On Palaeolithic coloring agents: epistemological analysis of scientific process

Abstract : What were the coloring agents used during the Palaeolithic? How to recognize, defineand describe them? What kind of information may they have recorded?In the past decade, these questions have become essential since coloring agents take a centralplace in current researches on modern human behaviors and emerging of figurative expressions.Typically, coloring agents are found in various archaeological/sedimentological/economical/culturalcontexts: open air and rock-shelter settlements, graves, drawings and paintings in caves.As a consequence, this topic needs interdisciplinary approaches. There is a crucial challengeto overcome which starts from sharing semantics adapted from geosciences, archeologyand material sciences. This allows to strengthen the fundamental knowledge to build theworking hypothesis and the methodology.Notably, as for the flaked industry, the ”chaˆıne op´eratoire” (processing sequence) analysishas proven to be an efficient tool. It provides i) a path to a dynamic comprehensionof coloring material processing and ii) a way to include this productions within a systemicframework of Palaeolithic activities. Applied to the coloring agents, it concerns:1- The qualification of their sensitive (visual and mechanical) properties: color tone, texture,proneness to be ground to powder.2- The procurement strategies which require the setting up of geological references (ProjectPigmentoth`eque), and combine information concerning geological contexts, availability andsensitive properties. With a combined and reproducible documentation and characterizationprocedure of the raw coloring rocks, we identify the geochemical fingerprint with differentscales of information (petrography, mineralogy, geochemistry). This gives robust datain order (i) to compare raw materials to coloring agents used during the Palaeolithic, evenif they were transformed by heating or mixing, as well as if they were ground (ii) to powder,∗Speaker†Corresponding author: emilie.chalmin-aljanabi@univ-smb.frsciencesconf.org:uispp2018:180777or strongly modified through taphonomic processes.3- Techniques implemented to use the coloring agents are corollaries of sensitive properties,supply strategies, as well as the objectives of the production. Thus, techniques aresystematically documented (powder production, hue control, grain size of the powder, mixingwith other substances).4- As a synthesis of the three previous stages of analysis, the objectives of the productionare questioned with regard to sensitive, availability and cultural concerns.At this point, by studying current scientific methods and discourses on past human activitiesrelated to coloring agent exploitation, we can focus on the possible weaknesses in thescientific procedures.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 25, 2018 - 10:40:43 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 11:36:04 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-01880736, version 1


Claire Chanteraud, Hélène Salomon, Emilie Chalmin, Julien Monney, Pradeau Jean-Victor, et al.. On Palaeolithic coloring agents: epistemological analysis of scientific process. Colloque international de l’Union des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques, 2018, Paris, France. 〈hal-01880736〉



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