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Discover the cave

Discovery and Conservation

Scientific analysis and results

Dated 2 January 1995, the report by expert Jean Clottes outlines his visit on 29 December 1994 in the company of the discoverers Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Brunel and Christian Hillaire, with Jean-Pierre Daugas, regional curator of the archaeology of Rhône-Alpes, and Bernard Gély, the department's researcher.

He congratulated the discoverers for the "care they took to preserve their findings". "They have chosen routes that do not damage the floor (calcite zones) and have covered the path with strips of plastic to avoid any kind of contamination".

After a detailed description of the cave, he underlined the importance of the discovery and devotes various lines to "Protection". He regrets the mistakes made at Lascaux but has learnt a lesson: "this cave should not be open to the public. […] The works of art have only been preserved so well because the cave was hidden". He recommended the State to "make the annoucement of the discovery as clearly as possible and to be as firm as possible on this crucial point".

He spoke about the ownership of the cave and underlined his interest in transferring it to the State, "so that all essential preservation measures can be taken with no conflict" and to avoid, as was the case with many other caves, "untimely visits by people who could cause great damage either by imprudence or greed".

For the sake of the cave's safety, Jean Clottes advised "securely closing the current entrance, […] and to have it well-guarded by the police […]". He also warned the State that "as long as protection measures are not taken, there is a terrible risk of destruction hanging over the cave, as it would be enough for one or two people to wander through the galleries to trample the floors where there is so much information and to plunder the most visible palaeontological remains".

At the same time he had thoughts for the necessary scientific study that would have to be carried out: "The study of such a site requires considerable means and will take many years". Apart from a topographic relief and photographic coverage, he advised taking various samples "in order to carbon date them as quickly as possible".