When Chauvet Cave artists created their artwork, the Pont d'Arc was already there

When Chauvet Cave artists created its artwork, the Pont d’Arc was already there
The Cirque d’Estre shapes the natural setting of the Chauvet Cave and the Pont d’Arc. The upper photograph shows the Combe d’Arc, an old meander later cutoff by the Ardèche River. Credit: Jean-Jacques Delannoy and Stéphane Jaillet

The Chauvet Cave, which lies by the entrance to the Gorges of the Ardèche, is home to the world's oldest cave paintings, dating back 36,000 years. Their state of preservation and aesthetic qualities earned them a spot on the World Heritage List in 2014, 20 years after their discovery.

The location of the cavern—surrounded by a remarkable landscape, next to the Pont d'Arc natural archway—raises the question of whether the people who executed these artworks looked and walked out upon the same landscape as today. Did they see the same natural archway? Scientists from the CNRS, Université Savoie Mont Blanc, and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle now know the answer. By studying the landform of the area and making novel use of applied mathematics to date sand transported by the Ardèche River, they determined that the Pont d'Arc was formed about 124,000 years ago.

This study, published in Scientific Reports, reports that these past communities were therefore familiar with the same landmarks we know today: the gorge , a natural archway, and a ledge leading directly to the entrance, which was then wide open.

When Chauvet Cave artists created its artwork, the Pont d’Arc was already there
Reconstructing the history of the Combe d’Arc landscape. The Combe d’Arc was greatly impacted by the gradual entrenchment of the Ardèche River. Credit: Kim Génuite

Explore further

Radio-carbon study suggests Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave art much older than thought

More information: Dating the landscape evolution around the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave. Scientific Reports, April 26 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-88240-5
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Provided by CNRS
Citation: When Chauvet Cave artists created their artwork, the Pont d'Arc was already there (2021, April 26) retrieved 14 June 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-chauvet-cave-artists-artwork-pont.html
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