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French engravings of female genitalia "oldest in the world"

The Abri Castanet engravings found in what was once a shelter for reindeer hunters could date back 37,000 years.

France rock art 120514Enlarge
This drawing on a limestone slab found at Abri Castanet in southwestern France is said to be of female sexual organ associated with unidentifiable engravings. Dating back 37,000 years it is believed to be the world's earliest known cave art. (Raphaëlle Bourrillon/Courtesy)

Anthropologists believe they have determined that a block of limestone found in southwestern France engraved with depictions of animals and female genitalia is the earliest wall art known to man.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the etchings on a huge block of limestone found at the famous Abri Castanet site date back over 37,000 years.

"When I saw the image my response was 'Oh my god, a vulva," New York University anthropology professor Randall White, the paper's lead author is reported as saying by NewsCore.

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The 1.5 metric ton ceiling piece was first discovered in 2007, and was meant to decorate a shelter for early Aurignacian reindeer hunters, AFP says

"This art appears to be slightly older than the famous paintings from the Grotte Chauvet in southeastern France," White said.  The Grotte Chauvet paintings were also more remote and difficult to access, and are considered "more sophisticated".

Science Now explains that the Grotte Chauvet paintings were of lions, rhinos, and other animals.  They were discovered in 1994 and had until now "stood out as the oldest known cave art". 

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Researchers using advanced radiocarbon dating techniques believe the etchings could be up to 37,000 years old, according to The Epoch Times, while scientists believe the Chauvet painting were created between 30,000 and 32,000 years ago.

Science Daily says the discovery, combined with similar ones in nearby parts of Germany and Italy has raised new questions about Aurignacian culture and the "evolutionary and adaptive significance of art and other forms of graphic representation in the lives of modern human populations."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/120514/french-engravings-female-genitalia-oldest-the-world