From Chauvet to Lascaux: 15,000 Y ears of Cave Art
UMR 5199 CNRS, University of Bordeaux, Batiment B8, Allee Geoffroy Saint Hilaire CS 50023 33615 PESSAC CEDEX, France
Novosibirsk State University, Pirogova 1, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
The earliest art of Western Europe was evolving along with the Homo sapiens population of hunter-gatherers in the glacial environment of the northern hemisphere over the entire Upper Paleolithic (36–13 ka BP). The most important rock art sites (such as Altamira and La Garma in Spain, and Lascaux, Niaux, Cussac, and Chauvet in France) are relevant to the socio-cultural behavior and needs of anatomically modern humans. In this article, we intend to identify certain changes in the symbolic language, in the ways animals are rendered, and in the layout of artistic space over 15,000 years separating the two key rock art galleries with the best preserved representations: Chauvet (36 ka BP) and Lascaux (21 ka BP). Chauvet, discovered in 1994, is located in the Ardeche Valley, near the Mediterranean coast. In this large cave, numerous new kinds of Upper Paleolithic rock art have been documented, spanning two distinct occupation-periods between 37,000 and 30,000 years ago. The early stage is the Aurignacian, with black zoomorphic paintings, dating to 37,000–33,500 BP. Lascaux, discovered in 1940, is situated in the Vezere Valley, 120 km away from the Atlantic coast, among a large cluster of other sites of rock art in caves and rock shelters. Today, the cave is closed for the public, because intense tourist activities through the many years from its discovery until 1963 have disrupted the microclimate of the cave and endangered the paintings.
Keywords: Western Europe, rock art, caves, Ice Age art, Upper Paleolithic.