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French Cave Painting Found To Be World's 'Oldest And Most Elaborate'

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Michel Alain Garcia, CNRS / AP
Michel Alain Garcia, CNRS / AP

We all know the French have superior parenting techniques, refined tastes for food and drink, and endless sophistication, but are you surprised that they not only made some of the oldest cave art, but the most elaborate? C'est la vie...

The drawing in question depicts bears, rhinoceroses and horses in advanced detail, so advanced that, according to News24, "some scholars believe they date from 12,000 to 17,000 years ago." Though the works were discovered in 1994, on Monday studies by France's University of Savoie, Aix Marseille University and the Centre National de Prehistoire revealed the paintings were far older than they first appeared.

Scientists used geomorphological and chlorine-36 dating to analyze the age of the Chauvet cave where the paintings were found, located in the Ardeche region in southern France. The results illustrated that a cliff began collapsing over the cave entrance around 29,000 years ago, meaning the paintings date back prior to this sealing off. Thus the study suggests "that they were created by people in the Aurignacian culture, which lived 28,000 to 40,000 years ago," according to Phys.org. However, a painting in Spanish caves in Costa Del Sol was found by scientists in March to be approximately 42,000 years old, so experts will now have to battle over which is, indeed, the oldest work of art.

One incontrovertible fact from this latest study is the Chauvet cave paintings are not only one of the oldest works of cave art but also the "most elaborate ever discovered." This double-discovery affects our entire understanding of cognitive development and the belief that older artworks are decidedly more primitive, meaning that much rock dating based on stylistic terms is thrown into question.

This new discovery challenges many beliefs about the progress of creativity and self-expression. But it certainly reaffirms that French culture is ahead of the curve, even 40,000 years ago.

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