Study of the portable art in the cave of Isturitz

The Isturitz cave is one of the earliest known archaeological sites in the Pyrenees. It is one of the caves on the Gaztelu hill (Saint-Martind’Arberoue, Atlantic Pyrenees), and was originally a very large gallery, over 120 m long and 50 m wide at some points, opened at both ends by a large porch which, at the beginning of the 19th century, was used as the entrance to the cave.

The references to this cave date back to the 17th century, although it was not until 1912 that archaeological research began (Passemard, 1922, 1924). Later, it was Saint-Périer who continued the excavations, which provided an extensive stratigraphic sequence of great interest for the knowledge of the Upper Palaeolithic. In addition, an exceptional quantity of movable art has been collected, which will be the subject of further research.

Both the rock art (Passemard, 1913) and the portable art from Isturitz have been known since the beginning of research and have been the subject of various studies. The parietal art of Isturitz has recently been reviewed in the work directed by D. Garate (Garate et al., 2016). The collections of portable art held at the Musée de l’Archéologie Nationale de Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Paris have also been studied by various authors. Olivia Rivero undertook the study of these collections in 2005 and her review continues today in collaboration with D. Garate, with more than half a thousand decorated objects analysed (Rivero, 2014; 2015; Rivero and Garate, 2014, 2016). This study is based on the documentation and three-dimensional restitution of the decorated objects, as well as the analysis of the configuration processes of the engravings and the reconstruction of the engravers’ gestures.

Some of the 3D restitutions made from Isturitz art objects can be seen at the following link (virtual museum).