By Javier Albisu
Paris: The Chauvet cave in southern France will soon be welcoming visitors eager to examine drawings on the cave’s walls that date back to prehistoric times and are considered the oldest in the world, comparable only to art rock drawings in the magnificent caves of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain.
Project officials accompanied recently by a small group of reporters embarked on a journey back in time, revealing the cave’s rock art, especially the masterpiece depicting a group of lions.
Restoration of the cave began almost three years ago using advanced technological equipment such as 3-D modelling of the cave and overlapping 6,000 digital images to develop the sketch of the caves complex, which are expected to be visited by 350,000 people each year.
The cave is scheduled to be opened for visitors from April 25, 2015.
The lions drawing dates back an estimated 36,000 years and was discovered just two decades ago. A group of primitive people used their hands, charcoal and ocher stones to depict 80 animals in southern France during the Upper Paleolithic age, featuring 36 lions and 23 rhinoceroses.
Experts say the drawings depict a ritual scene and the viewer can also observe effects of visualisation and vitality which creates an effect of movement on the wall.
Gilles Tosello, a fresco reproduction expert, said, “We are very close here to contemporary media such as film or comics, where there is a will to narrate history through images”.
The government spent 55 million euros ($67 million) on preparing the Chavet cave for visitors and the complex was added last June to Unesco’s World Heritage Site list.
The cave was discovered in 1994 and has been compared to the earlier discoveries of similar sites such as Altamira in 1879 and Lascaux in 1940.
Unesco official Nuria Sanz explained that the caves at Altamira and Lascaux represent the history of rock art research, but declined to say whether or not Chauvet is the oldest in the world, as some experts claim.
A natural science magazine recently published a study pointing out that caves found in the area of Maros in Indonesia date back 39,000 years.
Prehistory professor at the University of Lyon, and Altamira cave expert Bernaldo de Quirós said that it was difficult to determine which cave was older than the other, as most discovered caves have not been dated and there might be many more caves yet to be found.