Shared Characteristics and Different Symbolic Traditions


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What symbolic traditions can be defined at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic? Can we characterize specific Aurignacian, Gravettian or Solutrean approaches? This thematic-stylistic analysis applied to a sample of 2 000 representations in nearly 110 caves provides some partial answers to these questions and reveals continuity in the “artistic traditions” of early Upper Paleolithic groups. Other observations show the complexity of artistic representations through time-bound and location-bound “traditions” and speak to the plurality of symbolic behavior in prehistoric societies.

We highlight a decrease in the diversity of stylistic resources used by Paleolithic groups throughout the Upper Paleolithic. Graphic standards imposed by the group tend to become more rigid, limiting the scope of the prehistoric artist and leading to a set repertoire of certain formal graphic representations. Due to this decrease in the “freedom” of iconographic codes, which become increasingly standardized, the role of the Paleolithic artist in society is reconsidered and appears to reflect social changes.

To cite this article

Petrognani S., 2015 – Early Upper Paleolithic Parietal Art: Shared Characteristics and Different Symbolic Traditions, in White R., Bourrillon R. (eds.) with the collaboration of Bon F., Aurignacian Genius: Art, Technology and Society of the First Modern Humans in Europe, Proceedings of the International Symposium, April 08-10 2013, New York University, P@lethnology, 7, 221-235.