Genevieve von Petzinger, April Nowell
Journal of Human Evoltion
Volume 74, September 2014, pages 37-54
Since the discovery of the Grotte Chauvet (Ardèche, France) in the mid-1990s, there has been a debate regarding the accuracy of assigning this site to the Aurignacian period. The main argument stems from a perceived lack of agreement between the radiocarbon age of the imagery (>32,000 years BP [before present]) and its stylistic complexity and technical sophistication, which some believe are more typical of the later Upper Paleolithic. In this paper we first review the evidence for symbolic behavior among modern humans during the Aurignacian in order to explore the question of whether Chauvet's images are anachronistic. Then, using a database of non-figurative signs found in Paleolithic parietal art, we undertake a detailed comparison between Chauvet's corpus of signs and those found in other French Upper Paleolithic caves. While we conclude that there is substantial evidence to support an Aurignacian date for Grotte Chauvet, we also suggest that it may be time to revisit some of the cultural boundaries that are currently in use in Paleolithic archaeology.