Ancient ruins in the middle of the Pacific ocean could be the remnants of a legendary race or dare we say….Atlantis.
Clips from the Science Channel series What on Earth? reveal images of a mysterious location just off the coast of the tiny nation of Micronesia.
The remote island of Pohnpei is home to the archaeological site of Nan Madol, yet very little is known about the area and the ruins that reside there.
The city appears to be sit on top of a lagoon and consists of a series of canals and large stone walls.
Studies published by Research Gate show that the complex could date back to the first or second century AD but little has still yet to be verified about Nan Madol.
Images of the site can still clearly be seen via Google Earth.
3D techniques have been applied to the study of decorated caves and rockshelters with great success. Not only does this present an opportu- nity to represent parietal art in its full volumetric dimensions, but it readily allow for these reconstructions to be accessible to a wider audi- ence. Most often, these 3D technologies are used in the final phase of analysis, to synthesize the body of data collected and to construct a ho- listic view of the site.1 Even so, in France, the cost of these operations and of making them publicly available online limits these virtual visits to major national sites.
However, the application of 3D techniques presents many possibilities for all phases of research (among many examples: Pinçon, 2004; Pinçon et al., 2010; Azéma et al., 2012, 2014; Bourrillon and White, 2015; Feruglio et al., 2015; Fritz et al., 2010a; Delannoy et al., 2012). Since 2003, we have employed these tools in the interpretation and documen- tation of engravings and paintings from the cave of Marsoulas, which date to approximately 17,000 calBP (Fritz and Tosello, 2004, 2007). The con- stant evolution of 3D modeling techniques has allowed for considerable advancement in data acquisition in the cave environments as well as their reconstruction both for researchers and the greater public.
[email protected] (G. Tosello).
1 In France, we cite as examples the sculpted rock shelters of Chaire-à-Calvin (http://
www.sculpture.prehistoire.culture.fr/fr/la-chaire-calvin.html#visite) and Roc-aux- Sorciers (http://www.sculpture.prehistoire.culture.fr/fr/le-roc-aux-sorciers.html#visite), and the painted caves of Lascaux (http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/) and Font-de-Gaume (http://font-de-gaume.monuments-nationaux.fr).
2352-409X/© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
3D technologies are now widely applied in the study of decorated caves and rockshelters because they provide unique volumetric representations of the art. In the cave of Marsoulas (Haute-Garonne, France), which has en- gravings and paintings which date to approximately 17,000 BP, 3D modeling and other image processing tech- niques have been combined into an analytical system of documentation that addresses the unique challenges and questions that this site presents to researchers. 3D modeling is used as a new tool for producing easily under- standable graphic renderings of the cave walls (essential for interpretation), while also creating a publically ac- cessible reconstruction of the cave art and its environment.
Marsoulas is a straight narrow gallery of moderate size, about 100 m long, and can be navigated easily to about 27 m from the entrance at which point the walls narrow drastically and the ceiling lowers, forcing the visitor to proceed by crawling. At 40 m from the entrance, the floor curves downward at an abrupt angle, while the roof maintains its height, for about a dozen meters. At 44 m in, one can more stand upright again on a steep surface until an underground stream is reached at 50 m. In cross-section, the cave has an asymmetrical triangular profile (3 m wide and 4 m tall in the largest sections). The right wall is slanted, in- clining to form the roof and eventually meeting the vertical left wall. Pa- rietal art has been documented along the entire length of the chamber (Fig. 1).
Marsoulas has a long research history. An excavation trench from 1883 to 1884 is still visible today at the base of the left wall, 13 to 18 m from the entrance (Cau-Durban, 1885). In addition to substantial archaeological material, the primary significance of this excavation re- mains the exposure of engravings and paintings that were obscured by infill until that point (Fig. 2).
In 1897, F. Regnault discovered the paintings that form the principal panel (Regnault, 1897). Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, nu- merous researchers have studied the cave (e.g. Cau-Durban, 1885; Cartailhac and Breuil, 1905; Bégouën and Russell, 1933; Méroc et al., 1948; Leroi-Gourhan, 1971; Breuil, 1952; Plénier, 1971; Vialou, 1986; Foucher, 1991; Lacombe, 1996). Despite the previous work, a consider- able area of the site remained unexamined, which led us to embark on a renewed study in 1998. Both the material culture items and the parietal art suggest the primary occupation phase occurred in the beginning of
© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
1.1. A fragile cave with a complex past
Please cite this article as: Fritz, C., et al., Reconstructing Paleolithic cave art: The example of Marsoulas cave (France), Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.012
JASREP-00449; No of Pages 7
2 C. Fritz et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2016) xxx–xxx
Fig. 1. Marsoulas cave. Complete 3D profile of the cave from the entrance to the end. In the present paper, the panels G35–G38 are presented as examples of the methodological protocol (doc. G.Tosello/C·Fritz).
the Pyrenean Magdalenian, around 17,000 calBP (Fritz and Tosello, 2005).
Early notoriety, significant and enduring scientific interest, and ease of access have had heavy impact on the conservation of the cave by attracting several generations of visitors who, through igno- rance or vandalism, have damaged the walls in all areas within easy reach. The site was closed to the public in 1996. Even though re- search remains authorized, rules of conservation impose restrictions on maximum working time in the cave. This limits the impact that human presence can have on the subterranean climate, whose main- tenance and stability are crucial to the conservation of the parietal art. With limited time to spend in the cave each year, we began to look for a way to continue portions of the documentation process from the laboratory.
Fig. 2. From the entrance to the back of the cave, the gallery is straight in plan and triangular in section. The trench from early excavations is visible at left (image C. Fritz).
1.2. An original style of cave art
At the end of 2015, the inventory of themes represented at Marsoulas (based on the analyzed panels, which comprised 60% of the cavity) included more than 340 animal and human figures, geometric motifs, and diverse markings. Overall Marsoulas is thought to comprise 500 motifs based on our survey to date. Among the repertoire we note several large bison and horses painted in red and black and accentuated with engravings; one of the bison is covered in red dots, and another in black dots. Geometric motifs are grouped on the left wall and include: tectiform (Figs. 3 and 4), rectangles, clusters of lines, dots and dashes, inverse “T” shapes, grids, large “harpoon” forms, and shorter groups of oblique marks. The art of Marsoulas is of profound stylistic originality