Sunday, June 19, 2011

Prehistoric cave paintings

It's reassuring to know that the extraordinary Chauvet site of prehistoric cave paintings, in the nearby Ardèche département, will be protected permanently from noxious tourism.

I've just been reading news reports in the French media concerning work in progress aimed at creating, for visitors, an artificial copy of the cave and its marvelous paintings.

The cave is located not far from the splendid Berty rose gardens in Largentière, where I purchased the six old rose bushes that grow on my pergola. So, I like to imagine that my roses came into existence in that same landscape where artists, 30 millennia ago, created amazing images of the beasts of their epoch.

The idea of preventing people from visiting the real cave means that this site will only ever be revealed to us in a kind of virtual sense, as if it were a modern computerized artifact. There is already a website that offers an elementary virtual visit.

I was amused to discover that the topographic map for the virtual visit is signed by Guy Perazio: a young surveyor who has his offices down in Pont-en-Royans. This suggests that Guy was one of the privileged few who've been allowed into the site. When I next run into him in the village, I'll ask him for his impressions. I notice too that the distinguished Australian rock-art specialist George Chaloupka has visited the site and commented upon this exceptional experience.

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