Abri Castenet: Anneau One

The Abri Castenet is a collapsed rock shelter located in a tributary valley (Castel-Merle) of the Vézère River in the Dordogne department of France. The rock shelter is estimated to be 37,000 years old¹. It is currently the subject of an archeological dig led by Professor Randall White. The current dig and past excavations have revealed several stones with rings (anneaux). The example below is of particular interest because it is engraved with two symbols that resemble bīng and .

Image: Randall White et al.: Annotation: Lynn Fawcett
Image: Randall White et al.: Annotation: Lynn Fawcett

Bīng can be translated as chilled. Randall White says that Castel-Merle would have been subject to cold air currents². The shelter would therefore have been suitable for food storage. Perhaps meat or fish was hung from the rings.

The use of jī in this context is fascinating from an etymological point of view. Jī is normally translated as a stool, workbench or small table. Perhaps the upswept line on the left of the character originated as a picture of the hook on which you would hang food for the table. The Shuowen Jiezi radical number 454, jué, meaning hook can be seen on the right.

Image: Shuowen Jiezi: research tool

Not all versions of the character jī have the upswept line. The sign at the Grotte d’Isturitz is an example without the upswept line.


Image credits:

Larder hook: Abri Castenet block from Peyrony excavations: Randall White, Romain Mensan, Raphaëlle Bourrillon, Catherine Cretin, Thomas F. G. Higham, Amy E. Clark, Matthew L. Sisk, Elise Tartar, Philippe Gardère, Paul Goldberg, Jacques Pelegrin, Hélène Valladas, Nadine Tisnérat-Laborde, Jacques de Sanoit, Dominique Chambellan, and Laurent Chiotti, May 2012: Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France: Supporting Information, fig. S2 B: PNAS, vol. 109, no.22: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/22/8450: http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2012/05/09/ 1119663109.DCSupplemental/pnas.201119663SI.pdf: Accessed: 9 December 2013.

Small seal script character: Shuowenjiezi: research tool in Chinese traditional philology: http://www.shuowenjiezi.com/.


1. Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France: Randall White et al., 2012: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 109, No 22.

2. Randall White, 2012: Source: Nikhil Swaminathan, Letter from France - Structural Integrity, p.2, Friday, November 30, 2012: Archaeology: http://www.archaeology.org/issues/62-1301/letter-from#art_page2: Accessed: 11 January 2013.