Slice Of France

Slice Of France

The Pont-d'Arc Cavern

The Chauvet cave (classified at the Inventory of Historical Monuments since 1995) is a painted cave of the paleolithic situated in Southern Ardèche, in Vallon-Pont-d'Arc. Precisely at « La Combe d'Arc », which is an old meander of the Ardèche river, before the “érosion” of the Pont d'Arc natural bridge. This cave has been discovered in 1994. After a lot of analysis of paints and walls, scientists said that it was parietal paints realized - 32 000 years before now. This make Chauvet cave the oldest prehistorical painted cave known of the world. In facts, the cave is a big underground network, around 500 m long and more than 8 000 m² of area, divided in many chambers. There is a lot of sign, positives and negative hands and also some painted animals realized in red “ocre”, massive wood boards representing a lot of animals realized with wood carbon. Altogether 420 representations of animals (paints, engravings) some species represented have never been saw elsewhere (owls, hyenas, panthers, bears, deers…). Other part, dangerous animals are exceptionally presents here (lions, rhinos, mammoths) to the detriment of more common animals such as horses and buffalo. One can also notice an organization in the style of paintings and engravings. Moreover, these paintings are more realistic and far-reaching. The diversity and the control of techniques which they bear witness questioned the idea of prehistoric art. Specialists can notice all the technique and mastery of drawing thanks to the many details, reliefs, and motion effects. In prehistoric times, the cave was also used as shelter for bears. Indeed, one can see their bones, movements traces and footprints.
The exceptional state of preservation of the cave and its paintings is thanks to the obstruction of its entry by a landslide 20,000 years ago. To avoid the mistakes that have damaged the Lascaux paintings, Chauvet will never be open to the public. Only scientists, prehistory specialists, some personalities and individuals making a reasoned request may enter. The cave entrance is protected by a security with electronic monitoring and men. The State has decided to reduce the number of annual visits to preserve its unique heritage.
The future place of restitution, major cultural project in France, will offer the opportunity to visit a facsimile of the Chauvet cave in an area of 3000 m² (parietal representations, archaeological and paleontological will be returned). In addition, the true atmosphere of the cave (temperature, humidity and odors) will be injected into. This facsimile will be the largest in the world. To this physical restitution will be attached a discovery center where it will be possible to familiarize themselves with the Paleolithic, the flora, fauna and humanity of 35 000 years ago.
Meanwhile, it is possible to visit the town of Vallon Pont d'Arc, where there is a permanent exhibition that allows visitors to discover this jewel of prehistoric art of universal value.
On the other hand, local authorities wish to register the Chauvet cave on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. A committee of support for this application was created in June 2010 in Vallon-Pont d'Arc.
With Lascaux (1940), Cosquer (1991) and Cussac (2000), the Chauvet cave is one of the major French cave by the aesthetic qualities of his works.