Pleistocene Art of the World Congress 2010

IFRAO Congress,

Tarascon-sur-Ariège and Foix, France
6–11 September 2010

This major palaeoart congress will be held in the heartland of the Franco-Cantabrian
cave art traditions, at the foot of the French Pyrenees. It is expected to
become a major benchmark event in the discipline. It will be hosted by IFRAO in
conjunction with French government authorities. Fieldtrip programs will include
privileged visits to Palaeolithic cave art sites in France.

The existence of Pleistocene rock art, first proposed by Marcelino de Sautuola
in 1879, was slowly accepted in the late 19th century. Since then, investigation
of this phenomenon has been largely focused on a small region of western Europe,
which has yielded over 300 cave sites of the most exquisite Palaeolithic rock
art. Over the subsequent century, an elaborate stylistic chronology of this
corpus, featuring naturalistic animal depictions and semiotic motifs, was
developed. It also became the template of Pleistocene rock art in guiding the
search for such phenomena in other regions of the world, prompting many reports
of such rock art as well as portable art from across Eurasia. Research in recent
decades has suggested that most Pleistocene palaeoart of the world may not be
figurative, and most may be of Middle rather than Upper Palaeolithic modes of
production. New evidence suggests there appears to be almost no figurative
graphic art of the Pleistocene outside of western Europe. Typically, graphic
Pleistocene art of Asia, Africa and Australia seems to be non-figurative (with
very few exceptions), and the corpus of Australian Pleistocene rock art, which
some assume to be the largest in the world, is entirely of Middle Palaeolithic
traditions. Palaeoart of the final Pleistocene seems to occur in North America
and may also yet be found in South America. Finally, India has yielded rock art
even of the Lower Palaeolithic, and similarly ancient palaeoart may conceivably
occur in Africa.
This scenario differs so significantly from the popular model of Pleistocene art
that a congress should be dedicated to this subject, addressing questions of
dating, of the definitions of palaeoart, and of regional distribution of
evidence in each continent, re-evaluating the topic of the global phenomenon of
Pleistocene palaeoart traditions. We invite contributions on all aspects of this

Jean Clottes, Giriraj Kumar and Robert Bednarik (Immediate-Past-President,
previous President and Convener of IFRAO respectively)


Pleistocene art in Africa: Peter Beaumont, and Dirk Huyge,
Pleistocene art in the Americas: Alice Tratebas, André Prous, and María Mercedes Podestá,
Pleistocene art in Asia: Giriraj Kumar, and Majeed Khan,
Pleistocene art in Australia: Robert Bednarik, and
John Campbell,
Pleistocene art in Europe: Jean Clottes, and Manuel
González Morales,

Signs, symbols, myth, ideology in Pleistocene art: the archaelogical material
and its anthropological meanings: Dario Seglie,, Mike Singleton, and Marcel Otte,; co-assisted by
Enrico Comba, and Luiz Oosterbeek,
Dating and taphonomy of Pleistocene palaeoart: Jean Clottes,
and Robert Bednarik,

Application of forensic techniques to Pleistocene palaeoart investigations: Yann-Pierre
Montelle, and Robert Bednarik,
Pleistocene portable art: Aline Averbough, and Valérie

The IFRAO Congress will take place from 6 to 11 September 2010 inclusive in
France, essentially in Tarascon-sur-Ariège. Its base in the French Pyrenees will
be the Prehistoric Park (near Tarascon-sur-Ariège), whose team together with the
Conseil Général team, will see to the logistics. Address: Congrès Art
Pléistocène dans le Monde, Parc de la Préhistoire, 09400 Tarascon-sur-Ariège,
France. Email:, Tel. +33 561 055 040.
Hotel information and bookings: Comité départemental du Tourisme 'Loisirs
Accueil'. Email:
Visits of caves (Niaux, Bédeilhac, Le Mas d’Azil, Gargas) and Palaeolithic art
museums (Le Mas d’Azil, Musée Bégouën) will be organised both during (on 8
September) and at the end of the Congress (on 11 September).
Congress official languages will be English, French, Spanish.

Congress registration fee: 100 euros for participants; 60 euros for accompanying
persons and for students. Registration will depend on the actual payment of the
Registration deadline: 30 June 2010.

If, however, the number of participants duly registered before the deadline
reaches the maximum number of persons we can accept, registration will be
immediately stopped and notice will be given on the web-site. If you intend to
come you are thus strongly advised not to delay your registration too long!

Presentations may not exceed 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes for discussion (30
minutes in all).
The titles of all proposed papers and their abstracts (from 50 to 100 words)
must be sent to the chairmen of the various Symposia before 28 Februaruy 2010.
The papers accepted must be sent to them, complete and in digital form, before 1
June 2010. This is because we intend to place all accepted papers on the Web
before the Congress.
The publication of the proceedings is obviously necessary. The modalities of
their publication will be detailed later.

Any further information will be given on the Congress web-site:


The congress Pleistocene Art of the World will comprise nine symposia. The
submission of paper titles and abstracts is now invited for the following
symposium subjects. The deadline of submissions for all symposia is 28 February

Pleistocene art of Asia
Recent discoveries and scientific investigations have yielded new evidence about
the Pleistocene art of Asia, the most significant of it being produced by the
multidisciplinary project 'Early Indian Petroglyphs: Scientific Investigations
and Dating by an International Commission' (EIP Project). It has demonstrated
the occurrence of numerous exfoliated petroglyphs, and the hammerstones used in
making the rock art, in Lower Palaeolithic strata at central Indian sites. Other
but much more recent evidence of Pleistocene art, always in the form of
mobiliary palaeoart, has been reported sporadically from Siberia, China, Japan,
Afghanistan, Israel and also India. Therefore, palaeoart has been in use for a
great length of time in Asia, but relatively little evidence of it has been
reported so far, especially in comparison to Europe. It is the purpose of this
symposium to place the extraordinary finds from India within a pan-continental
perspective, to disseminate new claims for Pleistocene palaeoart, and to
consider the limited available data in the context of scientifically based
models of the cognitive and cultural development of hominins. The 2010 IFRAO
world congress on the global palaeoart of the Pleistocene offers a unique
opportunity to consider these subjects in a comprehensive form.
Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the
international community of palaeoart researchers. Subjects of interest include
rock art as well as mobiliary palaeoart of Pleistocene Asia; materials and
techniques used in their production; find contexts and dating issues; what this
corpus might tell us about the development of art-like practices in Asia;
patterning in the way graphic evidence appears to present itself temporally and
spatially; and how it might relate to Holocene palaeoart.

Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with abstracts of 50–100 words, to one of
the two chairmen of this symposium
Professor Giriraj Kumar (India), e-mail:
Professor Majeed Khan (Saudi Arabia), e-mail:

Pleistocene art of Europe
Europe is without a doubt the continent where most Pleistocene art sites have so
far been studied and published, whether in caves and in shelters or on rocks in
the open. Even though, as a consequence, Upper Palaeolithic cave art seems quite
familiar and well-known, this is probably a misconception as each major
discovery (e.g. in the past twenty years, Cosquer, Chauvet, Foz Côa, Cussac)
changes some of our ways of thinking. The problems that may be addressed during
the Symposium (or that it would be helpful to address) should be instrumental in
answering various aspects of the main queries — admittedly all related to one
another — that are: Who? When? What? Where? How? Why?

1. Who? The coexistence of Neanderthals and modern Humans for thousands of years
may pose the problem of Neanderthal art for the period con-sidered. But even
before Modern Humans arrived in Europe, what hard evidence have we of art made
by Neanderthals or their predecessors. 'Who?' may also apply to the persons who
made the art in caves and shelters: were they men, women, children, persons of a
particular status?

2. When? This is the ever-present thorny problem of dating the art: newly
acquired dates; dating methods; validity of styles to establish a chronology.

3. What? Not only what did they represent, but also what did they do around the
art, in the caves and in the shelters, what can we say from the traces and the
remains they left?

4. Where? This relates to the choices that were made: geographically,
topographically, nature of the sites, choices of particular panels, surfaces and

5. How? This is probably the problem most often addressed in the past, i.e. the
techniques used, the way(s) to represent animals or humans.

6. Why? Conversely, the reasons why they made their paintings and engravings are
very rarely addressed/argued seriously and dispassionately as they should.

7. For how long? If knowing and studying the art is a necessity, preserving it
for the future is a duty. The problems of conservation are therefore of
paramount importance and must be addressed.
Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the
international community of Pleistocene art researchers.

Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with abstracts of 50–100
words, to one of the two chairmen of this symposium
Dr Jean Clottes (France), e-mail:
Professor Manuel González Morales, e-mail:

Pleistocene art of Africa
As regards Pleistocene art studies, Africa has long been a somewhat 'neglected'
continent. The best known finds in this respect are the figuratively painted
rock slabs found in 1969 in the Apollo 11 Cave in southern Namibia that date
back to about 26,000–28,000 BP, and the incised pieces of bone recovered from
Border Cave in South Africa, that are over 100,000 years old. For a long time
these have been more or less isolated finds and few further discoveries of art
were reported, although pigments have been recovered from various sites in
Zambia and South Africa that are up to several hundreds of thousands of years
old, possibly pushing back the history of art in Africa to the Middle
Pleistocene. Recently, however, spectacular new discoveries have been made that
attest to the presence of sophisticated geometric Late Pleistocene art and
various other evidence for symbolic behaviour in South Africa at around 70,000
years ago and beyond (Blombos and Wonderwerk Caves). Virtually nothing is known
about Central Africa, apart from some finds of mobiliary art in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (Ishango and Matupi Cave), and the existence of Pleistocene
art in North Africa has been a subject of debate since Fabrizio Mori first
attributed some of the Saharan art to the Pleistocene, which continues to be
rejected by some. Several recent finds in northern Africa, however, particularly
in Egypt (Qurta and related sites), Morocco (Ifri n'Ammar) and Algeria (Afalou
Bou Rhummel), now seem to present much more solid evidence for a Late
Pleistocene art phase, that includes mobiliary as well as highly developed
parietal art. Similarly aged rock art also seems to occur in some caves in
northern Libya (Cyrenaica). Most recently, Pleistocene petroglyph sites have
been found in the Kalahari Desert.

It is the purpose of the 2010 IFRAO congress to upgrade the status of research
into Pleistocene art in Africa, to present a new status quaestionis in this
respect, and to investigate the possible temporal and thematic relationships
between this African legacy and the Pleistocene art of Eurasia. Research papers
on the above and related topics are invited from the international community of
Pleistocene art researchers. Subjects of interest include: rock art as well as
portable art of Pleistocene Africa; materials and techniques used in their
production; finds' contexts and issues related to dating and patterning in the
way in which graphic evidence appears to present itself both temporally and

Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with an
abstract of 50–100 words, to one of the two chairmen of this symposium
Dr Peter Beaumont (South Africa),
Dr Dirk Huyge (Belgium),

Pleistocene art of the Americas
Evidence of Pleistocene art has been reported spo-radically from South America (e.g.
Serra da Capivara and Minas Gerais, Brazil) but remains controversial.
Information of rock art of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition is often included
in archaeological reports from all over South America. Rock paintings from the
central plateau of Santa Cruz (Argentina) are a very good example of this period.
This shows that palaeoart has probably been a cultural manifestation from the
very beginning of the peopling of South America. The Pleistocene-Holocene
transition was a critical time for the dispersal of human societies all over the
continent. At Epullán Grande Cave in northern Patagonia, Palaeoindian bedrock
petroglyphs of at least 10,000 years bp have been found. A similar case has been
reported from Lapa do Boquete, Peruaçu, Brazil. In north-western Argentina rock
art paintings of Inca Cueva are also thought to be around 10,000 years old and
could be related to naturalistic rock art paintings of northern Chile and
southern Peru. Cupules are another kind of palaeoart widespread in South America
that has been assigned to the early palaeoart evidence.
Evidence for the earliest rock art in North America is sparse due in part to the
fact that North American archaeologists have largely neglected research on rock
art until recently. Experimental petroglyph dating techniques provide promising
evidence of late Pleistocene and early Holocene rock art traditions in several
regions of the west. Excavations of buried rock art have established early
Holocene age imagery. Finds of portable rock art in late Pleistocene context at
the Gault site in Texas, as well as other portable art from Florida and Central
America, also contribute to knowledge about Pleistocene imagery. The evidence
for early rock art currently available shows that by late Pleistocene times
multiple regional rock art traditions were already well established in North
Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the
international community of palaeoart researchers. Subjects of interest include
rock art as well as mobiliary art of the Pleistocene and Pleistocene-Holocene
transition; materials and techniques used in their production; dating issues;
iconic and non-iconic art manifestations and regional distribution of evidence.

Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with abstracts of 50–100
words, to one of the three chairpersons of this symposium:
Dr Alice Tratebas (U.S.A.),
Professor André Prous (Brazil),
Professor María Mercedes Podestá (Argentina),

Pleistocene art of Australia
It has long been suspected that rock art of Pleistocene antiquity occurs in
Australia, but for much of the 20th century, 'conclusive proof' remained elusive.
The first substantive but still indirect evidence was secured in Koonalda Cave,
on the Nullarbor karst plain, in the 1970s, followed by solid proof from a
series of petroglyphs at Early Man shelter, near Laura, Cape York Peninsula, in
1981. A series of limestone caves near the continent’s southern coast yielded
direct dating results, some of the Pleistocene, at about the same time, and the
notion of a significant Ice Age component of Australian rock art was accepted.
More recently, research in northern Queensland has provided spectacular and
substantial direct dating information about rock paint residues, while in the
Pilbara region of Western Australia, the presence of major early corpora is
implied by direct dating of petroglyphs. It has been proposed that all
Pleistocene rock art of Australia in non-iconic, just as is the case in most of
the rest of the world. Moreover, all of the continent’s early rock art is
attributed to the core and scraper tradition, a Mode 3 ('Middle Palaeolithic')
technocomplex, which in the case of Tasmania continued up to European
colonisation. Since it has been estimated that between 10% and 15% of Australia's
petroglyphs are of the Pleistocene, and since the continent's total number of
petroglyphs is at least 10 million motifs, it follows that there is many times
more Pleistocene rock art in Australia than there is in Europe. So far this has
been largely neglected and it is hoped that this symposium can correct this
Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the
international community of rock art researchers.

Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with abstracts of 50–100 words, to one of the
two chairmen of this symposium
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),
Professor John Campbell (Australia),

Dating and taphonomy of Pleistocene palaeoart
This symposium is intended to address the important subjects of how the age of
rock art and portable palaeoart is determined in order to attribute such
material to the Pleistocene, and the equally important topic of its taphonomy.
Except in cases of very life-like depictions of species that are known to have
become extinct before the advent of the Holocene, and certain cases where
Holocene access was impossible to sites, rock art can only be safely attributed
to any period through direct dating. Portable palaeoart, by contrast, is much
easier to date, usually through the embedding sediment or occupation layer.
Therefore, the methods of securing Pleistocene dates for rock art require
special attention and will be reviewed in this symposium. Since the effects of
taphonomy on rock art increase with greater age, they determine the composition
of the surviving sample, particularly of the earliest rock art. Hence, the
quantification and understanding of these processes are also of great
significance to interpreting the characteristics of what has survived from such
extremely ancient times. Taphonomic considerations apply equally to mobiliary
palaeoart, and will hopefully be addressed as well.
Research papers relating to these topics are invited from the international
community of palaeoart researchers. Subjects of interest include dating
techniques for both rock paintings and petroglyphs, and their relative efficacy;
recent age estimation projects from around the world; difficulties and
controversies with age attribution of the Pleistocene; regional and global
patterning of rock art distribution and genres, and its potential reasons; or
patterning in the way taphonomic processes determine the characteristics of the
surviving rock art and portable palaeoart.

Please send the titles of proposed
contributions, together with abstracts of 50–100 words, to one of the two
chairmen of this symposium
Dr Jean Clottes (France),
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),

Applications of forensic techniques
to Pleistocene palaeoart investigations

In recent years scientific investigations in palaeoart have increasingly been
relying on methodologies and techniques borrowed from the field of forensics.
For the most part, the pioneering researchers have operated on the margins of an
ill-defined discipline. This symposium will provide an opportunity for these
scientists to present their work and establish the preliminary foundation for a
standardised me-thodology based in the applications of forensics techniques in
the study of Pleistocene palaeoart. Submissions of papers are invited on a large
range of subjects, and may include, but not be limited to, the following:
Reconstruction of the gestures and kinetic activities involved in the production
of palaeoart
Aspects of behaviour at rock art sites deducable from empirical evidence
Analyses of macroscopic and microscopic traces of palaeoart production
Sequencing of behaviour traces at sites
Behaviour traces in the context of site properties
Empirical evidence and site taphonomy
Controlled replication experiments of palaeoart production
Analyses concerning the ages of palaeoartists
Analytical studies of the tools and materials used in palaeoart production
Other forensic studies of rock art sites or portable finds
Prospective contributors to this pioneering sym-posium are invited to submit the
titles of their presentations, together with abstracts of 50–100 words, to one
of the chairmen:
Dr Yann-Pierre Montelle (New Zealand),
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),

Pleistocene portable art
Portable art is generally defined as art on objects that can be carried about,
but, beyond this very general definition, what can we really say about it when
we carefully examine the schemas of production implied, the range of supports
used, the variety of raw materials selected, the different associations between
representations and specific objects? In fact, present-day research tends to
reveal that the choice of materials (be they bone slivers, fragments of cervid
antlers, short, long or flat bones, shells, various-shaped lithic supports,
tools or weapons) was instrumental in the choices of subjects and composition,
as well as in that of the techniques applied.
This wide definition also contributes to blur chro-nology, particularly as
concerns the beginning of portable art. In Europe, such a chronology has long
existed even if controversy and changes have occurred about some turning-point
periods. But when should we fix its origins? Recent South African discoveries
gave very ancient dates; does this mean that they date the birth of portable art?
It is now necessary to list all the dates available in order to set up a
chronology in relation to the main Pleistocene cultures, which will open up the
problem of artistic cultural traditions: do they systematically exist? Under
what forms? How do they evolve as concerns schemas of production, techniques,
styles, motifs? How were they transmitted, insofar as we can access this process?
At the end of the Symposium, we shall propose a debate about the role and place
of portable art within the different cultures that created it. As a link with
other symposia, we shall particularly stress its relationship with wall art:
what kind? Do we have a chronological framework accurate enough to deal with the
problem? Would the representations on portable art in certain painted caves be a
sort of sketch of the wall art? Would their purpose be the same? Or different?

Please send the titles and abstracts of your proposed presentations to one
of us
Dr Aline Averbough (France),
Dr Valérie Feruglio (France),

Signs, symbols, myth, ideology

Pleistocene art: the archaeological material
and its anthropological meanings
The symposium seeks to occasion new ideas and innovative research, to afford
fresh theories and bold hypothesis together with unpublished information and
recent discoveries relative to the study of Pleistocene art in general, and in
particular to the philosophies and practices it implies. The symposium thus
provides an opportunity to discuss the roles played by iconography and myth in
archaeological times thanks, in part, to the light which can be shed thereon by
insights emerging from the anthropological study of peoples whose material life
styles and assimilated mentalities can be plausibly paralleled to those of our
pre-Historic forebears.
There is no third way beyond conscious or unconscious ethnocentrism. It must
consequently be recognised that anthropology and archaeology with their
respective categorisations of empirical reality (amongst which art and
prehistory, ritual and myth) are pure products of recent Western history. This
recognition, creative as well as critical, could lead far beyond the usual
interdisciplinary syncretisms, to radically new hermeneutical systems able to
attribute less ambiguous meaning to the very terms under discussion, such as 'artistic
production', 'the Pleistocene', 'primitive religion' and 'hunter-gatherers'.

In particular, such issues as the following will be debated:

The emerging problems of the archaeological and anthropological documentation
of art sites with special reference to palaeo-archaeo-anthropological data.

The correlations, synchronic and diachronic, between palaeo-ethnocultural
areas at different periods and in various places.

The iconography of Pleistocene art as a reflection of palaeo-ethnic traditions.

Ceremonial aspects and underlying meanings; the possible roles and function of
Pleistocene art in keeping with eco-social-cultural changes.

Data from sites that are still in use, insofar as they can be related to
Pleistocene art sites.

Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the
international community of Pleistocene art researchers.

Please send the titles
of proposed contributions, together with an abstract of 50–100 words, to one of
the three chairmen of this symposium
Professor Dario Seglie (Italy),
Professor Mike Singleton (Belgium),
Professor Marcel Otte (Belgium),
They will be co-assisted by Professor Enrico Comba (Italy),
and Professor Luiz Oosterbeek (Portugal),


Dr Jean Clottes
IFRAO Immediate-Past-President
11, Rue du Fourcat
09000 Foix,

Robert G. Bednarik
IFRAO Convener
P.O. Box 216
Caulfield South, VIC 3162

Scientific Committee of the Congress:
Jean Clottes France, IFRAO and UISPP)
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia, IFRAO and AURA)
Giriraj Kumar (India, IFRAO and RASI)
Ulf Bertilsson (Sweden, CAR/ICOMOS)
Yann-Pierre Montelle (New Zealand, AURA)
Luis Oosterbeek (Portugal, IFRAO and UISPP)

Organisational Committee:
Conseil Général de l’Ariège: Joëlle Arches, Jacques Azéma, Emmanuel Demoulin,
Pascal Alard
Service régional d’Archéologie: Michel Vaginay, Yanik Le Guillou, Michel Barrère
Agence Départementale Touristique (ADP): Frédéric Fernandez
Jean-Michel Bellamy
Jean Clottes
Robert and Eric Bégouën (cavernes du Volp et Musée Bégouën)
Régis et Jean Vézian (grotte du Portel)
René Gailli (grottes de Bédeilhac et de La Vache)

Participating agencies and associations:
Ministère de la Culture, Service Régional d’Archéologie
Conseil Régional de Midi-Pyrénées
Conseil Général de l’Ariège
Municipalité de Tarascon-sur-Ariège
Agence Départementale Touristique Ariège Pyrénées
ARAPE (Association pour le Rayonnement de l’Art pariétal)
IFRAO (International Federation of Rock Art Organisations)
CAR/ICOMOS (Comité international d’Art rupestre de l’ICOMOS)
Centre émile Cartailhac (Toulouse)
Laboratoire PACEA, UMR 5199 (CNRS - Université Bordeaux 1 - MCC)
Office de Tourisme du Pays de Tarascon-Vicdessos
Société Préhistorique Ariège-Pyrénées
UISPP (Union internationale des Sciences préhistoriques et protohistoriques:
Commission 9 Art préhistorique)
Bradshaw Foundation