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Analysis of rock art painting and technology of Palaeolithic painters

Abstract : Archaeologists have attempted the interpretation of rock art, but have often disregarded the technical aspects of paints. Analysing paint samples for preparation techniques and studying the various compounds used, allows us to determine the technology of early painters. Palaeolithic artists used two main colours: red (iron oxide: natural hematite or heated goethite) and black (charcoal or manganese oxides). These pigments could be prepared in different ways (grinding, mixing with extender and/or binder or by heating) in order to enhance the properties of the paints. Analyses attempt to determine the physicochemical nature of the matter and its preparation mode, and to get an idea of its geographic origin. This paper presents techniques and methods used in the C2RMF laboratory for manganese oxide pigments. Distinction between manganese oxides with or without other cations is made and heat treatment of manganese oxide minerals is described. Results obtained for black pigment in Lascaux and Ekain caves are presented and discussed. From paint analyses, several conclusions are drawn concerning the technical level of Palaeolithic artists.
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Emilie Chalmin, Michel Menu, Colette Vignaud. Analysis of rock art painting and technology of Palaeolithic painters. Measurement Science and Technology, IOP Publishing, 2003, 14 (9), pp.1590--1597. ⟨10.1088/0957-0233/14/9/310⟩. ⟨hal-00693505⟩

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