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Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context$
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Paul Pettitt, Paul Bahn, Sergio Ripoll, and Francisco Javier Muñoz Ibáñez

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299171

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199299171.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 October 2021

VeriWcation of the Age of the Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags

VeriWcation of the Age of the Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags

(p.34) 3 VeriWcation of the Age of the Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags
Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context

Alistair W. G. Pike

Mabs Gilmour

Oxford University Press

Upon discovery of the Creswell cave art in April 2003, and a systematic survey and study of known images in June of the same year, it was believed on several grounds that the art was clearly of Pleistocene antiquity (Pettitt 2003). The reasoning was as follows: . The sharp line and bright colour of engraved graffiti dating to the 1940s stand in clear contrast to the eroded and dulled nature of the genuine art. Clearly, on the grounds of weathering the art is not a modern forgery. . In several places, thin flowstone crusts clearly overlay engravings, demonstrating a degree of antiquity for the art. . The location of almost all of the art at heights considerably above the reach of an adult’s arm span, given the current level of the floor in Church Hole Cave, indicates that if the engravings were made after 1876 (when the sediments were excavated down to their current levels) a ladder would have been necessary. While this cannot be ruled out, it would imply considerable effort in forging the art, certainly to avoid drawing attention to the perpetrator. . Several images bear clear resemblances to known Upper Palaeolithic art, particularly that of the Magdalenian, both in terms of style and subject matter. By contrast, none of the art can be said to have Holocene parallels, that is, if it were Mesolithic or later, it would be unique. On the grounds of parsimony it seems that the closest estimate of antiquity therefore was Pleistocene. . At least one of the images (the large bovid) represents a species known to be extinct in Europe, either since the seventeenth century (if identified as Bos primigenius) or the Late Pleistocene (if Bison priscus). The discovery team were therefore confident from the first that genuine Upper Palaeolithic cave art had been discovered. This having been said, a critical reason for the ‘Creswell Art in European Context’ conference was to expose the art to the scrutiny of international experts in Palaeolithic archaeology and rock art, and the clear consensus of the conference delegates was that the art is genuine.

Keywords:   Font Robert points, Mousterian, Radiocarbon dating, cation-ratio dating

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