Inside the Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Photographs from the making of Werner Herzog's 3D film and images of the cave art made 32,000 years ago within the Chauvet cave
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Aurignacian Man, Mammoth (c.30,000 BC), Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

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Entrance to the Megaceros Gallery, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

3 / 25 Entrance to the Megaceros Gallery, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

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Concretions, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

10 / 25 Concretions, Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

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Director Werner Herzog

13 / 25 Director Werner Herzog

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Archaeologist Jean-Michel Geneste

17 / 25 Archaeologist Jean-Michel Geneste

Director Werner Herzog and anthropologist Nicholas Conard

18 / 25 Director Werner Herzog and anthropologist Nicholas Conard

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Aurignacian Man, Red bears (c.30,000 BC), Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

21 / 25 Aurignacian Man, Red bears (c.30,000 BC), Chauvet Cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, Ardèche, France

Director Werner Herzog and the Aurignacian Man

22 / 25 Director Werner Herzog and the Aurignacian Man

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Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse, France

24 / 25 Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse, France

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The Chauvet Cave on the bank of the river Ardèche in the South of France is one of the best-known and most important prehistoric painted caves in the world. The cave paintings, created by early humans and dating back over 32,000 years, are renowned for their aesthetic and life-like qualities.

Containing the earliest known cave paintings, the Chauvet Cave was discovered in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet; the cave art has been attributed to Aurignacian Man (c.35,000 BC) through the use of carbon dating. Using techniques not often seen in other cave art, the walls of the Chauvet Cave are covered in hundreds of paintings depicting at least thirteen different species, including horses, cattle, lions, panthers, bears, rhinos and even hyenas.

Access to the caves is limited, as exposure to light and even human breath can damage the paintings. However, in 2008 filmmaker Werner Herzog - director of Oscar nominated documentary Ecounters at the End of the World (2007) - gained permission to be one of only a handful of people to see the paintings in situ.

Using specially designed 3D cameras and battery-powered lights that emit no heat, Herzog produced the 3D film Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Breath-taking scenes underground, with towering stalagmites and extraordinary cave art dating back 32,000 years, are brought to life in 3D, as if the viewer was there.

 

Follow the link to watch the trailer for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, released in the UK on 25 March 2011.

Access a complete guide to prehistoric art with Phaidon's comprehensive Cave Art


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