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Vilhonneur Cave [la Grotte de Vilhonneur] (France)



Vilhonneur Cave is an Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) decorated cave site located near the village of Vilhonneur in the Charente region of Les Garennes, France. The cave includes two chambers and a gallery, including both art and human remains.

Vilhonneur's first chamber contained the remains of at least five young adult hyenas. The walls of the second chamber are decorated, with red dots, black bars, traces of color, and a black hand stencil. A possible human face appears on the surface of a limestone ledge, and dispersed across that ledge is the partial skeleton of a young adult human male. The human bones represent Anatomically Modern Human, and have been apparently disturbed by animal gnawing. It is unclear whether the bones represent an intentional surface interment, although this has not been ruled out.

AMS radiocarbon dates on the skeletal materials (human and hyena) fall within Gravettian dates, between 26,000-28,000 years ago.

Vilhonneur Cave was discovered by spelunkers in late 2005, and investigations of the cave and its contents have been directed by Dominique Henry-Gambier of the CNRS.


Images of Vilhonneur cave are available on the French Hominidés website for Villhonneur, une nouvelle grotte ornée de 25 000 BP.

Some discussion of the cave and its art can be found on the Palanth forum.

Henry-Gambier, Dominique, et al. 2007 New hominid remains associated with Gravettian parietal art (Les Garennes, Vilhonneur, France). Journal of Human Evolution 53(6):747-750.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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