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