• France's news in English

France's prehistoric Chauvet cave opens

The Local · 26 Apr 2015, 18:21

Published: 26 Apr 2015 18:21 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The grotto at Vallon-Pont d'Arc in the Ardeche region of southern France, is a reproduction of the closely guarded Grotte Chauvet, which was granted World Heritage status last year.

The French president had already officially inaugurated the museum earlier this month and it officially opened to the public on Saturday.

The replica cave, which took a team of scientists two and a half years to create, will enable tourists from around the world to continue to see the frescos of painted animals without damaging the original cave.

Unique in the world for being such an identical and precise reproduction, the grotto has been built in the shape of a bear's paw, and stands just one kilometre away from the original site.

Inside the new grotto, which came a cost of €55 million visitors will be able to see more than a thousand drawings, including 425 animal figures of 14 different species, which have been meticulously reproduced.


The smell, humidity and even stalactites of the Grotte Chauvet have also been recreated to make the new site as authentic as can be.

The visitor walks down a long ramp to get into the building housing the replica, entering a darkened, cool and humid place that mirrors conditions in the grotto.

Then just like in the real cave, people stick to a walkway that takes them past replica bones and the skull of an Alpine ibex, a species of wild goat.

The drawings reveal themselves as the visitors walk further into the fake cave, a total of 1,000 paintings including 425 animals -- including bears, rhinos, big cats, owls.

These have been reproduced using charcoal, just like our Aurignacian ancestors did some 36,000 years ago.

Using ultra-modern techniques such as 3D imaging, engineers, sculptors, painters and visual artists faithfully reproduced the paintings.

A team of 10 people in Paris also worked for four years to reproduce stalactites, stalagmites and other formations present in the Grotte Chauvet itself.

Authorities hope that the giant replica will attract some 350,000 visitors a year.



The original Chauvet grotto was preserved for more than 20,000 years thanks to the fallen rocks, which blocked its entrance.

The grotto was discovered on the 18th December 1994 by amateur potholers: Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Brunel et Christian Hillaire.

If you are wondering how important the grotto is, then the words of Philippe Lalliot France's envoy to Unesco, should leave you in no doubt.

"I had the chance, I should say the privilege, to visit the cave... and I was literally stunned by what I saw, which revolutionizes our views of our origins," said Lalliot after the Unesco vote last year.

A French lawmaker for the Ardeche, Pascal Terrasse, also described the cave as "a first cultural act".

"This artist has now been recognized," Terrasse said. "May he forgive us for waiting 36,000 years to recognize his work."

by Chloé Farand

The Local (news@thelocal.it)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available