Themes and Dating of the Parietal Works of Roucadour

With the exception of three panels, the engravings are grouped in their hundreds in a deep fissure at the end of the decorated gallery.

About forty of them are depictions of horses, which for the moment seem to be the most numerous animal figures, outnumbering Megaloceros, felines, bison, and mammoth, each of which is represented by about twenty examples. There are abundant geometric signs—mostly indented circles (about forty), striated areas, and 'barrier' signs. About fifteen red or black negative hands, and groups of big red spat dots, complete this parietal assemblage which is very dense and very tangled.

The great originality of this layout can be seen in the themes: the abundance of felines, of Megaloceros, of indented circles, and the presence of motifs that are unique or exceptional in Palaeolithic parietal art, such as a composite horse-bird

Fig. 11.3. Roucadour cave: detail of horse's head.

being, a mammoth falling head and trunk downward, an engraving of a hare. The execution techniques are also often highly original: some motifs are both polychrome (red, black, and brown) and engraved, and the negative hands are hands drawn onto striated areas; this technique, which differs from the usual stencils, is unique. Only a small black hand in Combe Negre (Frayssinet le Gelat, Lot) presents a few comparable characteristics.

The dating of the Roucadour assemblage is not in any doubt, although the first pigment analyses show an abundance of manganese and a rarity of charcoal in the blacks. The remains of a black hand made with charcoal did not yield sufficient pigment to allow an AMS date. Despite the absence of direct dating for the moment, a Perigordian or even Aurignacian date is perfectly well founded; the criteria of a date in an archaic phase are provided by the abundance of the Megaloceros and felines, negative hands and spat dots, and the style of the mammoths and horses. The mammoths, all with a high ventral arch, enormous legs and absent tusks, are of the Jovelle (Dordogne) type which is found in a few other caves of the Perigord (La Gréze), the Ardeche (Chauvet), or Spain (Carranza pass).

The horses, which will be described in detail below, are characterized by a tiny 'duck bill' head, a well-developed neck, a very curved back, and a drooping belly. The comparison with Pech Merle, Cougnac, Les Fieux, Les Merveilles, and Frayssinet-le-Gelat—that is, with the early phase of Quercy art—is based on all the criteria mentioned above, although the mammoths of Pech Merle are of a different type, except for just one which has a small ventral arch. Although the horses of Roucadour are archaic in style, we shall see that they do not lack either variety or precision or elegance. The following examples will show this.

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