Many of you would know that I have a keen interest in rock art, and so it is with great pleasure that I direct your attention to The Final Passage – a virtual and cinematic reconstruction of the Chauvet Painted Cave. This 28-minute film is screening free online until June 7, 2020.
The Final Passage is directed by Pascal Magontier, and produced by Martin Marquet and archaeologist Jean-Michel Geneste, the latter two whom I know through the Rock Art Network, a loose association of archaeologists, cultural heritage practitioners and institutions who have an interest in fostering the principles of research, conservation and promoting rock art.
My first encounter with the Rock Art Network was at a colloquium organised by the Getty Conservation Institute in Namibia in 2017. Last year I attended another colloquium organised in France and Spain, with site visits to the famous Lascaux and Altamira caves, and of course, Chauvet. These deep caves full of rock art were such an eye-opener; it was one thing to read about them in books and see their images online, but quite another to view in person.
You can’t actually visit the real Chauvet Cave – the above photo is from the excellent Grotte Chauvet 2 museum, a recreation of the actual Chauvet Cave. It is an excellent example of a replica/reproduction museum, and there were times when I forgot I was in a building instead of an actual cave. I highly recommend visiting if you ever have the chance. It is such a breathtakingly well-done museum.
The real Chauvet Cave is closed to the public and has very, very restricted access in order to protect and preserve the climate in the cave. That makes The Final Passage all the more special, since it is an immersive experience that lets you feel like you were entering the real cave. The paintings at the Chauvet Cave are dated to 36,000 years ago and for the longest time they were thought to be the oldest forms of figurative art in the world. We know now that rock art from Sulawesi and Borneo is just as old, if not older, and so if the Chauvet Caves are worthy of Unesco recognition, we should think the same for the Indonesian caves. In the end, these examples of rock art go to show that the human capacity to paint and create is very old, and appears across the world from a very long time ago.
The Final Passage is streaming free, online, from now until June 7, 2020. It’s only 28 minutes long, so check it out before it’s too late to see this unique cave. I highly recommend dimming all the lights and watching the video with a pair of headphones for the best viewing experience. If you are interested in finding out more about the Rock Art Network, click here; you can also check out my section on the rock art of Southeast Asia to find out about the immense number of rock art in this region. Unlike the European versions, Southeast Asian rock art is rarely (if at all) located in deep caves, but most commonly found in shallow rock shelters, cliff faces and large boulders or rock formations.