Potholer finds 25,000 year old cave markings

6th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

ANGOULEME, France, Feb 6, 2006 (AFP) - An amateur potholer in western France has discovered prehistoric cave art dating from 25,000 years BC, several thousand years before the world-famous site at Lascaux, the French culture ministry said Monday.

ANGOULEME, France, Feb 6, 2006 (AFP) - An amateur potholer in western France has discovered prehistoric cave art dating from 25,000 years BC, several thousand years before the world-famous site at Lascaux, the French culture ministry said Monday.

In addition to wall markings, Gerard Jourdy, 63, said he found a sculpture of a face made from a stalactite — which would count as a spectacular first — though experts were dubious about this claim.

"In a small chamber I found the bones of two hyenas — complete skeletons, which is rare. And I saw human bones amid the debris — tibias, vertebrae and shoulder-blades," Jourdy told AFP.

"Then in the bigger chamber there was this hand — very beautiful, very delicate. There was just the one in cobalt blue. When you come into the chamber it is like it is greeting you. It's incredible," he said.

Jourdy made his discovery in November at the village of Vilhonneur, 20 kilometres east of Angoulême, after descending a hole used by local farmers to dispose of dead livestock.

The news was kept under wraps while initial examinations were carried out and the site sealed off.

Officials described the find as exceptional because of the age of the paintings, but said they could not be compared with the elaborate beauty of the animal and human depictions at Lascaux, 100 kilometres to the southeast.

The western slopes of the Massif Central mountain range and the northern slopes of the Pyrenees contain one of Europe's biggest concentrations of Palaeolithic, or stone age, sites. Lascaux, discovered in 1940, is reckoned to date from about 17,000 BC.

Jourdy said the "sculpture" was made from calcite that had formed a stalactite.

"They had made a face with a chin. And in the middle there was a cross. It looked like it had been drawn in charcoal," he said.

"Underneath to emphasise the mouth they had put in a little line. It is a unique piece, which must be 50 centimetres high and 40 centimetres across."

However Michel Bilaud, the state-appointed governor of the department of Charente, was doubtful.

"There are traces of human occupation. There are bones and there are lines on the wall. There is a print of a hand. But for the rest, it is just marks. There is nothing figurative," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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