Recreated using the same material as the original Aurignacian people
As the largest replica of a prehistoric site in Europe, the caves are expected to attract 350,000 visitors in the first year, including those on southern France river cruises. Even the environment of the reconstruction has been climatised to be as close as possible to the original, with visitors descending into the caverns by a ramp. The project cost €55 million to complete, and took a team of engineers, sculptors, painters and artists three years to construct.
During his visit, François Hollande was quoted by France 24: “"I will never stop saying it wherever I go in the world: You want to know where you come from? Come to the cave at Pont d'Arc and you'll be right at home." It is thought that the caves were not permanently inhabited by humans and were used for ritualistic practice due to their sacred character.
The original Grotte Chauvet was discovered in 1994 by French cave experts and was almost immediately designated as a heritage site by the country. Rock fall over 23,000 years ago meant that the cave became closed off, which preserved what are thought to be the earliest known man-made drawings.
Over 1,000 painted images exist inside the original caves, which depict a variety of animals including aurochs, bison, bears, mammoths and wild cats. Prints and remnants of ancient animals such as large bears were also discovered at the site.
Image Credit: Inocybe (commons.wikimedia.org)