Engravings representing horses and a vulva, contemporary with the famous ornaments of the Lascaux cave, have been unearthed on the site of a camp of prehistoric hunters in the south of France, prehistorians announced on Thursday March 30.
Called in 2015 to a future landfill site at the foot of the foothills of the Costières de Nîmes (Gard), specialists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) quickly concluded that the site had been occupied by the man from around 20,000 years before our era until the 16th century of this era, explained Inrap officials during a press conference.
An exceptional archaeological site
The site of Bellegarde, slightly elevated, was probably chosen as a staging point by nomadic populations because it had a spring and offered a good view of the herds of wild horses crossing the great plain of Camargue, below, they specified.
In eleven months of excavations, in 2016, archaeologists unearthed 100,000 carved flint objects (weapons and tools), animal bones, shells used as ornaments, some dating back to the beginning of the Magdalenian, there is over 22,000 years.
Read alsoWhat does the Lascaux cave say?
But the most moving moment came later, however, when they realized while sorting and cleaning the collected objects that two small limestone tablets were decorated with engravings of horse profiles whose eyes, mane and or the mouth.
An imagery "
particularly rare in the south-east of France and totally unexpected at the gates of the Camargue
", underlined one of the prehistorians responsible for the site, Vincent Mourre.
These engravings "
are among the oldest known works for this Palaeolithic culture, in the same way as the parietal paintings and engravings of the cave of Lascaux (Dordogne)
", located in the south-west of France, he said. added.
In a more recent level (-16,000 years), they unearthed on a small tablet an engraving interpreted as a vulva framed by the top of the legs, as well as, on a large slab of about fifty centimeters, "
thin incisions, difficult to interpret
While the decorated walls of the caves were difficult to access, the works of Bellegarde were on the contrary easily transported by these nomadic peoples, or, in the case of the slab, were part of the decoration of the place where they gathered regularly, which makes it makes their originality
“, also noted Vincent Mourre.
Archaeologists hope the finest pieces will go on display or be shown in a museum, but no decision has been made on that yet, they said.