Bonus Blog: Cave Paintings

After learning about all of the archaeological sites, it was the cave paintings in the Chauvet Caves that I found the most surprising. Coming into this class I had heard about cave paintings but I had a picture in my head of really rough outlines or sketches of animals that were made just a few thousand years ago but are now mostly weathered away. Instead, I found that they were much more than I ever pictured.

In the documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, I was stunned to see the incredible detail of the paintings. Instead of rough sketches, the caves were covered in well-preserved murals with extraordinary detail. There was no guessing what the painting represented with the detailed horses, bears, and rhinos. Even more impressive was how the artists used the shape of the walls to give the animals depth, and that they could depict the movement of the animals using multiple legs. This went beyond what I imagined the skill levels of early man could be.

Even more surprising was that the caves painting were 32,000 years old. I figured they were maybe a few thousand, but never close to what they actually were. I did not realize that man was advanced enough to create drawings that would last for 32,000 years.

The amount of information that the archeologist could get from the paintings was impressive as well. They could identity the artists that created each painting by their style. They could even match the hand print with the crooked finger to the man who made the red dots. The technology that we now have to be able to map the entire cave in 3-D was also beyond what I thought was possible.

I thought that it was important to realize that all of the paintings were created at once, but accumulated over 5000 years. That is a large period of time that is recorded and kept in the drawings. At first I thought it was strange that the Chauvet Caves were only open accessible for a few weeks each and very few people are allowed to enter, but it makes sense when you think about all the history that need to be preserved and how detrimental human presence can be to the art. The paintings found in the cave are the oldest and best preserved that have been found because they have been closed off in a cave for so long, allowing access to them would quickly harm them and their historical significance.