The Japan Times
July 6, 2001

Newly found ancient cave etchings in France rival Lascaux's

PERIGUEUX, France (AFP-Jiji) French archaeologists said Wednesday that a cave discovered last year in southwestern France houses a spectacular collection of engravings carved out by prehistoric man up to 35,000 years ago.

The Cussac cave is so significant that it rivals Lascaux, the nearby grotto famed for its own collection of cave-paintings, scientists told reporters in the nearby town of Perigueux.

An amateur caver came upon the engravings last September but the exact location of the cave, which is somewhere in the Dordogne Valley, has been kept secret.

The designs are traced on almost a kilometer of walls in the 12-meter-high cave.

Norbert Aujoulat, of the National Center for Prehistory, said the scientists had discovered between 150 and 200 figures depicting "the traditional bestiary of the Paleolithic world: mammoths, rhinoceros, deer and large numbers of bison and horses."

"The monumental nature of these engravings, with certain scenes 25 meters long featuring up to 40 figures, including a 4-meter-long bison, one of the largest examples of wall art, underlines the archaeological significance of Cussac," he said.

Alongside the images of animals, women and sexual icons are depicted strange beasts with long, gaping snouts, which scientists have been unable to identify, a report on the study said.

Along with the engravings, archaeologists found five sets of human remains dating from the Neolithic era, anthropologist Henri Duday said.

Specialists believe the artwork dates either from the Gravettian era between 28,000 and 22,000 B.C. or the earlier Aurignacian era, dating from 35,000 B.C.

Because of its fragile nature, the Cussac cave will not be opened to the public, at least in the near future.

It is located in an area where prehistoric remains have become a huge draw for a thriving tourist industry.

But Bernard Cazeau, president of the regional council said a way would be found to turn the site into an attraction, possibly through a replica version of the cave.

CUSSAC CAVE, France - Scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of vivid prehistoric engravings covering about a kilometer of wails in a cave in France's southwest Dordogne region. The Cussac engravings are believed to be up to 35,000 years old, much older than the famed images at nearby Lascaux, which were created about 18,000 years ago. AP, AFP-JIJI PHOTOS