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
Balter, M., Going deeper into the Grotte Chauvet, Science321(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 Evolution55(5):908–917,
November 2008. Return to text.
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