Scientific research and conservation

How is the scientific research organised?

Following an international call for tenders (a first in the history of archaeological research), a team of scientists was appointed in 1998. It has been studying the cave for 15 years. This multidisciplinary team was first directed by Jean Clottes (from 1998 to 2006), then by Jean-Michel Geneste and now Carole Fritz since 2018. There were about fifteen specialists and researchers in cave art, fossil fauna, archaeological remnants, geology, hydrology, palaeontology and conservation. Upon the research team’s invitation, various figures from the arts, ethology, and prehistory, from France and elsewhere, come to look at the cave and share their feelings about it.
The research is government funded, and led via two field missions per year. The first mission is in the spring and lasts four weeks. The second mission is in the autumn and lasts two weeks. During these missions, the researchers alternate between cave and lab work (exchanges, data analysis, etc.). This research is regularly published and shared with the international science community.
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Who is in charge of conservation?

Conservation is the most important priority. The conservationist Marie Bardisa and officers Paulo Rodriguez, Charles Chauveau and Christophe Thouvenot constitute the conservation department. The cave has permanent surveillance systems that track changes in temperature, humidity, and CO2 and radon levels in real time.

Marie Bardisa nouvelle conservatrice de la grotte Chauvet Pont-d'Arc

The conservationist Marie Bardisa

Can the cave be visited?

The government has established an extremely strict protection and conservation protocol that only allows access to scientific teams, prehistory experts and professionals working on the Pont-d’Arc cave. These visits are few and far between, and may only take place during very restricted periods, determined by the CO2 level. This is generally between February and May.
Outside of this period, the cave is off-limits. Access is strictly prohibited. Requests with justification must be submitted to the Conservation Department. The Culture Ministry grants authorisation. The visits are restricted to small groups of five people, and are coordinated by the Conservation Department.
Upon entering the cave, the visitors must always remain together. Two government officials accompany them. The visit lasts 90 to 120 minutes. Note that the visit takes place on a footbridge that is 60 cm wide. It is placed, and not anchored, on the sediments. Each person wears a suit and must put on boots. Visitors also wear a harness and a helmet with a headlamp.

The palaeontologist Michel Philippe working near the entrance. Footbridges 60 cm wide have been installed in the cave, to prevent damage to its floor