Travaux et Recherches Archéologiques
sur les Cultures, les Espaces et les Sociétés
UMR 5608 T.R.A.C.E.S

le 27 février 2017



Identification of plant cells in black pigments of prehistoric Spanish Levantine rock art by means of a multi-analytical approach. A new method for social identity materialization using chaîne opératoire.

par Esther Lopez-Montalvo, Clodoaldo Roldán,  Ernestina Badal, Sonia Murcia-Mascarós et Valentín Villaverde.

PLOS One, février 2017.

We present a new multi-analytical approach to the characterization of black pigments in Spanish Levantine rock art. This new protocol seeks to identify the raw materials that were used, as well as reconstruct the different technical gestures and decision-making processes involved in the obtaining of these black pigments. For the first of these goals, the pictorial matter of the black figurative motifs documented at the Les Dogues rock art shelter (Ares del Maestre, Castellón, Spain) was characterized through the combination of physicochemical and archeobotanical analyses. During the first stage of our research protocol, in situ and non-destructive analyses were carried out by means of portable Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometry (EDXRF); during the second stage, samples were analyzed by Optical Microscopy (OM), Raman spectroscopy, and Scanning Electron Microscopy coupled with Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX). Two major conclusions have been drawn from these analyses: first, charred plant matter has been identified as a main component of these prehistoric black pigments; and second, angiosperm and conifer charcoal was a primary raw material for pigment production, identified by means of the archaeobotanical study of plant cells. For the second goal, black charcoal pigments were replicated in the laboratory by using different raw materials and binders and by reproducing two main chaînes opératoires. The comparative study of the structure and preservation of plant tissues of both prehistoric and experimental pigments by means of SEM-EDX underlines both a complex preparation process and the use of likely pigment recipes, mixing raw material with fatty or oily binders. Finally, the formal and stylistic analysis of the motifs portrayed at Les Dogues allowed us to explore the relationship between identified stylistic phases and black charcoal pigment use, raising new archaeological questions concerning the acquisition of know-how and the transfer of traditionally learned chaînes opératoires in Spanish Levantine rock art.






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