Chauvet cave dating controversy
This cave art was based upon and rooted in a cultural experience - an overall belief system which persisted with little change for over twenty millennia, ending only when the Ice Age finally drew to a close - which is obviously totally alien to the one that the majority of us live in today.Because Chauvet was found intact, a major priority for Jean Clottes' scientific team was to avoid the situation painfully learnt at Lascaux.Not only is the Ice Age art of the Chauvet Cave extremely old, it is also very extensive and highly varied.And one other factor intrigued prehistorians around the world eagerly awaiting news from the research team; the Chauvet Cave and its Paleolithic paintings were more or less perfectly preserved.The Chauvet Cave is one of the most famous prehistoric rock art sites in the world.Located in the Ardeche region of southern France, along the bank of the river Ardeche near the Pont-d'Arc, this cave was only discovered as recently as 1994, happened upon by a small team of cavers led by Jean-Marie Chauvet.Jean Clottes' latest book 'Cave Art' explores the themes, the possible meanings and the numerous interpretations, establishing that even if none of the hypotheses can be accepted in their entirety, each still played a part in bringing about a better understanding of Palaeolithic art.By meticulous analysis of the superposition of charcoal lines as well as slight thickenings at the beginning and end of each stroke, art experts have been able to reconstruct the order and direction in which each line was drawn.
With one exception, all of the cave art paintings have been dated between 30,000 & 33,000 years ago. Jean Clottes headed the first research team in Chauvet Cave, under great security.Their understanding can be influenced by various factors - by their gender or status, for example; and they may modify their explanation of the art when speaking to outsiders deemed unqualified to share meanings so sacred or secret.And when dealing with art for which no ethnological data are known, our predicament is worse still. Does a painting of a bird depict an eagle, a supernatural spirit, or a shaman whose soul has taken flight? ' 'Some archaeologists think that it is impossible to know what rock art means and that the researcher's role is to study motifs and techniques, try to date the works, establish as far as possible whether these images were structurally linked, but not attempt to interpret them.Indeed, its art originates in the myths and practices of these people. For Chauvet, this is more preservation than conservation.Jean Clottes is emphatic; Palaeolithic cave paintings represent a practice that existed for an extremely long period of time, but it is an art-form that can never be recreated, even though the artists were our ancestors, and we look like they would have looked, and we share the same size brains.
From their point of view, we are faced with a choice: either say nothing at all about meaning, or make up stories that might seem interesting but would lack any objective, scientific basis.' 'Others feel that it is a pointless exercise to pursue classifications that lead only to dry statistics, or to establish the existence of general structures - relationships among different types of images - that we can perhaps record but not explain. Faced with the twin dangers of pursuing an arid intellectual exercise, on the one hand, and indulging in baseless fabrications, on the other, we must steer a careful course.