This week in class we watched “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” a documentary about the Chauvet Cave, where Werner Herzog and a small crew explored this cave in great detail. I found the film to be very interesting and learned a lot about one of the oldest caves in the world.
What really fascinated me was the manner in which this cave was discovered. The cave was accidentally found by Christian Hillaire, Eliette Brunel-Deschamps, and Jean-Marie Chauvet (whom the cave was named after) by Pont d’Arc in southern France. The explorers felt drafts of air coming from cracks within the rocks in that area, which ultimately led them to the grand discovery of a cave that is 1300 feet long! It is hard to imagine that a cave of such magnitude was stumbled upon by accident and that so many amazing artifacts were found. What really interested me was the amount of art and the intricate detail of if found in the cave. Around 420 paintings have been found in the cave, all made with varying techniques and design. Because it is apparent that humans did not actually live in this cave as there were no human bone remains found, it makes me think that this cave was predominantly used as a canvas for people to portray their art. Most of the paintings in the cave were figurative depictions of animals, including lions, rhinos, mammoths, bison, and horses, and these representations were very accurately and precisely drawn. In contrast, there are much fewer depictions of human paintings found in the cave, and those that are there are in less detail than the animal paintings. This makes me believe that the animals had symbolic meaning in the lives of those humans at that time and may have been highly respected or even worshiped.
The preservation of the cave is something of extraordinary bewilderment. I find it astonishing that all of the art and other remains have been left undisturbed since a landslide sealed off the entrance about 25,000 years ago. I am also impressed at the measures that are being taken in order to keep it this way. Access has been restricted to the public since its discovery and those who are allowed to enter take great care in all of their actions in order to maintain it as closely to the way it was found, allowing us to learn as much about the cave and all of its glories without altering it. In the local town, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, a full size recreation has been created to showcase the discoveries. I think this is a good way to inform the public of what is being found while keeping the site in pristine condition to get the most information out of it without altering its condition. All of this just goes to show the significance that archaeology has on our world and how it leads to so many amazing discoveries of the way that people once lived their lives. The discovery of the cave was fairly recent (in 1994), again showing that archaeological discoveries are being made all the time and that we are constantly learning new things in order to try to piece together this puzzle of how and why people lived and the connections it has to us today.