The art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin represents a unique graphic expression within the recent European prehistoric framework and contains a wealth of information about the societies that created it. Discovered in the early twentieth century, it was collectively declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998 and its most distinctive features are:
However, the chronology of this art (dating and authorship) has not yet been settled and is therefore still open to debate, but being able to identify the base materials of the pigments, suggests the possibility of applying the technique of carbon-14 dating, to particular elements.
In the majority of the representations a red pigment obtained from iron oxide dominates, although other colours like black and white have occasionally been used. A recently published paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science, closely examines the black markings.
Clodoaldo Roldán explains, “up to now, these pigments were associated with the use of mineral components such as manganese oxides, but this study has made it possible, for the first time, to identify the use of carbonised plant material to produce the black pigments in the Levantine paintings at Valltorta-Gassulla”.
An exceptional place for study
For the study of the elemental composition of the black pigments two types of analyses were used:
energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF), a non-destructive analysis made on site in order to preserve the integrity of the paintings
electron microscopy, a laboratory analysis of microsamples from a limited set of black figures
These techniques were applied to 34 points of black pigment and 18 points of a non-black-pigmented surface. The points analysed are part of a total of 25 pictorial motifs among which there are 15 human figures, 6 animals, 1 animal track and 3 undefined motifs.
It is interesting to note that some of the black motifs described have undergone transformation processes such as total or partial repainting in red. Such processes have not only modified the original shape of the figures, but the addition of new graphic elements also leads to new interpretations of the narrative.
“The large number of figures painted with black pigments, used to draw both human figures and animals, and the subsequent changes to which these representations have been subjected, such as repainting or addition of new elements into the picture —which would indicate a graphic and narrative re-appropriation— make the Remígia cave an exceptional place for study”, says Valentín Villaverde.
Source: Past Horizons: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/11/2014/organic-matter-identified-in-levantine-art-may-lead-to-new-interpretations