Researchers have found decorated stone platelets from Magdalenian culture dating back 15,000 years.
Animals, anthropomorphic forms, geometric signs … The first representations began with Neanderthals and continued with modern humans, who expanded the rock art on cave walls to engraving stone, bones and antlers or the decoration of tools and weapons. One of the periods in which these iconographic expressions most flourished was during the Magdaleniens e, which was one of the last cultures of the Upper Paleolithic and spread throughout France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Germany .
The hunter – gatherers magdalenienses even reached northern Britain , but on the islands there is a limited range of known art. Researchers believe that this is because this culture had a “fleeting” passage through the region and for a long time it was even thought that there was no sample of its usual engraved platelets or flat stone fragments on British territory.
It was one of the last cultures of the Upper Paleolithic and spread through France, Portugal, Spain and Germany
An excavation carried out between 2014 and 2018 at the Les Varines site , in the southeast of the Bailiwick of Jersey , in the English Channel , radically changed this perspective. There were discovered ten fragments of stone platelets widely engraved with abstract designs. Their detailed analysis has confirmed that the prehistoric societies of the British Isles were creating artistic designs since the end of the Ice Age, around 15,000 years ago.
The specialists of the Museum of Natural History of London and the universities of Newcastle and York consider that these works represent “the earliest evidence of artistic expression discovered in Great Britain and Ireland, dating back to about 10,000 years before Stonehenge”, they indicate in an article published in the journal PLOS ONE .
These artistic expressions would be even older than those discovered in 2003 at Creswell Crags (Derbyshire) and which are estimated to be between 13,000 and 15,000 years old. “Most of the designs are purely abstract, but others can represent basic shapes like animals, landscapes or people. This suggests that the platelets from Les Varines were engraved as decoration ”, says Dr. Silvia Bello, from the Natural History Museum in a statement.
“Microscopic analysis indicates that many of the lines, including the curved and concentric designs, appear to have been made through layered or repeated incisions, suggesting that the stones are unlikely to serve a functional purpose,” he adds. Similar to the thousands of examples found in France, Spain and Portugal, but the first ones discovered in Great Britain.