W-sign: This sign type is a fairly recent addition to my typology, and as such, remains a work in progress. I first became aware of the W-sign after seeing an article about the French site of Chauvet, where there are 17 of these sign types present, both engraved and painted (Azéma and Clottes 2008). While I had read descriptions in site inventories elsewhere that mentioned a sign that was ‘curvilinear’ or shaped like a ‘cursive w’ (Lorblanchet 1984: 458), this was the first time I actually got to see what it looked like. While the 2008 article refers to these signs as being ‘Chauvet-type signs’, I decided to call them W-signs as I felt it was more descriptive of their shape, and less France-specific, since I am also planning to look for them elsewhere.
Photo of red W-sign at
Drawing of five W-signs at the French
site of Les Cuzoul-des-Brasconies
So far I have found W-signs at seven different sites in France, though I suspect that this number will rise now that I am actively looking for them. It appears for the first time at the Aurignacian site of Grotte Chauvet (see photo below), and is also present in the Gravettian (1 site), the Solutrean (2 sites), and the Magdalenian (3 sites). There is an interesting geographic distribution pattern to these sites, with four of them grouped quite tightly together in the district of Lot in SW France, two more near each other in SE France, and then a single site near the base of the Pyrenees. As I identify more examples of this sign type in France, it will be intriguing to see if they are also found in the same vicinity as the existing sites. As well, I have heard that W-signs are present in Spain, so locating these neighbouring examples might help illuminate a clearer distribution pattern.
Genevieve von Petzinger
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Geometric Signs in France
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