Stylistic Attribution And Dating

At the time of Henri Breuil's visit to Gouy, only the walls of the second and third chambers were visible. For him, the parietal art was Magdalenian (he picked up a worked flint during his long visit).

For Andre Leroi-Gourhan, the horse in the last chamber corresponded to Style III, whereas the vulvae of the first chamber and the sign that could be linked to the female silhouettes depicted in profile were instead of Style IV:

4 Two fluorescent tubes for aquaria, of an identical white, are on sale on the market. Only one of them provides the maximum information, but when one buys them, it is impossible to know which of the two is proposed. In the dark—without linking them to an electrical supply—one must illuminate them with UV (black light). The one that is being sought is then totally and uniformly coloured (giving off a powerful magenta red light). The other one, currently the most widespread, only gives off a pale blue light. The manufacturer (SLI SYLVANIA) has so far, alas, failed to answer the questions put to it.

'the style of the engravings of Gouy is difficult to define, for lack of elements of comparison other than the cave of Saulges' (Leroi-Gourhan 1971). And again: 'The very particular style of the figures of this little cave (narrow gallery, 15 m long) with its walls of soft limestone places it among the (cave-documents) that are carefully protected and open only exceptionally' (Leroi-Gourhan 1981).5 Leroi-Gourhan never knew the engravings of the upper register of the first chamber. For Michel Lorblanchet the cave of Gouy arouses particular interest in every respect... The characteristics of its parietal decorations and their context make it an extremely original site . . . for the abundance of often indecipherable drawings, the generally very small size of the readable figures . . . and for the unusual and conventional style of the drawings. (Lorblanchet 1973).

Moreover, three blades found at Gouy display wear traces: as we wrote, 'perhaps we have here some of the tools that were used to engrave the cave's walls' (Bordes et al 1974). This observation does not enable us, for the moment, to claim that the industry and the engraved decoration (all or part of it) are contemporaneous, nor even that these tools were indeed used to engrave the walls. Only a sufficiently advanced functional study (use-wear analysis and comparative experimentation) will make it possible to determine this (Collin and Jardon 1990). Doubtless, the very soft limestone of Gouy will play a decisive role in this forthcoming study.

Similarly, a fragment of animal bone was dated in 1992: Gif A 92346, 12,050 + 130 bp; (H. Valladas pers comm). With this date we have the certainty of a visit to the cave in this period, although we cannot assign all or part of the parietal art to this time. Naturally, if there were any possibilities for direct dating of the decoration, they would be most welcome. For the moment, alas, we must content ourselves with knowing that in the phase of 13000-12000 bp northern France was again occupied by the horse and reindeer hunters of the Final Magdalenian (Fagnart 1997; Bodu 2000; Valentin and Pigeot 2000). However, the small bovid that is covered with criss-cross lines is a precious reference point (by comparison). Unquestionably it displays a process of azilianization operating in the upper register of the first chamber of Gouy, whereas this does not seem to be the case for assemblage (I) of the lower register,6 nor quite the case for assemblage (II).

5 This is no longer the case. The number of visits has increased since 1996.

6 Assemblage (I), fairly faithful to nature, comprises engravings with brisk incisions of varying thickness, thinness, and depth, as well as a bas-relief sculpture. Assemblage (II), also faithful to nature, comprises brisk incisions of varying thickness, thinness, and depth (the deepest of the whole cave).

Gouy was probably frequented for a relatively long period, and probably over several phases, as is suggested by the assemblages (I, II, III) of the parietal layout, as well as the fragments of older decorated wall.

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