Publication Details

White, R., Mensan, R., Clark, A. E., Tartar, E., Marquer, L., Bourrillon, R., Goldberg, P., Chiotti, L., Cretin, C., Rendu, W., Pike-Tay, A. & Ranlett, S. (2017). Technologies for the control of heat and light in the Vézère Valley Aurignacian. Current Anthropology, 58 S288-S302.


We can trace the beginnings of our knowledge of early Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) use of fire to the pioneering 1910-1911 excavations at Abri Blanchard undertaken by Louis Didon and Marcel Castanet. At Blanchard, the excavators recognized and described fire structures that correspond in many ways to features excavated more recently in Western and Central Europe. Here, we address the issue of heat and light management in the early Upper Paleolithic, demonstrating a pattern that builds on these early excavations but that is refined through our recent field operations. Topics to be discussed include (1) recently excavated fire structures that suggest complex fire management and use, (2) the seemingly massive use of bone as fuel in most early Aurignacian sites, and (3) the anchoring of skin structures for purposes of heat retention with fireplaces behind animal-skin walls. Furthermore, new data on activities around fireplaces make it possible to infer social and organizational aspects of fire structures within Aurignacian living spaces. The vast majority of early Aurignacian occupations, most of them now dated to between 33,000 and 32,000 BP (uncalibrated), occurred on a previously unoccupied bedrock platform into which the occupants dug their fire features.



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