Costing around 55 million euros, a replica of ancient art has been recreated in Southern France. Why? To protect art. To protect history. The value of both being priceless to our ancestry and culture.
Twenty years ago caves of major beauty and historic importance were discovered, revealing some of the oldest art every found. Ancient caverns adorned with detailed cave paintings, a natural history of the time, estimated to be about 35,000 years ago, providing a glimpse into the animals that roamed the region, drawn by the people of the time.
Chauvet Cave holds history of such importance that it rightly needs to be protected and preserved, so has not been opened to the public, but it is too important and too amazing to be kept hidden from the public. This led to the building of a replica of areas of the cave, right down to the stalactites and stalagmites that decorate the caverns. The paintings themselves offer the main draw (no pun intended), so artists spent months recreating them on recreated limestone cave walls made out of resin.
So why is this all so important?
Because these pictures wordlessly tell us so much about the people of the time and the time they lived. There are different interpretations and beliefs about the pictures and what they represented: a means of communications; a form of worship, religion; or magic, hunting magic invoked through drawings of animals conjuring up more animals to hunt, or Shaman pictorially illustrating their visions and premonitions.
I think of them as a story. A story of lives past, stories of creatures that were intrinsic to life: survival from hunters of humans or survival by humans hunting, providing food, warmth, life. Rare images of humans as generations, from children to the wise and elderly, the leaders and the communities, the hunters and the gatherers.
The drawings are giving us a beautiful and illustrative glimpse into the past, into how our ancestors lived and survived. Of the nature around them, the world they lived in. Art itself is historic, but the stories and information they hold are the real history. Our history, the history of those before us.
Simple. Magnificent. Beautiful. Invaluable.
Read the BBC feature: Vast replica recreates prehistoric Chauvet cave >
My cave drawing inspired doodle: