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France’s President Francois Hollande to step back in time at giant cave replica


Grotte ornée du Pont d’Arc, dite grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, ArdècheFrench President Francois Hollande will step back 36,000 years in time Friday into a darkened, cool cave to admire the earliest known figurative paintings of hands, bears, rhinos and panthers.

But he will actually be above ground, inaugurating a giant, millimetre-by-millimetre exact replica of the closely-guarded Grotte Chauvet in southern France, unearthed by chance in 1994 by a group of speleologists who discovered hundreds of paintings by the our prehistoric ancestors.

Nestled deep in a limestone cliff that hangs over the meandering Ardeche River, the cave is closed to the public so scientists and artists toiled for years to build the 55-million-euro ($58-million) replica down to cloning even the stalactites and stalagmites that pepper the real cavern.

The giant cave reproduction, which from the sky is shaped like a bear’s paw, stands on a lush hill close to the small town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, just one kilometre from the real deal, which last year became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo credit: UNESCO

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