Chauvet Cave controversy
Photo by Carole Fritz / Chauvet Cave Research Program
The famous ‘Horse Panel’ in Grotte Chauvet in the Ardèche region of southern France. 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. The rhinos were drawn first (beginning with horns and muzzles, then the front legs and bellies, then the rest of the bodies) then the aurochs at left (working from bottom to top), and finally the horses (progressively from top). The art experts say that whoever drew the Panel deliberately reserved a space in the centre for the four horses, whose heads and necks are slightly superimposed over the backs of the cattle and arranged in a tight, diagonal orientation. Gilles Tosello (University of Toulouse) says it’s likely that just one artist was responsible. ‘The entire composition is very homogenous and has a very strong coherence,’ he says. The horses’ heads are rendered even more vivid because the artist used a tool to etch the cave wall around their muzzles—à la bas-relief.
Described as ‘exquisitely rendered’, the paintings on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France upset evolutionary theories about human artistic expression when they were discovered in 1994.1 That’s because the paintings were carbon-dated as being around 30,000 years old—whereas archaeologists held that ‘such sophisticated artworks did not appear until up to 15,000 years later’.2
Many archaeologists have altered their views accordingly—for example, Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse, France. ‘The fundamental importance of Chauvet is to show that the capacity of Homo sapiens to engage in artistic expression did not go through a linear evolution over many thousands of years. It was there from the beginning.’2
But some archaeologists continue to reject the claimed dates vigorously. Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield, UK, in a recent paper in the Journal of Human Evolution,3 said that the Chauvet drawings are simply too magnificent for their time. He insists that the dates are unreliable.
Actually, we would say that Tosello and Pettitt are both right—and both wrong. Tosello is right about man’s artistic expression having been ‘there from the beginning’. And Pettitt is right about the carbon dates being wrong.
The cave paintings can be no older than the global Flood, which occurred only around 4,500 years ago, and in fact are likely to be much younger than that.4
- Art finds rock evolutionists, Creation 18(1):7, 1995; <creation.com/artfinds>. Return to text.
- Balter, M., Going deeper into the Grotte Chauvet, Science 321(5891):904–905, 15 August 2008. Return to text.
- Pettitt, P., Art and the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Europe: Comments on the archaeological arguments for an early Upper Paleolithic antiquity of the Grotte Chauvet art, Journal of Human Evolution 55(5):908–917, November 2008. Return to text.
- Silvestru, E., Caves for all seasons, Creation 25(3):44–49, 2003; <creation.com/all-seasons>. Return to text.