Discover the cave


Michel-Alain GARCIA †

From Jean Clottes' tribute to Michel-Alain Garcia:

"I first met Michel and started to collaborate with him in the early 1970s. At the time, he was working at the Musée de l’Homme with Dr. Léon Pales and had just finished his non-damaging casting techniques for prehistoric footprints. The discovery of the Clastres Network towards the end of 1970 brought Niaux into the spotlight. Michel, on the request and under the management of Dr. Pales, cast the traces of children that had been known for a long time in the Deep Gallery, before doing the same at Fontanet, and then, some years later, in the Clastres Network. I remember how amazed I was at the quality of the casts from Fontanet, particularly one of the hand of a child with very short nails, no doubt bitten as much as possible ...  Then, in 1979 and 1980, untimely flooding caused great damage to some prints in the Black Chamber in Niaux, and Michel helped limit the damage with false stalactites made of elastomer. They were discreet but they changed the flow direction of the water away from the work. He was involved, of course, in the sampling at Niaux, on the request of the Ministry of Culture, in 1980 and 1981.

When I set up the team to take part in the tender for the scientific study of the Chauvet Cave in 1995, I asked him to join of course, to study the footprints and traces in the floor. Over the many, years we worked together, we often argued, sometimes even rowed, not so much about the footprints, whose complexity he highlighted, as about the art (for example, was this figure a musk ox or not?). We always ended up agreeing and having a friendly drink to toast the discoveries.

The best story I remember was about the footprints of the great canine, whose footprints Michel was following in the second part of the cave. One day, he showed me some reliefs he had taken and put them next to those of a wolf. It was clear, even for someone who wasn't an expert, that the footprints from Chauvet Cave were much more similar to those from the former than the latter. Michel was therefore convinced that it was a tame dog, which had no doubt followed the child whose prints he had studied into the same depths of the cave. With his usual honesty, he only mentions these facts briefly in the collective book (p. 40). More recently, the discovery of a dog dating from 31,000 years ago was published in the press, in Germany I think. I thought of Michel and about how happy he would have been to see his discovery confirmed. I was sorry that his modesty and prudence prevented him from giving this discovery the relevance it deserved".


Human trail,Plant residue