Dec 18: A Horse Story

from My Cultural Landscape On December 18, 1994, Eliette Brunel-Deschamps, Christian Hillaire, and Jean-Marie Chauvet began to explore a cave in southern France that revealed a stunning collection of wall paintings by prehistoric man. Subsequently named in honor of one of the three explorers, the Chauvet cave is considered by many anthropologists to contain the first evidence of human art in the form of cave paintings

Scientists have since reached the conclusion that humans did not inhabit the cave. Rather, it was often a shelter for cave bears (and had absolutely nothing to do with the release of 1986’s popular  film, The Clan of the Cave Bear). Using radiocarbon dating techniques, it has even been determined that a drawing of a reindeer that was started by one person may have been completed by someone else 5,000 years later!

Although the cave’s existence has been known for more than 16 years, scientists have carefully laid down walkways in an effort to prevent any unnecessary damage to its soft clay floor (the cave had been sealed shut by a rock slide at least 20,000 years ago). This is not the kind of site that can be opened to the public. Indeed, there is now talk about building a visitor center that would include a simulation of the cave and its prehistoric paintings.

Paintings of horses in the Chauvet cave

The artwork discovered in the cave consists mostly of paintings of wild animals: bears, lions, rhinoceri, buffalo, and woolly mammoths. The paintings of horses are remarkably skilled, especially for someone using the crudest of artistic tools.

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