(© H. White, with permission)

Randall White

Professor of Anthropology

Ph.D. 1980, Toronto, B.A. 1976, Alberta.

Office Address: Rufus D. Smith Hall 25 Waverly Place New York, NY 10003


Phone: 212-998-8571

Fax: 212-995-4014

Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Research/Interest

Paleolithic Europe; prehistoric art; archaeological approaches to the technologies of ancient hunter-gatherers; France.

External Affiliations

Member of the Center for the Study of Human Origins (CSHO). Director, UMI 3199: CNRS-NYU Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) Chercheur associé, UMR 5608 TRACES, Université de Toulouse 2 - Le Mirail.


"The manufacture of Aurignacian split-based points: an experimental  challenge." Journal of Archaeological Science 40(5):  (with Elise Tartar). 2013.

"Context and dating of newly discovered Aurignacian rock art from abri Castanet (Dordogne, France)." Paléo. English on-line version. (with Romain Mensan, Raphaëlle Bourrillon, Catherine Cretin, Philippe Gardère, Laurent Chiotti, Matthew Sisk, Amy Clark, Thomas Higham,  Elise Tartar). 2012.            

"Une nouvelle découverte d’art pariétal aurignacien à l’abri Castanet (France) : contexte et datation." Paléo. 23: 171-188. (with Romain Mensan, Raphaëlle Bourrillon, Catherine Cretin, Philippe Gardère, Laurent Chiotti, Matthew Sisk, Amy Clark, Thomas Higham,  Elise Tartar). 2012.            

"Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France." PNAS. 1089: 8450-8455 plus supplementary data) (with Romain Mensan, Raphaëlle Bourrillon, Catherine Cretin, Thomas Higham, Amy Clark, Matthew Sisk, Elise Tartar, Philippe Gardère, Paul Goldberg, Jacques Pelegrin, Hélène Valladas, Nadine Tisnérat-Laborde, Jacques de Sanoit, Dominique Chambellan, Laurent Chiotti). 2012.        

"Un pedazo de la Prehistoria cántabra en Nueva York: Las Colecciones de la Cueva de El Castillo (Puente Viesgo, Cantabria) en el American Museum of Natural History (Nueva York, EEUU) (A little fragment of Cantabrian Prehistory in New York: The Collections of El Castillo Cave (Puente Viesgo, Cantabria) at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, USA))." Muniß 61: 5-16. (with Tejero, J.M., Avezuela, B, Ranlett,, Quam, R., Tattersall, I., and Bernaldo de Quirós, F.). 2010.    

"Les parures de l’Aurignacien ancien et archaïque : perspectives technologiques et régionales des fouilles récentes." In V. Mistrot ed. De Néandertal à l’homme moderne : l’Aquitaine préhistorique, vingt ans de découvertes. Bordeaux : Éditions Confluences, pp. 93-103. 2010.    

"Systems of Personal Ornamentation in the Early Upper Palaeolithic: Methodological Challenges and New Observations." In, Mellars, Paul, Boyle, Katie, Bar-Yosef, Ofer and Stringer, Chris (eds.) Rethinking the Human Revolution: New Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origin and Dispersal of Modern Humans. Cambridge, UK, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 287-302. (McDonald Institute Monographs). 2007.            

"From Puente Viesgo to Central Park West : Hugo Obermaier, Nels Nelson and the American Museum of Natural History’s collections from Cantabrian Spain." in Maillo, J. and Baquedano eds., Miscelánea en Homenaje a Victoria Cabrera, Vol. I. Madrid : Zona Arqueológica 7, pp. 58-77. 2007.
"Systèmes de parures aurignaciennes : défis méthodologiques et nouvelles observations." Les Chemins de l’Aurignacien en Europe. ed. H. Floss and N. Rouquerol. Aurignac : Musée-Forum, pp. 251-260. 2007.    

"Préhistoires parallèles: Henri Delporte, Edouard Piette et les grottes de Brassempouy." In Arts et Cultures de la Préhistoire: Hommages à Henri Delporte. Éditions du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, Paris, pp. 185-196. (with Bon, F., Potin, Y., Henry-Gambier, D., Causse, F., Gardère, Ph., Kervinio, P., Letourneux, C., Mensan). 2007.    

Prehistoric Art: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind. New York: Harry Abrams. 2003.

"Nouvelles données sur la séquence aurignacienne de la grotte d’Isturitz (communes d’Isturitz et de Saint-Martin-d’Arberoue ; Pyrénées-Atlantiques)." in Société préhistorique française, Congrès du Centenaire : Un siècle de construction du discours scientifique en Préhistoire, Vol. 3, pp. 277-293. (with Normand, C., de Beaune, S. A., Costamagno, S., Diot,  M.-F., Henry-Gambier, D., Goutas, N., Laroulandie, V.. Lenoble, A. O’Farrell, M., Rendu, W., Rios Garaizar, J., Schwab, C., Tarriño Vinagre, A., Texier, J.-P.). 2007.    

"The Women of Brassempouy : a century of research and interpretation." Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 13(4) : 251-304. 2006.    

"Modifications artificielles des vestiges humains aurignaciens de la grotte des Hyènes et de la galerie Dubalen. Quelle signification." El centenario de la cueva de El Castillo : el ocaso de los Neandertales. V. Cabrera and F. Bernaldo de Quiros (eds.) Madrid: Madrid: Ministerio de Educacion y Ciencia, pp. 68-86. (with D. Henry-Gambier). 2006.    

"Vestiges humains des niveaux de l’Aurignacien ancien du site de Brassempouy (Landes)." Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, n.s., 16 : 49-87. (with D. Henry-Gambier and B. Maureille). 2004.    

"Résumé de ma vie: une note autobiographique de Denis Peyrony". Bulletin de la Société Historique et Archéologique du Périgord. 125 : 34-49 (with Alain Roussot). 2003.

"Une nouvelle statuette phallo-féminine paléolithique : la Vénus des Milandes" (commune de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle), Dordogne Paléo. 14 : 187-219. 2003

"Observations technologiques sur les objets de parure in B. Schmider" (ed.) L'Aurignacien de la grotte de Renne: Les fouilles d'André Leroi-Gourhan à Arcy-sur-Cure (Yonne). XXXIVe Supplément à Gallia Préhistoire, 257-266. 2002

"The historic and legal context of foreign acquisitions of Paleolithic artifacts from the Périgord: 1900-1941". In L. Straus (ed.) The Role of American Archaeologists in the Study of the European Upper Paleolithic. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, pp. 71-83. 2002 "Personal ornaments from the grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure". Athena Rev. 2(4): 41-46 (special issue on the Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition). 2001.

"Integrating Social and Operational Complexity: The Materal Construction of Social Identity at Sungir." L’Os : Festschrift for Henriette Camps-Fabrer. A. Averbouh, P. Cattelain and M. Jullien (eds.). Aix-en-Provence : Université de Marseille,  pp.120-137, 1999.     

"Structure, signification and culture: some different logics of representation and their archaeological implications." Diogenes 45:97-113, 1998.     

"Imagerie féminine du Paléolithique. L'apport des nouvelles statuettes de Grimaldi." Gallia Préhistoire, 40:95-132. (with M. Bisson), 1998.            

"L'Imagerie feminine du paléolithique: Étude des figurines de Grimaldi." Culture 16:5-64. 1996.

"Substantial Acts: From Materials to Meaning in Upper Paleolithic Representation." In Beyond Art: Upper Paleolithic Symbolism, ed. D. Stratmann, M. Conkey, and O. Soffer. San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences. 1996.

"Beyond Art: Toward an Understanding of the Origins of Material Representation in Europe."Annual Review of Anthropology 21. 537-64. 1992

Current News/Projects

Updated March 2013

After 19 years of directing excavation, analysis and archival research on the Aurignacian sites of Abri Castanet and Abri Blanchard, I have decided to make the 2012 season the last one. This long-term research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, the Partner University Fund and several other agencies saw the excavation of a large Aurignacian living surface and the meticulous recovery and dating of some of the oldest remains of symbolic behavior in Europe. 

Our work 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 discovered to date with dates of ca. 35 000 BP. In light of our discoveries at Castanet and Blanchard, I have launched a new study of all of the known Aurignacian engraved blocks from SW France in collaboration with my Toulouse colleague Raphaëlle Bourrillon.
Intact Aurignacian deposits at Abri Blanchard, France © R. White
Intact Aurignacian deposits at Abri Blanchard, France © R. White

In parallel, I have in press a major article on 13 years of work on the 37,000-year-old Aurignacian personal ornaments from the French site of Brassempouy. This excavation is now concluded and we are able to make some clear observations on the spatial organization of bead/ornament production and use.  A remarkable feature of the ornaments from Brassempouy is the presence of several pierced human teeth.

My long-term study of the 40-35,000 year-old personal ornaments from the site of Isturitz in French Basque country continues.  These ornaments, most of which are contemporary to or older than those from Brassempouy and Castanet, indicate striking social boundaries between these two sites, just 60 km apart. Personal ornamentation seems one of the key means by which Aurignacian regional groups constructed and communicated intra-group and regional identities.  Among the most interesting finds at Isturitz is the on-site production of sensational amber ornaments in the form of lustrous beads and pendants dating to 40 000 years ago. 

Longstanding research on Paleolithic female figurines continues to occupy part of my time.  In 2008 I was commissioned by the French government to analyze a remarkable new 25,000-year-old statuette from Brassempouy, recovered from the backdirt of clandestine excavations at the site in 1977 and hidden from view until 2005. Based on my report, this important object has now been acquired by Musée d'Archéologie Nationale at Saint Germain-en-Laye. A published version will appear in the near future in the journal Paléo.
The 25,000 year-old "woman with the horn" from Laussel, Dordogne (© Alain Roussot, with permission)

A long-term project on the early twentieth-century history of French archaeology continues.  I have had the good fortune to discover several entirely unknown archives related to the “Hauser Affair.”  Otto Hauser was a very ambitious German-Swiss archaeologist who was forced to flee France at the outset of World War I under a cloud of accusations of espionage and artifact selling. Far from being of mere local interest, the “affaire Hauser” took place against a backdrop of European history, politics, and administrative entanglements.  For example, Hauser was allied with members of the anti-clerical movement at a time when considerable power in archaeology was held by Catholic lay priests.

Contrary to received wisdom, Hauser is revealed by archival sources and photographs to have been a remarkable excavator, well ahead of his time. A first book on this subject, L’Affaire de l’abri du Poisson : Patrie et préhistoire  (Périgueux: Fanlac), appeared in late 2006 and I am currently pursuing work on a second book on this complex and controversial subject.

Finally, I have just had the honor of being appointed by the Faculty of Arts and Science as Director of the UMI 3199, the CNRS-NYU Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS). This research center will facilitate collaborative research between French and NYU scholars with, at the core of my activities, a particular emphasis on "Representation, Material Culture and Society."

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