Out of all the great discoveries we looked at through the semester, I believe that Chauvet Cave is both the most interesting and the most important. What an amazing stroke of fate was the rockslide that occurred 20,000 years ago, completely closing off the entrance the Chauvet Cave and perfectly preserving all the cave paintings inside. Thanks to this rockslide, we can now have a window into our earliest ancestors’ culture from 30,000 years ago.
These paintings inside Chauvet Cave give us a glimpse into the culture, ceremonies, and beliefs of early humans. They painted the plants and animals they saw around them in everyday life. They painted parts of traditions and ceremonies taking place. Some of their paintings even left clues as to who was in the cave, for example the man with the crooked pinky finger whose handprint can be found in various places throughout the cave. Part of what makes this cave so important to understanding human past is the fact that some of the art was made up to 5,000 years apart. Through the differences in the paintings made years apart, we can observe the changes and developments that were taking place in these ancient humans’ society.
Every time I look at the paintings found in this cave, I am amazed at the quality of the art. Maybe it is because I have very little artistic talent myself, but I find these paintings incredible. Anyone who believes that early human ancestors were “dumb” and “unsophisticated” has clearly never seen the beautiful artworks they were responsible for creating. I find their work even more amazing when I think about how they did not have any of the modern art tools or paints we have today.
Part of what I find most interesting about Chauvet Cave and its paintings is that we will never fully know what these Paleolithic painters were trying to convey with their art. I believe it was one of the class readings that compared cave paintings to the Rorschach, or inkblot, tests used in psychology. Scientists and archeologists can look at these paintings and use all of their previously collected data and research, but they will still never be 100% certain what they represent. Obviously, they are making very well educated speculations, but we will never know exactly what the purposes of these paintings were. We get a good glimpse into what our early ancestors were doing at the time and what their life was like, but there is still so much left to be discovered, which is what I think makes archeology so interesting.