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Université de Bordeaux
LabEx LaScArBxCluster of Excellence
Cluster of excellence

Cave space: surface condition and limestone alteration phenomena resulting from the cave environment

Catherine Ferrier (PACEA, CNRS, University of Bordeaux 1)


I2M (UMR 5295) GCE Department

Specialist partners:
Musée National de Préhistoire des Eysies-de-Tayac
Centre des Monuments nationaux

Financing: €29,908

Duration: 2.5 years (1st September 2012- 31st December 2014)

Planned temporary recruitment

The surface evolution of decorated cave wall is a primordial factor to understand Palaeolithic artists’ symbolic expression and to preserve these memory spaces. The phenomena influencing wall facies and their evolution are however still unknown.

We therefore offer to follow an approach consisting of three interlinked parts and enabling, on the one hand, to characterize and classify natural wall facies and on the other hand, to better understand their formation and eventually, to begin applying these results to the taphonomic study of the decorated field. The first part includes the analysis of representative samples coming from the Leye laboratory cave (Dordogne) with complementary methods such as optical and electronical microscopy, cathodoluminescence or X-ray diffraction. Test samples already showed the feasibility and the power of this method and the relevance of combining with it the element trace composition analysis requiring the access to big instruments (PIXE analyses with the AGLAE system in the C2RMF or with the AIFIRA platform in the CENBG).

In order to shed light on the wall facies development processes, we intend to simulate them in a laboratory through accelerated alteration experiments, a well-tried technique for construction materials. We focus on condensation corrosion and on some calcite efflorescences. These results will support the set up of a light and noninvasive analysis method aimed at onsite characterisation of wall facies in a decorated context. This study will rely on equipments already available in the teams, such as microscopy or field X-ray fluorescence and will be tested in emblematic hollows of the Aquitaine heritage, such as Rouffignac, Combarelles or Font-de-Gaume caves.