I enjoyed watching the film “Caves of Forgotten Dreams”. I was fascinated by the extent to which the Chauvet Cave has been preserved over the years – from both humans and the external environment. Located in the Ardèche Valley, the cave’s surrounding environment consists of natural features including mountains and plateaus. It is possible that the harsh mountainous climate which is characterized by snow and violent winds, and frequent fogs in the valley could easily cause damage to the structure of the cave. It is believed that a rock slide covered the original entrance to the cave, preserving the paintings from natural elements.
According to the film, only a certain group of scientists (including geologists and paleontologists) is allowed to enter the cave and even though Werner Herzog received permission, he was still under strict restrictions. This goes to show how important this archaeological site is to the history of Southern France. Another reason why scientists may be allowed to view the cave for only a few hours a day could be the presence of radon and carbon dioxide at significantly high, near-toxic levels.
It is very interesting that paintings estimated to be about 32000 years old are still intact on the walls of the cave. In contrast to the paintings in Tutankhamun’s tomb which depicts humans and gods – his interactions with ancient Egyptians and the gods – these paintings comprise mainly of animal style art. I wonder why the dominant animals painted in the cave are mammoths, lions and rhinoceroses which I suppose were rarely hunted by the Neanderthals.
I appreciate the fact that through these paintings, we are able to learn about the society that lived in the regions around the cave. It is amazing to think about how humans adapted to the landscape and animals found in the area. It is speculated that humans may have made clothing and shoes from reindeer fur to protect themselves against the cold. Through the human paintings in the Chauvet Cave which include a slightly crooked little finger and the lower part of a woman’s body we get an idea of the physique of the prehistoric individuals. These images create memories that couldn’t be passed on to future generations using language. Because of these reasons, I believe archaeology is relevant in communicating the past. We can make a lot of important connections just by studying a single archaeological site. Also, as humans, we come to understand who we really are and where we came from.