BÉGOUËN, Robert; FRITZ, Carole; TOSELLO, Gilles; CLOTTES, Jean; PASTOORS, Andreas; FAIST, François. (With the collaboration of François Bourges, Philippe Fosse, Sébastien Lacombe and Mathieu Langlais). La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons. Il y a 14 000 ans, dans la caverne du Tuc d’Audoubert. Paris: Somogy éditions d’art, 2009. 415p. Resenha de: BUDJA, Mihael; PETRU, Budja. Documenta Praehistorica, v.36, 2009.

Tuc d’Audoubert – with Les Trois Frères and Enlène – is part of the cave system of the River Volp, and best known for its bison sculpted in clay. The monograph ‘La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons’ is the result of intense scientific research between 1992 and 2004 on the cave and its Pleistocene art. The important part of the research was the re-examination of the archaeological material from earlier excavations.

The book begins with the exciting story of the discovery of Tuc d’Audoubert in 1912 and the subsequent research of the cave’s chambers and galleries, which are decorated with numerous paintings and engravings.

The geographical position of the cave, the genesis of the cave system and landscape are then described, and environmental facts, and the cultural characteristics of the Magdalenians in the Pyrenees region are presented. The reasons for the excellent preservation of the cave art are also emphasised. The methods of research and various techniques for documenting parietal art are presented and some terminological problems explained. The main part of the book is dedicated to the cave art of Tuc d’Audoubert.

The reader encounters various motifs and representations in a voyage through the cave chambers and galleries from the entrance to its deepest recesses, where the journey ends with the most spectacular find – sculptures of bison. The Magdalenians did not visit the cave only to create images – they also lived in it for short periods, and left artefacts and animal bones in some parts. Among the more enigmatic finds are objects pushed into fissures in the cave walls. Similar objects have been found in other caves and might be interpreted as offerings of some kind, which connected people with the cave and underground world. There are numerous impressions of human feet in the cave. It is interesting that there are adult and children’s impressions deep inside the cave, so at least one child accompanied adults to the Gallery of the Clay Bison. In the final chapters, the authors explain the chronology of the art in Tuc d’Audoubert. They discuss the figurative and non-figurative themes of the art, the art techniques, the distribution of the images and the relation between the mundane and symbolic or “sacred” spaces of the cave. The cave and its art are set in the context of the Magdalenian cultural region of the Pyrenees and the wider south-western European region.

The book ends with an attractive epilogue, in which imagination takes wings in a story about the life and creativity of the Magdalenian people who visited Tuc d’Audoubert. “La Sanctuaire secret des Bisons” is an extensive work, which systematically presents a Palaeolithic cave art site. The numerous illustrations contribute to the general attractiveness of the book.

Mihael Budja and Simona Petru

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