Since it was discovered on 18 December 1994, Chauvet Cave has been subject to exemplary protection. This was brought about by two circumstances: firstly, the expertise of Jean Clottes, scientific advisor to the Ministry of Culture, who showed admirable perspective and maturity, and secondly, the approach of the Authorities was to adopt the recommendations of this eminent prehistorian and convert them into efficient legal documents. The rapid awareness raising of the cave's exceptional nature, and the formulation of the right administrative measures to protect it, took place in record time. This coordination, which thereafter incorporated a scientific research programme based on respect for the integrity of Chauvet Cave, is proof of the originality of its preservation.
The State put in motion the French legislative arsenal, which is among the most efficient in the world in the area of cultural assets. The law of 1930 on sites and that of 1913 on historical monuments were the first weapon for preservation. The cave was listed on 13 October 1995. Control of the property was also a significant element. It was jointly decided not to open the cave to the public but rather to guarantee safety.
At the same time, scientific and technical means were deployed to keep the site as authentic as possible and in the conditions it was in before discovery. Studying a site of this kind also forms part of maintaining it; it had to be organised with a concern towards preservation.
Putting into place corridors (following the route of the discoverers) to regulate movement and enable ongoing checks of the fragile internal balance, was believed to provide the conditions for this ambitious preservation project. Outside access was also built.
To ensure site surveillance and preservation, the State set up a Chauvet – Pont d’Arc Cave Preservation Office, managed by a heritage curator (which only existed previously at Lascaux).
Research and Preservation
Aware of its universal duty, since 1998 the State has financed a multidisciplinary team to study the cave, with concern for its preservation: compulsory routes on walkways, short visits for few people, no digging, just a few probes and carefully chosen sampling.