The implications of the discovery

Historical account

The bestiary is original and rich, reflecting creativity and early mastery of pictorial techniques. This has revolutionised the understanding of the evolution of prehistoric cave art, widened the scope for the interpretation of these works, and opened the path for new discoveries and fields of research. The iconographic paintings of the cave in its natural karst environment provide a unique account of the artistic, social, and probably metaphysical developments of the Aurignacians, t he first Homo Sapiens civilisation in Europe. This civilisation was known for its relatively crude drawings until the discovery of the cave. The cave is also an unrivalled palaeontological and archaeological account of what happened in the deep cavities during the Upper Palaeolithic period.

Can we thus consider that art was born in the Chauvet cave?

No. While this certainly is a sign of artistic success during the period in question, art is a practice that requires time to learn pictorial techniques and practices that probably take a long time. Although this cave in southern Ardèche is twice older than the Lascaux cave (19,000 years old), it is not the world’s oldest painted cave. In Europe, Coliboaia cave (in Romania) is of comparable age, and the paintings in the painted cave Nerja (in Spain) could date back to 43,000 years ago. In Australia, rock art may still hold some surprises for us, but dating these paintings remains complicated, with mixed results. Moreover, in an indonesian cave located in the Kalimatan island, some paintings are 40.000 years old at least.

A very nice mammoth with a long trunk in the Sacristy corridor. The tusks were sketched after being drawn in black (c) Jean Clottes