Animal et expression schématique néolithique dans le sud de la France : entre réel et idéel

Philippe HAMEAU

fr Anthropozoologica 41 (2) - Pages 103-124

Published on 31 December 2006

This article is a part of the thematic issue Painted and engraved animals: from the form to the sign. Animals in post-Palaeolithic graphic art in the western Mediterranean

Animals and Neolithic schematic art in southern France: between the real and the ideal

Animals are very little represented in the Neolithic schematic art of southern France. The representations that exist are mostly red deer, wild goats and snakes, deer being the most frequent. In this paper, we analyse the deer's different morphological aspects, its associations with other signs, the examples of its transfer and doubling. The rules are the same as those which preside over the representations of the male figure and of the idol. The deer thus becomes the third main category of the principal figures of schematic art. The particular features of the deer's behaviour and, and especially its transformations through the year, are also discussed. We speculate that these features influenced the choice of the deer as an animal symbol and that they were perceived as being similar to human social transformations. Concerning the wild goats, we can only state that they are not representative of the environmental context and thus are possibly related to mythical stories. The status of snakes is difficult to establish, other than as that of a chthonic animal. We do not retain the hypothesis of a pastoral use of the decorated shelters, but support the idea of their belonging to a wild space for hunting. There appears to be variation in their use and occupation: burials and burial customs, occasional bivouac, workshop for the transformation of raw materials, etc. Archaeozoological analyses on the site of 'La Bergerie des Maigres' indicate the possibility of ritual activities concerning animals, a perspective never before demonstrated in relation to schematic art.


Deer, wild goat, snake, schematic paintings, transformation, ethology, ritual activity, Neolithic, southern France.

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint