Programmes > Par auteur > Kuhn Steven L.

‘No country for old artists'? New discoveries on Upper Paleolithic rock art in Balkans
Aitor Ruiz-Redondo  1, *@  , Diego Garate-Maidagan  2@  , Manuel Ramón González-Morales  2@  , Jacques Jaubert  3@  , Ivor Karavanić  4@  , Darko Komšo  5@  , Steven L. Kuhn  6@  , Dušan Mihailović  7@  , Oscar Moro-Abadía  8@  , Marc Vander Linden  9@  
1 : Université de Bordeaux  -  Site web
PACEA (UMR 5199), Bordeaux Archaeological Sciences Cluster of Excellence (LaScArBx)
Bât. B18. allée Geoffroy Saint-Hilarie 33615 PESSAC CEDEX -  France
2 : University of Cantabria
3 : Université de Bordeaux
PACEA (UMR 5199), Bordeaux Archaeological Sciences Cluster of Excellence (LaScArBx)
4 : University of Zagreb
5 : Archaeological Museum of Istria
6 : University of Arizona
7 : University of Belgrade
8 : University of Newfoundland
9 : University of Cambridge
* : Auteur correspondant

Western archaeologists have traditionally considered Paleolithic art and symbolism as a phenomenon exclusively associated with anatomically modern humans (hereafter AMH). Moreover, proponents of the ‘Human Revolution' model have suggested that art first appeared in Europe at the same time as the dispersal of AMH throughout the Old World ca. 40-50 cal. BP. While there is still no consensus about whether other hominin species (Neanderthals) created artwork, recent discoveries of several Pleistocene decorated caves in Australia, Indonesia and South Africa (dated to about c. 40,000 cal BP) open up the possibility of a non-European origin of the first artistic representations.

In 2016, we began the BALKARTS project (“Looking for the origins of art: BALKans Archaeological Rock arT Survey”) to test the paradigm conceptualizing Paleolithic rock art as a phenomenon exclusive to Western Europe. Our hypothesis is that the lack of rock art in adjacent areas (such as in the Balkans) is mainly due to a lack of systematic survey, rather than reflecting a past behavioral reality. To assess this possibility, we have developed a survey program comprising of a number of archaeological sites (including several Paleolithic caves) in order to identify possible prehistoric graphic evidence in the Western Balkans region.

In this paper we will present the preliminary results of the BALKARTS project. After surveying 62 caves and rock shelters in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, we have discovered two Paleolithic rock art sites, and we are currently studying two other possible ones. The previous lack of evidence for Paleolithic art in the area, the special relevance of the Balkans for understanding AMH's early colonization of Europe, and debates about the cultural relationships between Eastern and Western Europe during the Upper Paleolithic, make these discoveries particularly relevant.


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