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  Prehistoric pigments : sources, transformation and utilisation during the Neolithic of the Iberian Mediterranean basin.


The study of the “chaîne opératoire” of the prehistoric pigments is a powerful tool to better understand of the economic, social, technical and symbolic dimensions of prehistoric societies; in addition, the 14C dating of the organic materials composing these pigments makes it possible to better characterized their chrono-cultural framework.

Peintures levantines de l’abri de Els Rossegadors (Pobla de Benifassà, Castellón, Espagne).

Peintures levantines de l’abri de Els Rossegadors (Pobla de Benifassà, Castellón, Espagne).

However, research on Neolithic pigments in the Iberian Peninsula (VI-III mil., BC) is rare and shows important gaps: although the physicochemical characterization of these pigments has been strongly developed in recent years, the focus and the experimental techniques performed are disparate, thereby restraining any sort of interregional comparative approach of the results. Investigations have been mainly focused on the characterization of raw materials, which has dismissed the comprehension of the technical processes and decision-making involved in the elaboration of pigments. These traditional approaches are supported by the assumption that Neolithic pigments, and especially pigments of Spanish Levantine rock art, are the result of simple solutions and not complex mixtures, since some components other than minerals, such as proteins or lipids acting as binders or solvents in mixtures, have not been detected yet. 

To fill these gaps, the implementation of a new theoretical approach based on both interdisciplinary analytical protocol and implementation of more performing experimental techniques, is essential. This research project combines the concept of « chaîne opératoire » of prehistoric Anthropology with the analytical tools used in Geosciences, Physics and Chemistry, Biology and Botany.

"MACOPREH" wants to contribute to a better understanding of: a) the economic exploitation of the territory by the survey of networks of acquisition and exchange of raw materials; (b) the transfer of know-how by characterizing the composition of pigments and their techniques of preparation and application; (c) the cultural mosaic resulting from the Neolithic process and the social networks that favoured it by studying the chaînes opératoires and their evolution on a regional and interregional scale; and (d) the chrono-cultural framework of Holocene parietal art.

Affleurement d’oxydes de fer (Alicante, Espagne)

Affleurement d’oxydes de fer (Alicante, Espagne)

Research team:

- Principal Investigator: Esther López Montalvo (TRACES UMR 5605)

- Partners: Manuel Henry, Laure Laffont & François Xavier d’Abzac (GET UMR 5563); Nadine Tisnerat & François Thil (LSCE/IPSL, UMR CEA-CNRS-UVSQ 8212)

- Collaborators: Clodoaldo Roldán & Sonia Murcia-Mascaròs (ICMUV-University of Valencia); Cristina Vilanova & Manuel Porcar (I2SysBio –University of Valencia, Darwing Bioprospecting Excellence).

Identification et prélèvement d’une source d’oxyde de fer (Alicante, Espagne) 
Identification et prélèvement d’une source d’oxyde de fer (Alicante, Espagne).


- The MACOPREH project is funded by “Mission Interdisciplinarité” of the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS).

- Funding amount: 153.000€

- Project duration: September 2017- December 2019.