Nautile aka Charles Hamel's personal pages
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Without the freedom to make critical remarks, there cannot exist sincere
flattering praise
- Beaumarchais.


"It is only a book of real value that merits a critical analysis."

in History And Science Of Knots

under the editorial supervision of J.C TURNER and P Van De GRIEND
published  : Series on Knots and Everything -  Volume 11 - World Scientific is the
It is a series that leaves you in no doubt about it be determined to show the hallmark of
academic standards of publication.

In Part ONE - Chapter 1 Page 14, last paragraph : Pleistocene Knotting
signed by Charles WARNER and Robert G. BEDNARIK,  it is written :

[open quote]
"Some fossilised fragments of probably two-ply laid rope of about 7mm diameter has been
found in Lascaux Cave from about 17000 years ago. Perhaps the rope was used in
conjunction with the extensive  scaffolding that seems to have been built there or perhaps to
facilitate entrance to the cave..."
[end quote]

Many questions was then raised in my mind.

Much ado has been done of what, when all is said and done, is only an interpretation of
geometrical designs
purported to be "rope and such".

Well so much have been 'interpreted' in artefacts from prehistoric times, that has been held
for some time as 'The truth' but that further research proved  'mistaken' that I am a bit shy
about 'interpretations' in that domain.
To take one example only : the geometrical tracings that are interpreted as a hair dress with
a netting.

Well that could be a netting if you like playing with your imagination, but may be that is not.
I remember from my early years of life spent in Ivory Coast some hair dresses with
absolutely no netting or string in them that could be artistically rendered with exactly the
same sort of tracing.  
I hold that comparing a hair dress representation to another actual hair dress is a bit more
'congruent' that to compare a hair dress to an 'imagined interpretation''.

For once this was not a design that could be or could not be interpreted with imagination
as depicting a cordage but the very real object.

What was at the time the oldest rope 'in person' or rather 'in fibres' ever found is worth
50 words for those authors !

I was a bit surprised (would have been even if the Cave had been in Patagonia, this is
not a case of chauvinistic reaction  -  by the way Charles WARNER's book "A Fresh
Approach To Knotting And Ropework"
show an acute intellect at work, get a copy 
if you do not already own one) so much that I went searching  the Net for the
Anglo-saxon sources : much discrepancies, contradictions, lack of knoledge in some of the
supposedly "professional"  publications by American authors.
Just that point was enough  for me to see it as a red flag warning to exercise the utmost
caution in using this sort of material and to go digging nearer to the source.

I then set to compare with the known easily accessible published material. 

First I looked  into my "collection of books" and found again a picture of the rope which
made me immediately think :  "not laid but plaited".  

Book with the photography of 'la corde' is LASCAUX by Mario RUSPOLI , publisher :
On page 191 Marc GAZAY tells of the discovery that he places in July 1949 or 1950,
the first campaign after WW2, with Abbé GLORY .

[open translated quote]
It was decided that working hours would take place in the night between 09:00 PM
and 02:00 AM the next day.
A false move with the scaffolding dislodged some chunks of clay.
A rope remnant was visible.
[end translated quote ]

Still this book is not a technical one but a "photographic inventory" though RUSPOLI
worked for the Corpus Lascaux  under the patronage of world's specialist of Lascaux :

Norbert AUJOULAT large book on Lascaux does not evoke the rope.

I made some experiments with plastic clay and ropes ( see slide show here  ) and
arrived at the notion, confirming my very first impression, that is was probably a
plaited / braided
and not a laid cordage and that is was rather a three than a
two strands

So I went on further on the trail :
books, Ministry of Culture, Prehistory, Anthropology Societies and museums.... even
contacted AUJOULAT  (had already done that some years back, and he had been good
enough to help)  Lascaux Cave specialist of specialists that the authors, had they be truly
professional, could have contacted.
He choose not to answer this time and/or to take the option I had left open : no answer
or "there are some question that must be left without answer".  
May be it is just that I never got an answer that was indeed sent.

Here is the story on record for any one to find without real hassle, or at least not what
I was trained to consider as being hassle when researching documentation :

( Abbé GLORY -R.I.P -  had notoriously sloppy methods even if enthusiastic ones
and it seems that he was not entirely adverse to "forget" to index some pieces and
"somewhat dis-inclined" to separate himself from some finds, "pet finds" ? : they were
found by the DELLUCs when cleaning the Abbé's house after his death. Of course
conservation methodology was not really a preoccupation.)

1958 in Mémoires De La Société Préhistorique Française  Tome Cinquième
( Memoirs of the French Prehistory Society  Fifth volume ) Abbé GLORY officially
related for the record the discovery made in 1953, five years before.

Abbé GLORY gives as his aids present at the time of the discovery (1953) :

No happenstance false move with scaffolding this time but a voluntary act
(unmotivated in the publication, may be divinely inspired serendipity ? ) by GLORY
who took a piece of clay from a cranny and saw :
" a black filet that traverse it from on side to the other",
" Without conscious thought with a knife I spiked the black dividing line,  the clay opened in
two parts like a book..."

GLORY state that he immediately saw " a carbonized-like strip with twisted lines going all
the length of the piece of clay."

He  interpreted that as the remnants of plaited vines or something like that.

Mainly it was the moulding (cast) that was "visible".

Discovery took place in both versions in La Galerie Des Félins ( The gallery of the
Felines)  near Le Puits ( The Well), far away inside and not at all near the entrance.

" the second chunk of clay opened in the same manner but the positives and negatives
traces were a more complicated intertwining....the third broke sideways ( or crab-wise)
and the fourth was kept untouched as check sample. The fifth only show a simple strip
without visible structure, blackish dirt, seemingly crushed and spread but heels pressure
through the thickness of the soil which was at this place made thinner."
Fragment N° 1 = 5 centimetres ( me : 2 inches )....
...Fragment N° 2 = 5 cm...
...Fragment N°3 = 7 cm ( me : almost 3 inches)...
...Fragment N° 4 = 4.5 cm...
...Fragment N° 5 = 5 cm...
...3 grossly right-laid ply, each one 3mm in thickness... (me please note NOT diameter)"

"It is our enlightened opinion ....rope who was in a sort of natural gutter leading to the Well,
seems to have been used in its time by the prehistorics ( sic ) to go down the abrupt 6
meters wall ( me : 6 meters=18 feet)(wall : ...meaning of the puits / the well's wall under the
margin )


Laboratory analysis led to confirmation that it was vegetable matter (mainly humic and
fulvic acids)

Action of humic acids leads to an amorphous brown-black matter with  the aspect and
characters of peat .

Laboratory official report state "tourbifiés" / that is "conserved" by a process like the one
forming peat.
No carbonization
, not one trace of it, no charred remains.


A bizarre point :
These days no one knows where the discovered pieces are now.
Only some photographies (Originals are lost too!) and only 'some words' are all
that remain from this incredible find.

I was told by some official person at the Muséum that bad conservation methods led to
dessication which in its turn led to the destruction of the pieces over the time.

There is no real mention of the rope in one of the DELLUCS's book on Lascaux (husband
and wife who "cleaned" GLORY's house after his death ). I renounced acquiring their book
on this as most reviewers seemed to believed it was a pro domo publication and a character
assassination in the guise of the praise of a deceased mentor.

No detail in Norbet AUJOULAT very big book on LASCAUX.

The official answer of the Museum was :

Marc Gazay was one of the occasional collaborators of Glory. An account is signed by him
in "Lascaux un nouveau regard"  de Mario Ruspoli, 1986, pp. 190-191. His recounting of
the discovery is a bit different from the one made by Abbé Glory in his publication in
"Mémoires de la SPF, 1959, 5, pp. 135-169".

The date Marc Gazay is certainly mistaken. In fact, in 1949, only campaign was done in
Le Puits / the Well by Abbé BREUIL ( my comment : the protector who 'imposed'
Glory to University )
In 1949 and 1950 Glory had not yet gain official authorization for working in Lascaux.

GLORY told that the discovery was made on 1953, 25th of September, and GLORY's
indications were taken in"Lascaux inconnu" (1979), avec deux photos N et B de Glory,
fig. 141 et 142, p. 183
In "Lascaux retrouvé" (2003), ( Lascaux found again : it was after their cleaning of
GLORY's house and finding many actefacts hidden in metal boxes! Hence the title as  it
was indeed a RE-discovery of things that the good Abbé had  kept to himself.
pp. 201-202, Brigitte et Gilles Delluc tell  the two versions of the discovery .
( Me : this book received much controversial critics about its honesty, methodology, real
intent behind the avowed one.....A Florentine assassination may be ?)
There is no photographic negatives of the rope and no macro photography was done."

End of official stance

The photos were in : 
the photothèque of Le Musée de l'Homme à Paris ( Museum of Man) : E-76-615-493 ;
 E-76-616-493 ; E-76-617-493.
But photothèque has been moved (could not  get a copy of the pictures) to the future
Musée du Quai Branly. Future being the operative word here.

The Musée de la Préhistoire des Eyzies told me it was the best of those documents that
were used for the publication of  "Lascaux inconnu" in 1979

I also found :

In Lascaux Inconnu ( The Unknown Lascaux ), ( 1979) a voluminous publication by
CNRS  (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), authored, among others by
to l’Abbé GLORY.

Chapitre Un :  L’Abbé GLORY, Page 12 signed by Lionel BALOUT (Chapter One
written about l’Abbé GLORY to the memory of whom the book is dedicated)

"accessorily, he made known diverse documents, generally (usually/mostly) discovered by
him : remnants of plaited rope in Lascaux, sandstone burner, juniper sticks....

BALOUT quote BREUIL on this 'corde' in the bibliography of this chapter 1 .
Of course he quote too : Débris De Corde Paléolitique à La Grotte De Lascaux
Mém. Soc préhist. Franç., Tome V, 1958, p 135-159 de GLORY Remnants Of
Paléolitic Rope In Lascaux Cave (Dordogne - France)

On this exceptional discovery, Abbé BREUIL made a communication to l’Académie des
Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.
Unfortunately no indication of date or of title is given, text is a ghost or it escaped my
I am now satisfied that it was a not charred, not fossilised but "transform into peat" and
cast vestiges of a three stands plaited rope and that all this material was readily available
for any one wanting to find it.

Critical comments reviewed :

--- Some : most vague
In fact there was 3 chucks of clay with pieces of rope in the 2 that were opened.
A fourth (lost now) was kept for the future when new technical means of investigation
would be available.
The chunk that was opened held inside ...

--- fossilised : NO, not really fossilised but "preserved"
Granted! fossilised is not always mineralised (or petrified, that is transmogrified  into
mineral substance or replaced by...) but in the case in point it is a mummification as
the one that happen in bogs. There is no 'replacement' here but partial "cast / mould.

Clay protected the vegetable matter from oxygen so there was no breaking down of
constituents, and a 'cast' of the rope was made in the clay.

Process is "no oxygen and action of humic acids" that sort of mummified, in fact "digested"
the vegetable matter leaving mainly the  cast of it. 

--- 7 mm diameter : NO or rather too vagu
e but it is in the original publication by Glory
and it is no invention of the two authors that are guilt-free.
It is not the rope that is 7mm but the "cast" and the rope  itself was very much flattened so
no one can know the real diameter from what is a width ! Not these authors fault, as it is in
GLORY's publication.

--- two ply : NO

it is three

--- laid: NO
it is plaited. (Though I will agree there is some ambiguity in the terms used and between the
terms and the illustrations made.) Plait seems to me  more 'immediate'  to 'invent' than laying
and gives a better strength. The drawing is to my eyes too much a case of seeing what one
believe is there : you could swear that this rope just came out one of our ropewalk! No way
I can reconciled it with what I see in some others drawings and in the photographies.

---was found in Lascaux cave = vague 
This vagueness lead I think to this curious idea of "to facilitate entrance" when in fact it was
in the depth of the cave, near a vertical well giving access to another, lower, space with
quite intriguing drawings (not painting ).

---extensive scaffolding : NO

Some scaffolding yes, extensive? no.
Extensive is an 'improper' word here!.
Not to forget ground level was then probably higher than now after diggings and a simple
trunk leaning on the wall could have been enough in many places, or even climbing on the
shoulders of an aid.

---facilitate entrance to the cave : NO
It is well known that this cave could accessed without needing of a rope! (The Well is
another story)  it is near the Well that the rope was found,  far  from the entry of the
cave (only way to go further in this gallery is down the well!)

Given the following data I think that it is prudent to keep some doubt that it was to
"facilitate entrance to the cave" or even "" climbing down and up the well" rather than for "
binding some sketchy scaffolding".
Not to say anything (again memories from an African childhood ) of packaging small gear
or food in large and thick leaves bound with long stem grasses or 'with 'small (lianes and vines ).

Breaking strain for 8 mm of diameter :
- green grass :  5 to 12 kilogram
- bark fibre : 25 to 75 kg
- vines of sort ( Acorus calamus )  : up to 220 kilogram
To compare with modern cordage :
- laid flax 6mm : 360kilogram
- braided cotton mason line ( 4 mm : 32 kg ) that will make for 6mm : 72kilogram
- laid hemp 8mm :  395kilogram 

BUT it still remain some "?"  and may be some "! "

--- TWO versions for ONE discovery

--- Behind the words : " In 1949 and 1950 GLORY had not yet gain official
authorization for working in Lascaux." somehow knowing French legalese administrative
version one may very well read the words as 'officially it was a "no" but UNofficialy
could very well be a 'yes'.

There were indeed digging in the years GAZAY gave.

--- Where are the pieces ?
     is it a case of  " Truth is elsewhere" as Mulder says !

--- Why nobody came out outraged and branding Gazay as a fairy storyteller.

--- Why  the very "shy"  " GLORY told that the discovery was made on 1953, 25th
of September,"
If you read between the lines it is all attributed to the sole GLORY and not endorsed  by the
"authorities" that much is clear .

---Why the school boy's excuse , not us but somebody else :    "and GLORY's indications
were taken in "Lascaux inconnu" (1979)"
Coming out as : "Not us that said that , it is GLORY that said it. "

Only one thing is very clear : GLORY was a much controversial figure protected by
Abbé BREUIL,  another figure whose academic ways and means should be reviewed,
(Clergy had much power in those time !) so much 'quite personally tainted opinions"
he wrote and "constrained" others to "follow" under penalty of professional 'unrest'
till his death which liberated a bit the French prehistory which for was further liberated
after the death of his successor LEROY-GOURHAN. 
Between them they make French prehistorians toe the party line! and the party was
Breuil and after him Leroi-Gourhan !

--- GLORY claimed a discovery at 02:00 in the morning and having an affidavit signed by
Montignac ( Lascaux) mayor the very same day.
I will never believe that!  I  know French Administration and "deep in-country behaviour"!
( Motto there seems to be :
Not too fast in the morning and slower in the afternoon, in fact word for word it is
Slow speed in the morning and High slow in the afternoon)

I took the point to the 'Muséum' and they carefully refrained from answering this particular
point while accepting to answer all my other points even if in a somewhat diplomatic manner.

--- " The date... Marc Gazay is certaily mistaken" :
they do not go as far as to write ' Gazay is mistaken in all of his story.' or simply a broad all
encompassing " Gazay is mistaken". It is only about the date that he is specifically said to be

--- Why wait from 1953 to 1958, five years, to make an official publication on such a
splendid find while having been in so much a hurry as to have an affidavit signed a few
hours after discovery ?

GLORY was "asked" to publish on his find ! (meaning he was "ordered" and that he did
not "spontaneously proposed it "  if I am right. )
Seems that Glory may have been very "anal retentive"! ( may he R.I.P).

My personal conclusion :
A most marvelous discovery was botched by persons with no real training (that can
be corrected , and Glory was 'put to grass' quite fast after Breuil lost its grip on France
Prehistory) and may be no real intelligence! (that can not be corrected : so many people
educated well beyond their intelligence) and that all along the line of what should have
remained one of the most beautiful find.

May be the only reasonable thing to do is putting this in " profit and losses" and 
kiss  goodbye!
R.I.P pauvre corde de Lascaux qui a traversé le temps jusqu'à tomber sur des vandales.
R.I.P poor Lascaux rope which time traveled till it was unlucky enough to finished in the
hands of 'academic vandals'.


                                                            Go to page 4 of Investigation

Copyright 2005 Sept - Charles Hamel / Nautile -
Overall rewriting in August 2006 . Copyright renewed. 2007-2014 -(each year of existence)

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