The Cave Art Paintings of the Chauvet Cave

The Cave Paintings of Chauvet by Robert A. Hefner III

Robert A. Hefner III
Robert A. Hefner III
The small area of France's Ardeche that surrounds the Pont d'Arc of the Ardeche River is warm and welcoming and itself a bit like nature's womb. Geomorphically and geologically it is quite special with thick deposits of Dogger/Malm carbonates necessary to allow the Ardeche River to cut through and form a grand arch, itself a natural work of art, and abandon its former oxbow to a fertile field and small, sheltered valley so suitable for both people and animals of the time.
Protected and surrounded by small mountains shot through with caves, vugs and grottos. This small piece of France must have been unique within the known lands of the Paleolithic people of the region.
So with the original discovery of the spectacular cave system we now call Chauvet, and its plethora of supernatural shapes, its first explorers were literally transported to another world that was soon to become a great "cathedral" of its times.
Elite, disciplined, well-trained artists/shamans, possibly leaders of a cult of spirituality of knowing the "non-natural" Other World that elevated their status to a super-hierarchy of their times.
Chauvet Cave
Sketches from the Chauvet Cave by Robert A. Hefner III
I would speculate that their time in the caves took them to inner levels of superhuman feelings that gave them great confidence and set them apart among their people that they then shared with a chosen few; an air of difference, of status, of leadership.
Thus, the area of the oxbow, Pont d' Arc and Ardeche River became the Vatican or Mecca attracting pilgrims of Paleolithic times, possibly for over 5,000 years. The Chauvet caves became the inner sanctum or Sistine Chapel. A number of thoughts and facts lead me to the conclusion that Chauvet was a holy/spiritual/elite place where rituals were practiced, probably with lights and music that added to the magic, just as they do with gatherings today.
Chauvet Cave
Sketches from the Chauvet Cave
by Robert A. Hefner III
The fact that the art is of such extremely high quality, with many single lines and exhibiting the artistic sensitivity of Picasso (i.e., the backs of the pair of 2.45 meter lions each drawn with one line), yet no practice was to be seen; only accomplished works of art, often defined by one sensitive line, and thus the works of a great talented and practiced artist.
Discipline and control was practiced, as only a very few of the many possible drawing .sites were used, but in each case, the most special as to their form, location and evoked feelings.
Unlike other "rock art" sites, with handprints, scratches and other marks littering every possible space, the "shamans", the elite artists/spiritual practitioners of the Chauvet, exercised discipline and control, as evidenced by the fact that only such special locations were painted, and this in spite of the fact of the evidence of children being present. These very special spots must have been held in great esteem as exceptionally holy and spiritual.
As there were no human remains, yet those of literally hundreds of cave bears and a few wolves, I would venture that humans were not in occupancy during the winter bear hibernation and therefore the periods of human habitation were special, probably late spring and summer, and represented an annual pilgrimage or special spiritual occasions within the Other World of the caves. These thoughts lead me to believe Chauvet was a long-term center of some type of spiritualism practiced by these Paleolithic people, and if the exceptionally high quality and sophistication of the art is an indication, as it should be, then the spiritualism practiced by these people was equally sophisticated and well developed; certainly, an indication of what we call civilized.
Again, in my mind, this leads to the conclusion of a hierarchical class of elite, accomplished, practiced and talented shamans of the Pont d'Arc. Of course, I wonder what spiritualism was practiced. We will never know, but certainly there are clues.
First, the great rooms of the caves were themselves a totally different world full of what must have seemed supernatural shapes and forms, with rarified air to breath and without any natural light. The held torches would cast ever changing light and shadow on this sparkling (calcite crystals) mystical world.
Chauvet Cave
Sketches from the Chauvet Cave by Robert A. Hefner III
First, the great rooms of the caves were themselves a totally different world full of what must have seemed supernatural shapes and forms, with rarified air to breath and without any natural light. The held torches would cast ever changing light and shadow on this sparkling (calcite crystals) mystical world.
This environment was a non-world within the earth. A place of birth and rebirth, combined with unique physical phenomena of beauty, sensuality and sexuality, evoking extra human inner-feelings, a place where once visited, following the "rights of entry", one would never again be the same. Hence, an elite; a shaman and a leader of the population.
Robert A. Hefner III - 2005
Like us on Facebook & Follow us on Twitter to receive news & updates:
Chauvet Cave Index
Bradshaw Foundation
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates


First Name

Last Name


bradshaw foundation podcast
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Bibliographic Database Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Archive Index Rock Paintings & Engravings Sri Lanka Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery A Cultural Memory Izzy Wisher Biography Deer-tooth necklace Cave Art Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation