Some people may think that almost nothing in this world remains a secret to humans. Indeed, there were numerous discoveries and expeditions throughout history, and if there were anything hidden, scientists would have already found it. However, an accidental discovery made twenty-seven years ago, when many persons also believed that they knew this world completely, may make humans doubt their full acquaintance with the wonders of this planet. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the importance and historical value of the Chauvet Cave and then talk about its Lion Panel painting.
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The Cave’s Discovery and Significance
It is actually rather interesting that the Chauvet Cave was discovered by accident. This find brought scientists and researchers many new discovery opportunities and information about those who inhabited this cave hundreds of thousands of years ago. According to Birx, the cave was found in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillarie, and Eliette Brunel (163). This 650-foot-long underground complex is located among the Cirque d’ Estre Cliffs in southern France (Birx 163). Overall, “the geological phenomena associated with Chauvet Gave provide details about the effects of natural processes on subterranean dwellings while simultaneously providing researchers with an idea of times during which the cave’s changes occurred” (Birx 163). Additionally, it is interesting for people to explore the art in the cave, animals living in it, and the remnants of human occupation. This is why it is so significant to modern speleologists and other scientists.
It is evident that humans used to occupy this cave hundreds of thousands of years ago. According to, the first period of their occupation was “from c. 37,500 years ago to c. 33,500 years ago, and the second from c. 32,000 to c. 27,000 years ago” (Groeneveld). It was possible to learn this information thanks to a large sample of carbon-14 dates determined through wood and bone charcoal fragments analysis. Further, there are many remnants of the human occupation, including artifacts such as footprints, flint blades and scrapers, and fire pits remains (Birx 163). It is extremely interesting and engaging for the researchers and speleologists to explore the various chambers, find the skeletal remains of different animals, and study the engravings and paintings created on the walls of the long tunnels. Then, about 21,000 years ago, the cave’s entrance collapsed, and it became completely sealed off to any visitors until its accidental discovery by modern people.
Animals of the Cave
As mentioned above, the skeletal remains found in the cave make it possible to state that the chambers and tunnels were inhabited by a vast number of various animals. According to researchers, the cave was visited by birds, bears, wolves, lions, and deer (Birx 163). However, not only the bones of these animals allow modern scientists to learn about the fauna of southern France but also the engravings on the cave’s walls.
The Art in Chauvet Cave
What amuses and interests speleologists and researchers most about the Chauvet Cave is the paintings on the walls of its tunnels and chambers. Indeed, precisely the wonderful engravings shocked the cave discoverers to the core and convinced them of the value of their discovery. As noticed by Literski, “the prehistoric artists of Chauvet Cave likely never imagined their drawings would be discovered 35,000 years later, inspiring scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines” (361). This makes the cave’s engravings even more interesting: they allow modern people to become spiritually connected with their ancestors and try to view the world the way they did. It is possible to suggest that, when looking at the cave’s art, one feels the unreality of their existence and the world around them and imagines being transported to those prehistoric times. This cave is truly a great discovery of the late twentieth century.
Overall, the artists of this cave were hunter-gatherers and representatives of the Aurignacian culture. The paleolithic paintings found in the cave were a form of artistic expression (Onians 182) or even a part of certain rituals, while the cave itself was a ritual space (Literski 361). There are hundreds of engravings and paintings on the walls of the Chauvet Cave, and they range from handprints to geometric forms like red spots or animal representations (Groeneveld). Interestingly, the majority of the depicted animals, including bears, wolves, rhinoceroses, and lions, were not hunted. The paintings of the cave are indeed art as many sophisticated techniques like perspective, stump-drawing, and scraping were used to draw the animals.
The Lion Panel Painting
It is essential to notice that some of the Chauvet Cave’s engravings were preserved better than the others, allowing scientists to study them and learn more information. The Lion Panel, which can be found in the lowest level of the cave, is one of the most spectacular, incredible, and best-preserved paintings (Groeneveld). According to Groeneveld, this panel’s “main scene shows a pride of 16 lions (indicated mostly by just their heads) chasing a group of seven bison.” The cave’s visitors can see that the lions’ poses and expressions are rather tense. The hunt is in progress, and the male lions join the females. What makes this panel painting unique is the techniques used for its creation, including stump-drawing, enhanced outlines, shading, scraped surface, and blank areas creating depth (Groeneveld). Therefore, the lions seem real and almost leap from the wall, entering the modern world.
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Birx, H. James. Encyclopedia of Time: Science, Philosophy, Theology, & Culture. Vol. 1, Sage, 2009.
Groeneveld, Emma. Chauvet Cave. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2017. World History.
Literski, Nicholas S. “Engaging the Paleolithic Images of Chauvet Cave.” Psychological Perspectives, vol. 61, no. 3, 2018, pp. 361-374.
Onians, John. “Art, the Visual Imagination and Neuroscience: The Chauvet Cave, Mona Lisa’s Smile and Michelangelo’s Terribilita.” Cortex, vol. 105, 2018, pp. 182-188.