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Numerical reconstruction of paleolithic fires in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France)

Abstract : The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France), famous for its remarkable rock art, also contains unique thermal-alterations such as rock spalling and color changes on the walls. These alterations resulted from intense fires that have not been observed in the other decorated caves thus far discovered. The functions of these unusual fires challenge archaeologists. To characterize these combustions, we used a numerical tool, previously validated with experimental data, to study the thermo-alterations in the Megaceros Gallery. This unprecedented approach in cave art research enabled us to assess the wood quantities and locations of the hearths responsible for the thermo-alterations. We report here that at least ten fires took place in the Megaceros Gallery while burning more than 170 kg of wood. Both simulation and in situ observations suggest that the branches were arranged in a tepee shape and purposefully positioned, some distance from the walls. This method therefore enables further analysis of the functions of these fires.
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Contributor : Marion Desailly <>
Submitted on : Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 11:31:58 AM
Last modification on : Friday, June 4, 2021 - 3:44:16 AM



Fabien Salmon, Catherine Ferrier, Delphine Lacanette, Jean-Christophe Mindeguia, Jean-Claude Leblanc, et al.. Numerical reconstruction of paleolithic fires in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France). Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, Springer Verlag, inPress, ⟨10.1007/s10816-020-09484-5⟩. ⟨hal-02929184⟩



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