Our research projects in France are concentrated on cave art:

Trackers from the Kalahari Interpret Stone Age Footprints

In the summer of 2013 a special research project of the Neanderthal Museum, in conjunction with the University of Cologne, was in its initial stages. Dr. Andreas Pastoors and Dr. Tilman Lenssen-Erz, together with three trackers from Namibia, were visiting caves containing Ice Age art in France. Their goal was to use the rare specialist knowledge of the three trackers to interpret preserved footprints of Ice Age people. The project team was accompanied by a camera team from arte who were making a documentary. A short film can be viewed here.

People from the end of the last Ice Age did not only leave behind rock art in caves, they also left behind prints in the soft cave floors. These hand- and footprints have been known of for the last 100 years and have been investigated using traditional Western scientific methods. These methods did not include, however, the ancient skill of reading tracks, which wasn't seen as a useful interpretative method. Tracking knowledge and the skills associated with it are possessed by very few people today. Among those few are the experienced hunters of the Jul'hoansi ("Bush people") of the Kalahari (Namibia). Three such trackers were recruited to decipher the tracks left by humans in caves in southern France and their interpretations were recorded. In every cave visited the trackers not only made informed interpretations of the prints, but also identified previously unknown prints. The project has proved so successful that a follow-up project is being planned.

The project is sponsored by the DFG: LE 1117/4 (2013). Lebensbilder eiszeitlicher Höhlenkünstler. Modelluntersuchungen zu Aktivitäten in Höhlenräumen im Kontext der Wandkunst.

Social Networks During the Magdalenian in the Pyrenees

The research project examines, through analysis of art and resource management, the spatial organisation of Magdalenian hunters on the northern edge of the Pyrenees. With this holistic approach, researchers will attempt to gain insight into the social, religious, and economic aspects of spatial organisation among Ice Age hunters. Working outward from the central site of Enlène/Les Trois-Frères in a radial pattern, spatial statistical methods will be used in an attempt to determine the network of relationships across an entire small region. The extremely rich haul of finds from Enlène/Les Trois-Frères make it probable that it was an occupation site of particular importance within the Magdalenian settlement network.

Such an integrated research approach in the field of Palaeolithic art has not previously been undertaken. The artistic and economic aspects of spatial organisation have only been examined in isolation in the past. This holistic approach is innovative and affords the opportunity to develop a new, powerful research methodology.

Sponsored by the DFG: WE 1022/12 (since 2013). Kommunikation und Ressourcennutzung. Modelluntersuchungen zu Raumkonzepten magdalénienzeitlicher Wildbeuter.

The Settlement History of Volp River Valley

Project completed

The Volp River Valley has been systematically investigated for new archaeological sites in order to shed light on the settlement history of the area. In recent years, two sites close by the famous Volp caves have been systematically investigated and the findings published.

Perte de la Tuilerie

Engravings were discovered in the small cave of Perte de la Tuilerie in 1995. Engravings of a horse, a steppe bison, and another, unknown, animal are found in a narrow, elongated gallery. Of particular interest is the style in which the steppe bison is drawn. Its disproportionately large forebody and head are similar to figures found in both Pech-Merle and Niaux.

Abri du Rhinocéros

Directly above the entrance to Tuc d'Audoubert is the small rock-shelter of Abri du Rhinocéros. In the summer of 1912, the Bégouën family carried out small-scale excavations here. The results of those excavations are unknown. As part of the work being carried out in Tuc d'Audoubert, the Neanderthal Museum undertook new, selective sampling investigations. The results show the rock-shelter was frequented by Middle Palaeolithic hunters. This is an important finding for our understanding of the occupation history of the area around the Volp caves.

A New Method for Interpreting Cave Art

Project completed

The spectacular prehistoric pictures on rock walls, both in open-air sites and in caves, consistently attract the interest of researchers and the media alike. People used these images to create a signposted landscape from the natural one. In this way, for example, landmarks were identified and drawings and paintings were created near water sources. Other prehistoric artefacts of everyday and ritual activities contribute to our understanding of these images. While a range of methods and a large dataset exist regarding the connection of rock art to the landscape in open-air sites, the application of this methodology to cave conditions is new territory.

Sponsored by the DAAD (1999-2001). Siedlungsfunde des Magdalénien in den Höhlenheiligtümern Les Trois-Frères und Tuc d'Audoubert (Ariège). Zum Verständnis der Nutzung von Höhlenheiligtümern.

Sponsored by the DFG: WE 1022/6 (2001-2004). Paläolithische Wandkunst und Siedlungsverhalten in Höhlensystemen. Eine Fallstudie der Volp-Höhlen (Frankreich).

Further information: Association Louis Bégouën


The Settlement History of Volp River Valley

Bégouën, Robert; Berke, Hubert; Pastoors, Andreas (im Druck): L'Abri du Rhinocéros à Montesquieu-Avantès (France). In: Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique de l'Ariège.

Pastoors, Andreas; Bégouën, Eric (2000): La Perte de la Tuilerie. Die Entdeckung einer Höhle mit Wandkunst im Tal des Volp (Ariège). In: Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 30 (3), S. 327-333.

Bégouën, Robert; Fritz, Carole; Tosello, Gilles; Clottes, Jean; Faist, François; Pastoors, Andreas et al. (2007): "Les Magdaléniens modelaient aussi l'argile". In: Les Dossiers de l'Archéologie 324, S. 30-37.

Bégouën, Robert; Fritz, Carole; Tosello, Gilles; Clottes, Jean; Pastoors, Andreas; Faist, François (2009): Le sanctuaire secret des bisons. Il y a 14 000 ans dans la caverne du Tuc d'Audoubert ... Paris: Somogy.

Keding, Birgit; Lenssen-Erz, Tilman; Pastoors, Andreas (2007): Pictures and pots from pastoralists. Investigations into the prehistory of the Ennedi highlands in NE Chad. In: Sahara 18, S. 23-46.

Pastoors, Andreas (2003): Höhlenkunst und Raum: Methodische Überlegungen zur Analyse von Konzepten der Höhlengestaltung auf der Grundlage der Höhle Djara (Ägypten). In: Andreas Pastoors und Gerd C. Weniger (Hg.): Höhlenkunst und Raum: Archäologische und architektonische Perspektiven. Düsseldorf: Jan van der Most (Wissenschaftliche Schriften des Neanderthal Museums, 3), S. 47-64.

Pastoors, Andreas (2003): Tagungsbericht: Höhlenkunst und Raum: Archäologische und architektonische Perspektiven. Neanderthal Museum (Mettmann). In: Archäologische Informationen 25, S. 137-138.

Pastoors, Andreas; Bégouën, Robert; Clottes, Jean (1999): Tuc d'Audoubert (Ariège, Frankreich). Vorbericht über archäologische Prospektionen in den unteren Galerien der Höhle. In: Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 29 (2), S. 147-154.

Pastoors, Andreas; Weniger, Gerd C. (Hg.) (2003): Höhlenkunst und Raum: Archäologische und architektonische Perspektiven. Neanderthal Museum. Düsseldorf: Jan van der Most (Wissenschaftliche Schriften des Neanderthal Museums, 3).

A New Method for Interpreting Cave Art

Pastoors, Andreas; Weniger, Gerd C. (2011): Cave art in context: Methods of spatial organisation in the analysis of caves with Palaeolithic rock art. In: Journal of Archaeological Research 19 (4), S. 377-400.

Pastoors, Andreas; Weniger, Gerd C. (2011): Höhlenbilder in ihrem Kontext: Methoden der Raumplanung bei der Analyse eiszeitlicher Bilderhöhlen am Beispiel von Lascaux (Dordogne, Frankreich). In: Ulrike Wulf-Rheidt und Peter Schneider (Hg.): Licht-Konzepte in der vormodernen Architektur. Regensburg: Schnell und Steiner (Diskussionen zur Archäologischen Bauforschung, 10), S. 15-30.