In 1994 explorers discovered a cave, which had been used by people, living about 35.000 years ago, during the last ice-age, when most of northern Europe and the Alps were covered with ice. The climate in southern France was (and is) much better and nature flourished abundant. Horses, lions, mammut, rhino's and lots of other animals roamed these fertile grounds.
The cave-entrance had been blocked by a landslide and it was not entered for 25.000 years. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful caves ever found. At first it just seemed an ordinary cave, but the first explorers reached an entrance to a sub-cave, marked with ocre-dots. From then on, the cave-walls were beautifully decorated. Groups of horses seem to gallop and rhino's were battling. These paintings were highly expressive and dynamic. The stone walls were used to realise optic illusions and even movement.
The cave is named after its discoverer, monsieur dr. Chauvet, but it is better known as : the cave of the Forgotten Dreams.
Part of being of enormous artistic and cultural importance, the cave gave an insight into the religious beliefs of these ancestors. The cave was littered with skulls and bones of the cave-bear. On big skull of this “gentle, vegetarian giant” was placed on an altar, surrounded with other objects and stones. In time the dripping water had cristalised the skull, frozen in time. The artists, the sjamans and the other visitors to this, important place of worship, used torches. These torches left charcoal on the walls and floor. Carbon-dating indicated, that the material was 26.000 years old. The cave is closed for visitors and only a select group of scientists have entrance. There are plans to build an amusement-parc in the area, with a copy of the cave.
Besides the paintings (sometimes only sketches) whe find dots and especially hand-prints. Scientists have no idea what they mean. They call it “ice-age graffiti”, like “Killroy was here”. Sometimes the hand is incomplete. I heard explanations like self-mutilation. If that's what you do in a dangerous environment. They had to hunt and their pray was bigger in size and numbers. Cave lions, beautifully drawn in the Chauvet-cave, were dangerous and so were rhino's. You don't handicap yourself by mutilating your body. The explanation may be more simple. Handsigns, they are the oldest language in the world. It is universal and still in use. You even offend the police by using certain signs. I don't think handsigns have changed that much over the years.
Or is it, even more simple, ancient graffiti, left behind by ancient visitors. Like you find in the Great Pyramid at Gizeh.