A giant replica of France’s 36,000-year-old “Grotte Chauvet”, home to 1,000 prehistoric animal cave-drawings, was inaugurated by President François Hollande on Friday, after three years of construction.
The largest perfect replica of a prehistoric site in Europe, the monumental space is around seven kilometres from the original site in the Ardeche region of southern France, which UNESCO said contains "the earliest known figurative drawings in the world”.
A team of engineers, sculptors, painters and artists used high-tech methods, like a 3-D technique developed using digital scanners, to achieve results as close as possible to the original cave, sealed off for millennia before its discovery in 1994.
Visitors descend via a long ramp into caverns that are climatised to replicate the original environment.
Image of a lion hunt on the cave walls of the Grotte Chauvet, or Chauvet Cave, replica. © DRAC Rhône-Alpes / Ministry of Culture and Communication
Large fresco in the cave's back room. © Jean Clottes / National Centre of Prehistory
Image of an owl. © DRAC Rhône-Alpes / Ministry of Culture and Communication
Image of a hand made with red ochre pigment. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
Fresco of rhinoceroses. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
A sculptor/artist recreates geological elements on the cave walls. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
Visitors to the Chauvet Cave move between cave drawings on footbridges. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
The exceptional 'Lion Fresco' includes 80 animal drawings. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
The 'Panel of the Sacred Heart'. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
Images of horses and reindeer on the cave walls. © SYCPA / Sébastien Gayet
The 1,000 animal drawings include bears, woolly rhinoceroses, cats, panthers and lions, all recreated using charcoal, the same material used by the original Aurignacian people.
The project cost about 55 million euros ($58 million), and is expected to draw around 350,000 visitors each year.
Hollande spent about an hour on the winding path through the replica and gushed enthusiastically afterwards.
"This is where man invented painting ... here, with a single handprint, they invented self-portraits ... and when they played with shadow and light, they invented cinema," said the president.
"I will never stop saying it wherever I go in the world: You want to know where you come from? Come to the cave at Pont d'Arc and you'll be right at home."
Researchers believe the original cave was never permanently inhabited by humans "but was instead of a sacred character" and "used for shamanist ritual practice".
The “Grotte Chauvet” replica will open to the public on April 25.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-04-10