FROM GESTURE TO MYTH:
Artists’ techniques on the walls of Chauvet Cave
Carole FRITZ, Gilles TOSELLO
The walls of the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave are decorated with charcoal drawings dated to an average of 36000 cal BP, red paintings, engravings, and finger-traced designs, all grouped in distinct panels. Examination of the 14C dates, which are increasingly revealed to be of great antiquity, dating to the Early Aurignacian, allows for more precise modeling of human use of the cave. The attribution of certain components of the parietal art to the Gravettian, based on directly dated torch-marks on the walls and charcoal on the cave floors, remains secure. A survey of the techniques employed, organized around the three colors used (white, black, red), reveals formal diversity in the site, and at the same time confirms multiple points of convergence and commonality in terms of the themes and composition of the panels, which underline the homogeneity of the works as an ensemble. Ethology and the theme of cave lions on the hunt hold a central place in the inspiration of the artists at Chauvet; through their spectacular frescos, these artists have provided us a point of access to their symbolic vision of the world and an element of their myths.