On this day in 1994, three speleologists (cave specialists) by the name of Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel, and Christian Hillaire were exploring in the Ardèche region of southern France when they happened upon something remarkable: an enormous display of what turned out to be some of the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative drawings ever made by humankind. Today’s Doodle celebrates this groundbreaking discovery–now known as Grotte Chauvet (French for Chauvet Cave)–which forever altered the archaeological understanding of prehistoric man’s artistic expression and creative development.

Through carbon dating, the extraordinary drawings have been traced back to the Aurignacian period over 30,000 years ago. Thanks to a rock fall that sealed the entrance more than 10,000 years later, the Chauvet Cave–and the more than 1,000 drawings documented on its limestone walls–then remained untouched, preserved for millennia in pristine quality.

As illustrated in today’s Doodle, the cave features depictions of 14 different species— from horses and lions to dangerous prehistoric creatures like the long-extinct wooly rhinoceros and mammoth. The deepest gallery features representations of the human body, while other walls display abstract series of red dots. The images demonstrate great artistic vision and technique through their anatomical accuracy, illusion of depth and movement, masterful use of colors, and skillful combination of both painting and engraving. In addition to the paintings, the cave is also home to human footprints and some 4,000 prehistoric animal fossils.

In recognition of the site’s vast significance to the human story, UNESCO inscribed the Chauvet Cave onto the World Heritage List in 2014.


Video: Google