Thursday, November 24, 2016

New Perspectives on Mont Bego (Thomas Huet, 2016)

Mont Bego is a mountain pass in Southern France where thousands of petroglyphs are documented.  Almost all of them are daggers or cows.  See previous [Link]

He makes the case that these petroglyphs are not the result of a narrow group of artists but the accumulation of art over a vast period of time.  Some daggers overlay old ones.

Nicoletta Bianchi (<2009) via rockartscandinavia

So here's a question.  Why only daggers and cow heads?  A similar phenomenon at Stonehenge; hundreds of engraved daggers, that's it.

Here's one possibility put forth by Michael Bott [here], that is that the daggers are indicative of the activity that took place in this location, perhaps dueling in this location, maybe religious combat sport or venationes.  Since this place is kind of a hassle to get to, maybe the activity was sanctioned in the backdrop of a holy mountain.  Whatever score settling, trial by combat, dueling or contention was settled once and for all?  Anyhow, that seems to jive with Huet's accumulation theory.

Unless you can think of another reason?

New Perspectives on the Chronology and Meaning of Mont Bégo Rock Art (Alpes-Maritimes, France)

Thomas Huet, 2016.  Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

In 1994, H. de Lumley's teams of researchers finished the colossal task—initiated more than 20 years earlier—of recording every pecked rock engraving of Mont Bégo's rock art. The following year, in the book Le grandiose et le sacré, Lumley defined the site as a sacred mountain and attributed rock engravings, considered as ex-votos, to the Early Bronze Age and the Bell Beaker period. However, it is hard to recognize what interpretations can be directly drawn from the data: some exceptional rock engravings are considered as representative of the whole corpus of rock engravings and the most numerous ones are considered as a ‘bruit de fond’ [background noise]. Furthermore, recognition of associations—where rock engravings are contemporaneous and significantly grouped—had been criticised, and the hypothesis that all the rock engravings can be considered as a single archaeological event seems also to be contradicted by studies of superimpositions. We developed a GIS and a comprehensive database, with statistics, to identify specific spatial configurations, seriation effects and, finally, the evolution of the rock art. By going further in the periodization, our aim is to propose some provisional hypotheses about the meaning of Mont Bégo's rock engravings.

See also [Link] 


  1. The Halberds and Daggers look like they are from the Unetice culture, I wonder what the connection is there.

  2. I think that you will find the ancient Y-DNA results from a recent study on one of the Canary Islands interesting.

    7 R1b-M269 (a classic Western European haplogroup seemingly associated with Bell Beaker), 7 E1b-M83 (a dominant Berber marker), and 1 E1a-M33 (sub-Saharan Africa but also found in North Africa). The mtDNA sample is 9 mtDNA H, 57 mtDNA H1, and one each of three other closely related mtDNA haplogroups. The sample members are fairly non-diverse suggesting founder effects. The samples are 920 to 795 years old, which means that they derive from the second part of the first wave of migration that started ca. 1900 years ago, rather the first part of the first wave ca. 2500 years ago (which was on other islands), or a second Iberian wave ca. 600 years ago. The blog post discussing the paper is in French.

  3. In Galicia, after a long period of Cup-and-ring marks, the bronze age petroglyphs appears to be characterized by deer and weapons (swords, daggers, halberds... not dislike those in the Alpine region) representation.

    This paper's ( ) authors propose that -given that these kind of petroglyphs that depict weapons in martial stance are mostly equidistant and that they are placed in high, visible places but with good access to the sea or to major rivers- they were somehow related to commerce and middle to long range relations. So I understand that, yes, they were placed at important locations where people met.

    1. Oh, and take a look at the African petroplyph in page 22, figure 10.1 :-)

    2. Thanks for the link! I'll check it out this afternoon.

  4. "Unless you can think of another reason?"

    Almost looks like a skill progression - if they were offerings by value then as tool working improved what counted as a suitably valuable offering might change too.

    - flint arrowheads and daggers
    - copper arrowheads and daggers
    - copper/bronze daggers and axes