Palaeolithic Weaving -- a Contribution from Chauvet

By Bahn, Paul G. | Antiquity, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Palaeolithic Weaving -- a Contribution from Chauvet


Bahn, Paul G., Antiquity


The new emphasis in recent years on some hitherto neglected aspects of Ice Age technology (Kehoe 1990; 1991; Soffer et al. 2000a; 2000b) is extremely welcome, and helps to flesh out a picture which has traditionally concentrated far too heavily on stone tool typologies. As Softer et al. have pointed out (2000c: 815), I have elsewhere highlighted a few examples of French Pyrenean scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were far-sighted enough to suspect the existence of textiles in the Upper Palaeolithic (Bahn 1985: 204; see also Tyldesley & Bahn 1983). For instance, Mascaraux (1910: 367) interpreted an object of reindeer antler found in the Magdalenian cave of St Michel d'Arudy (Pyrenees Atlantiques) as a hook for making nets, and hence suggested the existence of textile plants in the `Reindeer Age'. Similarly, in the Magdalenian of the Pyrenean `supersite' of Le Mas d'Azil (Ariege),the great Edouard Piette found so many `navettes' (shutties) that he believed in the existence of weaving (Piette 1889: 18), and even in the possibility of a cultivation of textile plants (Dresch 1888). Some decades later, M. & S-J. Pequart's excavations in this same cave (1960-3: 176-7) led to their discovering a `fuseau' (spindle) and a `fusaiole' (spindle weight) which likewise led them to accept the existence of Magdalenian weaving.

The purpose of this short note is to present an even more noteworthy contribution to this debate by another great figure in French prehistory, Gustave Chauvet (1840-1933). Chauvet, a lawyer, was one of the many `amateur' prehistorians who did such pioneering and fundamental work in western Europe, but he has remained little known or read outside those specializing in the prehistory of Charente, the region where he lived and worked. However, his major work on Palaeolithic culture contains no less than six pages devoted to `Vannerie et Tissage?' (Basketry and weaving?, 1910: 155-60). Earlier in the book, he had cast doubt on the `navette' hypothesis (1910: 84-6) as being somewhat vague and undefined, but then states wisely that `in the interpretation of the remains left by the Magdalenians, we are too preoccupied by the idea that these people were hunters and fishers, and we see harpoons, spears and weapons everywhere ... But they also had tools ... and it would be a good idea to check whether [some of them] were used for industrial work -- basketry, crude weaving, etc.' (1910: 89). He also suggests that the multiple zigzag decoration on a point of reindeer antler from the cave of Le Placard (FIGURE 1) might depict basketry (1910: 132).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the special section of the book devoted to the possibility of basketry and weaving, Chauvet begins by acknowledging that, in the view of most prehistorians, there was no Magdalenian weaving, and there is no question of basketry before the Neolithic. But he feels, along with Aime-Louis Rutot (1847-1933, an eminent Belgian prehistorian), that this view should be abandoned. The study of `present-day savages' shows that basketry is a very rudimentary industry which is known among peoples who have not yet developed pottery. One cannot, of course, find remains of objects made of plant fibres in Magdalenian layers, but he believes that some drawings on bone can indicate their existence. Here he illustrates another engraved bone from the Magdalenian of Le Placard (FIGURE 2) which he considers to be an important depiction of a crude piece of weaving or of fine basketry, comparing it to similar motifs in incised Chaldean pottery. In short, `this drawing probably reproduces an object woven out of plant fibres' (1910: 157). Referring back to the earlier drawing (FIGURE 1), he believes that it represents, line for line, what oriental baskets look like.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

He goes on to claim that basketry and crude weaving were probably known to the Magdalenians, and, just as birds plait nests and beavers dams, so Palaeolithic people were able to live far from natural shelters by creating artificial dwellings with wickerwork and rudimentary basketry. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Palaeolithic Weaving -- a Contribution from Chauvet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.