In pictures: Giant replica of prehistoric site to open in France

SYCPA , Sébastien Gayet. Visitors to the Chauvet Cave move between cave drawings on footbridges.

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.


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)

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