The decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is located in a limestone plateau of the meandering Ardèche River in southern France, and extends to an area of approximately 8,500 square meters. It contains the earliest known pictorial drawings, carbon-dated to as early as the Aurignacian period (30,000 to 32,000 BP). The cave was closed off by a rock fall approximately 20,000 years BP and remained sealed until its rediscovery in 1994. It contains more than 1,000 drawings, predominantly of animals, including several dangerous species, as well as a large number of archaeological and Palaeolithic vestiges.
The cave contains the best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people, constituting an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art. In addition to the anthropomorphic depictions, the zoomorphic drawings illustrate an unusual selection of animals, which were difficult to observe or approach at the time. Some of these are uniquely illustrated in Grotte Chauvet. As a result of the extremely stable interior climate over millennia, as well as the absence of natural damaging processes, the drawings and paintings have been preserved in a pristine state of conservation and in exceptional completeness.
Criterion (i): The decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc contains the first known expressions of human artistic genius and more than 1,000 drawings of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs of exceptional aesthetic quality have been inventoried. These form a remarkable expression of early human artistic creation of grand excellence and variety, both in motifs and in techniques. The artistic quality is underlined by the skilful use of colours, combinations of paint and engravings, the precision in anatomical representation and the ability to give an impression of volumes and movements.
Criterion (iii):The decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc bears a unique and exceptionally well-preserved testimony to the cultural and artistic tradition of the Aurignacian people and to the early development of creative human activity in general. The cave’s seclusion for more than 20 millennia has transmitted an unparalleled testimony of early Aurignacian art, free of post-Aurignacian human intervention or disturbances. The archaeological and paleontological evidence in the cave illustrates like no other cave of the Early Upper Palaeolithic period, the frequentation of caves for cultural and ritual practices.