Reassessing Abri Castanet
In a 2012 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Randall White and his team reported a reassessment of Abri Castanet, based on their 2005-2010 excavations of the south part of the rockshelter, as well as re-examination of Peyrony's stratigraphic profile drawn in 1925. They believe that Peyrony's Layer C is nonexistent, and Abri Castanet is a single, laterally varible archaeological occupation situated atop the bedrock, and dated to the Early Aurignacian.
White's excavations have also shed light on the roof collapse and the materials recovered within it. In particular, a newly identified ceiling block has been discovered, with a modified surface measuring some 131x91 centimeters (51.6x35.8 inches). The roof block is flat, and engraved with vulvar images, similar to those recovered by Peyrony. Adjacent to the vulva, the front portion of what appears to be a bison has been drawn in bas-relief.
A suite of radiocarbon dates taken on animal bone suggest that occupation at Abri Castanet began between 37,190-36,630 calibrated years before the present (cal BP); and ended between 36,760-35,770 cal BP. White's team is convinced that all of the materials within the cave represent a single occupation, dated to the Early Aurignacian. Further, these dates are similar to, if not slightly older than, the paintings in Chauvet Cave, making Abri Castanet's ceiling sculptures among the oldest art in the world.
Denis Peyrony's investigations at Abri Castanet were conducted in 1911-1912 and again in 1924-1925. New excavations were begun by Jacques Pelegrin and Randall White in the 1990s, and continued by Randall White alone between 2005 and 2010.
Recent investigations conducted by French and American scholars have focused on attempting to reconcile the excavation and recording techniques used by pioneer archaeologist Denis Peyrony with modern archaeology as practiced by White and Pelegrin. In addition, nearly a century after Peyrony's excavations, scholarly understanding of lithic technologies for Upper Paleolithic assemblages has blossomed, with microscopic and scanning electron microscope analysis of the stone tool assemblage adding much to our understanding of tool use by Aurignacian inhabitants of the cave.