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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2021 / A geological collection and methodology for tracing provenance of Palaeolithic colouring materials.

Hélène Salomon, Claire Chanteraud, Aurélie Chassin de Kergommeaux, Julien Monney, Jean-Victor Pradeau, Eric Goemaere, Yvan Coquinot, and Emilie Chalmin (2021)

A geological collection and methodology for tracing provenance of Palaeolithic colouring materials.

Journal of Lithic Studies, 8(1):38 pages.

Although prehistoric sites frequently contain numerous fragments and traces of many different kinds of colouring matter, intensive study of this type of archaeological remains began only recently. Such studies, aimed at determining how raw materials formed and changed over time, and how they were transported by the groups of humans who used them, are extremely valuable as they reveal shared strategies, that is, cultural traditions and the spaces in which they developed. The scope of this paper focusses on the description of the main geological contexts in which ferruginous colouring materials form and are found. In the framework of a collective research program called Pigmentothèque (iron- and manganese-rich rocks and minerals library), geological surveys are conducted taking into consideration the geological settings in which colouring materials are present and using a common record and sampling methodology which is followed by petrophysical, mineralogical and chemical analyses based on a shared procedure and vocabulary. In order to go beyond descriptions based solely on colour and chemical composition, we describe the great variety of iron-rich materials that can be used to obtain colouring matter. This diversity in the formation and evolution of iron-rich materials must be taken into account when trying to understand past humans’ choices of raw materials, their provenance and the anthropogenic and natural modifications they have undergone. We also describe criteria for recognising cohesive remains of colouring matter during archaeological excavations, so these artefacts can take their place alongside other mineral resources in helping improve our understanding of past societies.
Peer Review, International Redaction Board, Impact Factor
en ligne le 09 décembre 2021 DOI :