Today we celebrate the 26th Anniversary of the Chauvet Cave Discovery. The groundbreaking discovery of the Chauvet Cave forever altered the archaeological and psychological understanding of prehistoric, human artistic expression and creative development.
On this day in 1994, three speleologists (cave specialists) by the name of Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel, and Christian Hillaire were exploring in the Ardèche region of southern France when they happened upon something remarkable: an enormous display of what turned out to be some of the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative drawings ever made by humankind.
Pic: The Explorers
Today’s Doodle celebrates this groundbreaking discovery–now known as Grotte Chauvet (French for Chauvet Cave.) Through Doodle, Google users all over the world can mark together the moment in time in which our modern soul was awakened.
Through carbon dating, the extraordinary drawings have been traced back to the Aurignacian period over 30,000 years ago. Due to a rock fall that sealed the entrance to the cave more than 10,000 years later, the Chauvet Cave–and the more than 1,000 drawings imprinted on its limestone walls–then remained untouched, preserved for millennia in pristine quality.
As illustrated in today’s Doodle, the cave features depictions of 14 different species— from horses and lions to dangerous prehistoric creatures like the long-extinct wooly rhinoceros and mammoth as well as cave lions and cave bears. The cave is akin to a time-machine taking us back to our origins, and to a planet we once shared with long-forgotten life forms, which were, feared, admired, loved and worshipped.
The deepest gallery features representations of the human body that recall early shamanic belief system, while other walls display abstract series of red dots and hand prints. The images demonstrate great artistic vision and technique through their anatomical accuracy, illusion of depth and movement, masterful use of colors, and skillful combination of both painting and engraving. Moreover, these drawings are not mere illustrations of the world outside the cave but imaginative invocations of special moments in the life of animals and humans.
According to widely accepted theories, this significant discovery marks the birth, and shared origins, of art and spiritual shamanic ritual. Furthermore, the primordial breakthrough in human creativity is an integral part of the evolution of human consciousness. From cave walls to digital screens, the story of our evolution continues.
This remarkable phenomenon is explored in depth in the Alef Trust course on The Shamanic Spirit in 21st Century Art, Culture and Technology (Start date: February 2021). I invite you to join our community of students, including Open Learning, and participate in this journey of discovery.
In recognition of the site’s vast significance to the human story, UNESCO inscribed the Chauvet Cave onto the World Heritage List in 2014.