From the outset, the team's research has been based on the guiding principles of multidisciplinarity going beyond just cave art: modernity and scientific originality in processes and techniques, and training of young researchers.
This is the first time worldwide that such a diverse multidisciplinary team has been formed and brought together to study a major cave site. This was only made possible by the – particularly financial – support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Since then, various teams have emerged in France and other parts of the world, particularly the United States, South Africa, and Australia. Such teamwork implies a wide range of approaches, as well as regular and rapid dissemination of knowledge. A video record of the research has also been established since the first campaigns.
The following disciplines are represented:
- Underground climatology
- Archaeology: stone and bone material, anthropic developments and combustion structures, use-wear analysis
- Archaeology of decorated walls: surveys, technological study, pigment analyses
- Karstology, geology, sedimentology, geomorphology, hydrology, taphonomy of rock walls
- 14C dating by AMS, U/Th (TIMS)
- Paleo-environmental studies: palaeontology, palynology, anthracology, speleothems, biogeochemistry
- Archeozoology and animal ethnology
- Human and animal ichnology
- Molecular biology
- Cultural anthropology
Modern investigation methods
The most effective research methods are associated with a cutting-edge methodological reflection:
- Use of the most effective dating methods (14C dating in Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, U/Th-TIMS dating of speleothems) to allow dating of pigments, carbons in the ground, and bone remains. An international programme for comparing AMS 14C dates, involving several laboratories in Europe and America, began in 2004, on the initiative of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE, Hélène Valladas). The Chauvet cave is the best dated cave art site in the world.
- Biogeochemical investigations of the preservation state of bones prior to AMS 14C datings and stable isotope analyses.
- Identification of fossil DNA from Ursus spelaeus using DNA amplification.
- The survey methods, which avoid contact with the walls, are based on computer processing of images. Digital photographs are taken of the decorated panels, then assembled by computer into mosaics of images (photogrammetry by dense correlation) which provide a survey looking at the original.
- A cartography of the soils takes into account all the natural data (sediments, prints, bear hollows) and anthropic data (traces, movement of materials, etc.).
- The cliff containing the cave has been 3D laser scanned in order to determine how the part of the cliff face that blocked the entrance collapsed.
- The 3D laser survey covering the entire cavity was funded by the Ardèche departmental council and the Rhône-Alpes DRAC. It works by placing digital photographs in a dense web.
- Research into the taphonomy of the foors and walls, bringing together cave art researchers and geoarchaeologists, aims to study the interaction between change factors and archaeological remains.
Training and dissemination
The research team helps to train young researchers and French or foreign students specialising in rock art. It pays close attention to the regularity of its publications and to covering a wide range of audiences and scientific communities.