Mysterious cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave (France) may represent volcanic eruptions, claim researchers from the Paris-Saclay University.
There are more than 400 paintings in the Chauvet Cave. They are considered to be one of the oldest representations of cave art. The rock paintings were made at least 37 000 years ago. They were found in 1994.
Most of the paintings depict animals, including hairy rhinos, cave lions, and bears. In one of the deeper galleries scientists have found a depiction of giant deer, called Megaloceros, next to a strange painting resembling a fountain.
For a long time, researchers have been baffled with the meaning of those structures. It is a known fact that 35 km from the cave there are numerous extinct volcanoes, but until now researchers have managed to estimate the last eruptions of only three of them, and they all happened before humans settled the cave.
To clarify if there could have been a later eruption seen by the first human settlers, the researchers from the University of Paris-Saclay analyzed volcanic rocks from three different spots. The conclusion is that a later eruption did happen. It was sometime between 43 000-19 000 years ago. Short bursts of lava, could have been seen or heard from the cave inhabitants.
If this assumption is correct, then the Chauvet paintings are the oldest depictions of volcanoes in the world. Up until now the oldest depiction of a volcano was considered to be a fresco from Çatalhöyük (Turkey) dating back to 6600 BC.