Female sexual depictions and triangular signs

One of the major peculiarities of the little cave of Gouy is that it contains several engraved vulvas with no ambiguity about their identification (Bahn 1986), but also some triangular signs. The companion (Figure 9.28) of the female sexual depictions and triangular signs of Gouy with those of other sites, underlines their great resemblance as well as their absolutely identical graphic conception (independently of any chronological considerations): La Ferrassie (Delluc and Delluc 1978); Pergouset (Lorblanchet 1984, 1995, 2001); Le Roc-aux-Sorciers (Iakovleva and Pincon 1997); Bedeilhac (Sauvet); Bois-Ragot (Chollet et al. 1974). The analogy between these engravings is striking, and can be seen in the forms and technique employed, the size, and even in the degree of visibility—that is, whether they are ostentatious or discreet.

All the triangular signs and all the female sexual depictions of Gouy are engraved on the walls of the first chamber. The vulvas and triangular signs are all together there in a layout which may have some significance.

Lower Register: The most realistic and the lowest are today at eye level. Higher up, one can clearly see—although they are at a height of 2.8 m—two triangular signs with cupules deeply hollowed out at their lower extremity. They are deeply engraved by brisk incisions, and there is no doubt as to the subject depicted (vulvas and pubic triangles).

Upper Register: close to the ceiling at a height of 3.5 m, eighteen triangular signs are 'hidden', ten of which have a varied internal fill. They are extremely discreet, finely engraved, and very difficult to see, although of the same size as the signs: triangles/vulvas, with associated cupules.

Does this peculiar layout correspond to the 'three states of depiction: visible, discreet, hidden' (Vialou 1987)?

Did some technical difficulties contribute to this situation? It was indispensable to know precisely the degree of technical difficulty that the engravers of Gouy might have encountered. A priori, it seems difficult to use a simple flint to make deliberate and deep incisions on a hard rock support. Yet the limestone ofGouy is very soft, so one might expect that it was not difficult to make incisions in it. It was necessary to verify this by means of experimentation.

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