawing People
Fig. 9.27. Series of triangular signs engraved on horse incisors

withers and the back-line are well indicated (rather realistic), as is the slope of the rump to the tail. As for the fore- and hindlegs, they are conventionally short, thin, and spindly, with no knees or pasterns or hoofs.

The engraver did not attempt to reproduce nature. He made a very particular and extraordinarily determined graphic translation of the animal.

The same applies to the lines that cover the body, mostly comprising lozenges formed by the intersection of parallel lines. A certain number of these lines follow anatomical outlines and seem to be intended to indicate volume, as has been noted, albeit in a different and less marked fashion, at the abri Morin. Technically, the line is extremely discreet and hesitant (uniform and monotonous). The rock is barely incised. The animal is rigid, as if frozen.

Here, for the first time on a cave wall, we have a number of stylistic and technical elements that suffice to connect this engraving, and probably all those of the upper register (in the first chamber) to the mobiliary engravings of the abri Morin, la Borie del Rey, and Pont d'Ambon (Sonneville-Bordes 1986; Roussot 1987; Celerier 1980, 1984).

Between the bovid's legs, a triangular sign of the same technique was originally and very directly associated with it (79g). To the left of its head one finds another motif, perhaps horns, with another triangular sign (77g). It is crossed by a long, semi-vertical fissure, curiously parallel to an engraved line, but with no connection at all since it was formed later.

In addition to the triangular sign associated with the bovid (between its legs), two other triangular signs (with variations in their infill) are located under the bovid. One is above the head, the other, perhaps less well preserved, is further forward. The one above the head stands out because it was engraved just above a natural cupule (73g). This choice does not seem to be due to chance. It would be surprising if this natural detail in the rock had not been noticed, especially if one remembers the meticulous positioning of the triangle (11d). Another particularity of this triangular sign is that, like four others, it has a rounded right upper extremity. As for the one that is slightly in front ofthe little bovid, it is crossed through the middle by a fissure in the rock—the same one that crosses the upper left angle of the triangle (77g). The 'V'-shaped part of this sign does not seem very marked. Because of the specificity of these engravings, it is impossible to trace all of the fine incisions in a single campaign. So clarifications and complementary details are constantly being added to the first published tracings, little by little, in the course of successive campaigns.

Was this article helpful?

+1 0

Post a comment