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It is also when most of the drawings were done. Twenty-three charcoal drawings were sampled from different parts of the cave including the panel of the horses, the alcove of the lions, the panel of the reindeer and the panel of the bison.

The Cave Art Paintings of the Chauvet Cave

Almost all of the radiocarbon dates of these drawings correspond to the oldest occupation phase, the authors found. Only two of them corresponded with the second occupation phase. Bears, which also left their mark on the cave walls through scratches over and under the art, appear to have used the cave from 48, to 33, years ago. They believe the bears used the cave to hibernate but spent spring and summer out of the cave. Perhaps it was only after the bears left that humans decided to use it.

Radiocarbon dates help reconstruct the cave’s long history

The authors said the chronology of who used the cave and when will continue to become more precise as more data points are added to their model. But still, many questions remain. Are the red paintings as old as the black paintings? Experience with other caves containing prehistoric artworks has taught that the caves must be kept closed to the public in order to protect the paintings. Scientific investigation of the cave was carried out under careful conditions to preserve the cave and its contents.

A museum has been constructed at Vallon Pont d'Arc that provides visitors with an experience of the prehistoric environment, flora and fauna, and lifestyle of the painters as well as reproductions and movies about the paintings and other findings in the cave. There are numerous chambers and galleries. The soft, clay-like floor of the cave retains the paw prints of cave bears along with large, rounded, depressions that are believed to be the "nests" where the bears slept. Fossilized bones are abundant and include the skulls of cave bears and the horned skull of an ibex.

Based on radiocarbon dating, the cave appears to have been occupied by humans during two distinct Paleolithic periods: The later occupation also left a child's footprints, the charred remains of ancient hearths, and carbon smoke stains from torches that lit the caves. The footprints may be the oldest human footprints that can be dated accurately.

After the child's visit to the cave, evidence suggests that the cave was untouched until discovered in The walls of the Chauvet cave contain hundreds of animal paintings and engravings. Among those which have been cataloged are at least 13 different species , including those which have rarely or never been found in other ice age paintings. A large number of the paintings depict predators, such as lions , cave bears , panthers, rhinoceroses , owls , hyenas , and mammoths. In fact, such paintings outnumber the more typical horses , deer , and bison found in other caves, animals known to have been hunted.

There are no complete human paintings, although two paintings portray partial figures. There are, however, numerous hand prints and hand stencils. In one chamber near the current entrance, called the Brunel Chamber, there are two collections of painted red dots. It has been ascertained that these are actually hand prints produced by applying pigment to the palm of the hand and pressing it against the wall. Two different sizes of hands have been measured; the larger one probably a man around 1.

There are also two unidentifiable images that have a vaguely butterfly shape to them.

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Typical of most cave art, there are no paintings of complete human figures. However, there is one partial "Venus" figure that may represent the legs and genitals of a woman. Close above her is a chimerical figure, the "Sorcerer" or "Man-bison," with the lower body of a man and the upper body of a bison. The artists who produced these unique paintings used techniques not often observed in other cave art.

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The Cave Art Paintings of the Chauvet Cave

Rather than depicting only the familiar herbivores that predominate in Paleolithic cave art, i. There are also paintings of rhinoceroses. Typical of most cave art, there are no paintings of complete human figures, although there is one partial "Venus" figure composed of what appears to be a vulva attached to an incomplete pair of legs.

Above the Venus, and in contact with it, is a bison head, which has led some to describe the composite drawing as a Minotaur. Abstract markings—lines and dots—are found throughout the cave. There are also two unidentifiable images that have a vaguely butterfly or avian shape to them. This combination of subjects has led some students of prehistoric art and cultures to believe that there was a ritual , shamanic , or magical aspect to these paintings. One drawing, later overlaid with a sketch of a deer, is reminiscent of a volcano spewing lava, similar to the regional volcanoes that were active at the time.

If confirmed, this would represent the earliest known drawing of a volcanic eruption. The artists who produced these paintings used techniques rarely found in other cave art. Many of the paintings appear to have been made only after the walls were scraped clear of debris and concretions, leaving a smoother and noticeably lighter area upon which the artists worked.

Similarly, a three-dimensional quality and the suggestion of movement are achieved by incising or etching around the outlines of certain figures. The art is also exceptional for its time for including "scenes", e. The cave contains some of the oldest known cave paintings , based on radiocarbon dating of "black from drawings, from torch marks and from the floors", according to Jean Clottes.

Some archaeologists have questioned these dates. By , more than 80 radiocarbon dates had been taken, with samples from torch marks and from the paintings themselves, as well as from animal bones and charcoal found on the cave floor. The radiocarbon dates from these samples suggest that there were two periods of creation in Chauvet: A research article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May by scientists from the University of Savoy , Aix-Marseille University and the Centre National de Prehistoire confirmed that the paintings were created by people in the Aurignacian era, between 30, and 32, years ago.

Their analysis showed that the entrance was sealed by a collapsing cliff some 29, years ago. Their findings put the date of human presence in the cave and the paintings in line with that deduced from radiocarbon dating, i. A study in the same journal examining radiocarbon dates, some unpublished before, concluded that there were two phases of human occupation, one running from 37, to 33, years ago and the second from 31, to 28, years ago. All but two of the dates for the black drawings were from the earlier phase.

Chauvet cave: The most accurate timeline yet of who used the cave and when

The authors believe that the first phase ended with a rockfall that sealed the cave, with two more rockfalls at the end of the second occupation phase after which no humans or large animals entered the cave until it was rediscovered. They produced black drawings of huge mammals. Then, several thousands of years after, another group from another place with another culture visited the cave. The cave has been sealed off to the public since Access is severely restricted owing to the experience with decorated caves such as Altamira and Lascaux found in the 19th and 20th century, where the admission of visitors on a large scale led to the growth of mold on the walls that damaged the art in places.

In the archaeologist and expert on cave paintings Dominique Baffier was appointed to oversee conservation and management of the cave. She was followed in by Marie Bardisa. Caverne du Pont-d'Arc , a facsimile of Chauvet Cave on the model of the so-called "Faux Lascaux", was opened to the general public on 25 April The art is reproduced full-size in a condensed replica of the underground environment, in a circular building above ground, a few kilometres from the actual cave.