Antiquities and Archaeology Conservation News Qatar

Prehistoric painted caves added to Unesco’s World Heritage List

The Chauvet Pont-d’Arc site in southern France is twice as old as the Lascaux complex

Of the more than 1,000 drawings lining the walls of Chauvet Pont-d’Arc, many depict animals that are unique in Palaeolithic cave art, such as the panther and the owl

The world’s oldest decorated cave has entered Unesco’s World Heritage List. The 36,000 year-old cave of Chauvet Pont-d'Arc, in the Ardèche region of southern France, was one of six new sites added to the organisation’s preservation list during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar, which began on 15 June and ends tomorrow.

The cave of Chauvet Pont-d’Arc had been sealed by a rock fall until it was discovered in 1994, ensuring its state of remarkable preservation. It is twice as old as the Lascaux cave complex in the Dordogne, which was previously considered the earliest example of prehistoric rock art.

Of the more than 1,000 drawings lining the walls of Chauvet Pont-d’Arc, 425 depict animals, including species that are unique in Palaeolithic cave art, such as the panther and the owl.

The cave has never been open to the public for conservation reasons. Instead, the Cavern of Pont-d’Arc, a €50m replica that has been under construction nearby since October 2012, is set to admit visitors from April 2015. At 3,500 square metres, the replica covers less than half the area of the original but the drawings will be reproduced to 1:1 scale.

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27 Jun 14
16:52 CET


These were the first cave drawings I'd seen where the artist had clearly highlighted the outline of the animals by scraping away the background to expose the white of the limestone. Some of the artworks are painted on top of each other as in Lascaux (As has been suggested with other caves, that each image was a separate event such as a shamanistic ritual to bring good luck in a hunt, or as a coming of age ceremony), but many of the The Chauvet Pont-d’Arc drawings show deliberate use of overlap as a perspective device, and they also include shading. Older books on cave art led us to believe that the oldest caves had more primitive linear designs and they slowly evolved into more realistic work...this cave turns that theory on its head. What is also interesting is that there appear to be far less abstract symbols in this cave compared to Lascaux - does this suggest that a high degree of realism came long before abstract forms? Wonderful art works.

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