"The principal engraved figure with macro-views of the engraving and surface preparation"
Recently the earliest known Palaeolithic engravings, including what appear to be images of the female vulva, illustrated by circles with small slits on one side have been discovered in SouthWest France's Dordogne region.
There are also very simple images, in profile, of animals, including horses and lion-like big cats.
These art-works were discovered on a collapsed roof of a rock shelter at the Abri Castanet site in the Vézère River valley, an area already well known to archaeologists where numerous other Palaeolithic engravings, paintings and statues have been found.
Here is the abstract of the report, which was recently published:
We report here on the 2007 discovery, in perfect archaeological context, of part of the engraved and ocre-stained undersurface of the collapsed rockshelter ceiling from Abri Castanet, Dordogne, France.
The decorated surface of the 1.5-t roof-collapse block was in direct contact with the exposed archaeological surface onto which it fell.
Because there was no sedimentation between the engraved surface and the archaeological layer upon which it collapsed, it is clear that the Early Aurignacian occupants of the shelter were the authors of the ceiling imagery.
This discovery contributes an important dimension to our understanding of the earliest graphic representation in southwestern France, almost all of which was discovered before modern methods of archaeological excavation and analysis. Comparison of the dates for the Castanet ceiling and those directly obtained from the Chauvet paintings reveal that the “vulvar” representations from southwestern France are as old or older than the very different wall images from Chauvet.
This site has been dated to circa 35,000BC, making it the earliest known site with artwork.