By Allison Tomlinson
It was on December 18, 1994 that a group of cave experts stumbled across the Grotte Chauvet in southern France – home to the earliest known figurative drawings and now a World Heritage site.
The cave is closed off to the public and there are only three people who know the code to get through the half-tonne reinforced door that seals the entrance to the cave. Behind the door the atmospheric balance is monitored along with the potential proliferation of algae, mushrooms and bacteria with the hopes to keep the cave in the same state of containment as when it was first discovered.
Very few people are allowed into the cave and those who are granted access must put on white overalls and special shoes to avoid polluting the environment. For safety reasons a helmet and harness are also required due to the restricted space available for visitors to follow.
The realisation that everything has been left just as it was discovered when the cave was first discovered by Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire and Eliette Brunel is apparent with the clay and calcite covered bones scattered along the floor from a past where bears inhabited the cave and our ancestors used the cave for what is believed to be religious reasons.
Nearly everything has been left as it was when Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire and Eliette Brunel stumbled across the grotto on December 18, 1994.
The paintings on the wall are remarkable with the largest quantity of up to 75% of the big cats and 60% of the rhinoceros known to have been drawn during the period.
The figures on the wall which includes animals such as bear, lion and owl also include herds of horses running, the movement in the animals details are clearly captured with the charcoal that was used to paint the walls.
Due to the the cave being sealed off by a rockfall around 23,000 years ago it is miraculously preserved and will never be open to the public due to the fragile state.
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