Clottes' Berkeley Connection Brings Cave Art Here First

by Fernando Quintero

When leading cave expert Jean Clottes was told last December about the narrow entrance to a recently discovered limestone cave decorated with 20,000-year-old paintings and engravings of animals, the expert asked, "How narrow?"

"Very narrow," he was told.

The French archeologist who headed the research team following the discovery in the Ardèche region of France chose Berkeley as the site of his first U.S. showing of slides from the cave at a March 8 presentation.

Clottes said it will be many years before the cave is fully studied.

Anthropology professor Margaret Conkey said in the meantime, she is hopeful the cave will present re-

After that, there was a 30-foot drop to the pristine ground of the little-explored cave.

Rock slides apparently blocked the cave's original entrance thousands of years ago. All human footprints were washed away.

The floor was marked only by the prints of bears. Skeletons of more than 100 now-extinct species of bear lay strewn on the cavern floor.

The discovery of more than 300 paintings of lions, bison and other animals from the Ice Age is an exceptionally important one.

The site, called Grotte Chauvet after its discoverer, Jean Marie Chauvet, has been compared to such European cave painting finds as Altamira in Spain and Lascaux in France.

Clottes said he was skeptical about the cave at first.

"To authenticate the cave is the first thing you do," he said.

"There were animals described in the cave that were not usually found in such prehistoric writings.

"I've seen a lot of fakes. I thought it sounded a bit fishy,"

Upon first glance at the ancient art gallery, Clottes said he was "struck by the beauty of the cave, and the artistic quality of the paintings and etchings.

"They were very good artists. My feeling is that the best work was done by one person, a Leonardo of his time."

Clotte's visit was sponsored by the Archeological Research Facility, along with French Cultural Studies, the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Western European Studies and the Department of the History of Art.


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