Randall White has spent the past 23 years directing excavation, analysis and archival research on the Aurignacian sites of Abri Castanet, Abri Blanchard, La Souquette, all situated in a side valley of the Vézère River in SW France. This long-term research commitment has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Partner University Fund, the French Ministry of Culture and several other agencies. The approach has been “paleoethnographic,” that is to say the excavation of large Aurignacian living surfaces and the meticulous recovery and dating of some of the oldest remains of symbolic behavior in Europe.
The work from 1994 to 2012 at Abri Castanet resulted in the discovery of a large portion of the collapsed shelter ceiling bearing engraved and painted imagery, sitting directly on a well preserved archaeological layer containing complex fireplace structures that were the focal point for human activities at the site.
In 2011-2012, excavations at Abri Blanchard, probably the richest Aurignacian site ever to be excavated, yielded intact in situ deposits containing one of the most stunning Aurignacian engravings ever discovered, dating to 38 000 years ago.
A third site in the vallon, the Abri de La Souquette, excavated in the 1980’s was the subject of an MA thesis and a major publication by PhD student John O’Hara.