Tomorrow, the French government will open an incredible replica cave in Vallon-Pont d’Arc that reproduces the interior of the Grotte Chauvet in the Ardeche region of southern France. The replica painstakingly recreates what is possibly the oldest cave art in the world, with images that were painted and engraved over a period that ended 20,000 years ago.
The originals are incredibly sensitive to heat, light, and moisture — so much so that even breathing can degrade the images. In order to preserve the originals, the cave will remain closed, while visitors can tour the replica. (For a really terrific roundup of the cave’s art, geology, and archaeology, with tons of pictures, visit “Chauvet Cave” at Don’s Maps.)
If you can’t get yourself and your class to France to see the replica, you can still assign WorldView Software’s World History A Project: “Understanding History.” In it, students are asked to analyze images of the cave paintings at Lascaux. We also provide an in-program link to the French government’s virtual tour of the Lascaux cave complex, which is a really great way to experience the caves (and to practice your French if you keep the default language setting) without having to get a passport.
UPDATE 9/10/15: Check out this teacher’s art/history lesson on cave painting – older students would have fun with this too!