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Cave paintings may depict volcanic eruption

36,000-year-old spray-like paintings found in Chauvet-Pont D’Arc Cave in France may be the oldest-known depictions of a volcanic eruption.

Fearsome animals such as woolly rhinoceroses, cave lions and bears dominate Chauvet’s imagery. But one of its innermost galleries — named after a giant deer species, Megaloceros, that is depicted there — also contains a series of mysterious spray-shaped drawings, partly covered by the Megaloceros painting. A nearby gallery holds similar spray imagery, as does a wall near the cave’s original entrance, but researchers have not determined what the images represent.

The depictions are unique to Chauvet, notes Sebastien Nomade, a geoscientist at the University of Paris-Saclay in Gif-Sur-Yvette, France, who led the study. The Bas-Vivarais volcanic field, a well-known site containing more than a dozen extinct volcanoes, lies just 35 kilometres from the cave, but only eruptions that happened before humans occupied Chauvet had been dated, Nomade says.

[Full story]

Story: Ewen Callaway, Nature | Photo: D. Genty (left)/V. Feruglio/D. Baffier (right)/CC BY 4.0

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