France’s Faux Cave Art

An artist re-creates a tableau from France’s Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc for a replica of the famous cave that’s set to open to visitors on April 25, 2015. (Photograph by Lydie Lecarpentier, REA/Redux). More than 1,000 prehistoric paintings dot the newly inducted UNESCO site of Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc—a cave located around 45 minutes outside of Aubenas, in France’s Rhône-Alpes region—and you will never see them because the landmark closed indefinitely to protect its 30,000-year-old artworks, which are more than twice the age of the famous Lascaux cave paintings.

But visitors can still marvel at the sketches in a full-scale replica cave that opens on April 25, a little more than four miles away from the original.

Scientists relied on 3-D models and scans to create carbon copies of the subterranean structure’s exact dimensions, and also mimicked the Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc’s humidity, acoustics, and temperature—providing a familiar habitat for the hand-etched reproductions of mammoths, bison, and bears that roam the fake rock walls.