30,000-year-old cave art added to World Heritage list

September 20, 2014

Photo Description: Decorated cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche. Copyright: © MCC/DRAC. Author: J.Clottes

The Piedmont wine landscape of Italy, the Himalayan National Park Conservation Area and 20,000-year-old cave paintings in France were all added to the ever-growing list of world heritage sites this year, gaining well-deserved recognition for their universal cultural, natural and historic values.

Altogether, UNESCO's world heritage program inscribed 26 new sites this year, with the designations generally helping focus resources for conservation and interpretation. The listings can also help spur tourism by highlighting unique sites and areas around the world. If nothing else, the catalog of world heritage sites can help inspire travel dreams.

One the most interesting new sites is the Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, a limestone cave near the Ardèche River in southern France. Depictions of wildlife are the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative drawings in the world, dating back as early as the Aurignacian period (30,000–32,000 BP), making it an exceptional testimony of prehistoric art.

The cave was closed off by a rock fall approximately 20,000 years BP and remained sealed until its discovery in 1994, which helped to keep it in pristine condition. Over 1,000 images have so far been inventoried on its walls, combining a variety of anthropomorphic and animal motifs with an aesthetic quality that should make you think about prehistory in a new way.

According to UNESCO, "they demonstrate a range of techniques including the skilful use of colour, combinations of paint and engraving, anatomical precision, three-dimensionality and movement. They include several dangerous animal species difficult to observe at that time, such as mammoth, bear, wildcat, rhino, bison and auroch, as well as 4,000 inventoried remains of prehistoric fauna and a variety of human footprints."

In the U.S., the Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point was inscribed as an example of a remarkable achievement in earthen construction in North America that was unsurpassed for at least 2,000 years.

Built more than 3,000 years ago, the site includes five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges separated by shallow depressions and a central plaza, apparently created by a society of hunter fisher-gatherers and used for residential and ceremonial purposes.

Visit the UNESCO website for the full list.


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