Treasure Hidden

A short TV clip caught my attention today. A few kilometers from St Julien is Vallon Pont-D’Arc, the gateway to the Ardèche. I visited it last year, along with thousands of other tourists. Hidden away, within earshot of the chattering, lay the Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc  with its cave paintings dating back 32,000 years. France has many such sites, all of which have been more or less spoiled by the tramp of tourist feet, the bacteria in their breath and the exposure to the twenty-first century that they brought with them.  So far, the Chauvet grotto, home to the oldest jewel of Paleolithic cave art yet discovered, is unique in the world and considered to be the birthplace of the art, the cradle of artistic creation. Mammoth, bison, lions, hyenas and other exotic, long-extinct wildlife are depicted. The only thing missing are portraits of the artists themselves; perhaps they considered themselves as mere observers and recorders of creation, too insignificant for their own inclusion. The cavity was discovered in South Ardèche as recently as December 1994 and this treasure is to be handled differently. It will never be revealed to mass tourism; a replica will be made instead. I shall be leaving France in a few days and I was thinking about how much I have seen superficially and know a little about and yet how very little I really understand or have simply not been aware of. Just as the speleologists who first came upon it marveled at the fact that it had been there all the time – under their noses – and anthropologists studied the sophistication of the representations; better than the two dimensional Egyptian and Babylonian remains of so much later when culture was supposed to be higher and men lived in great cities like Nineveh and Thebes. This little movie tells the story.

The older we get, the less we really know, it would seem.

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2 thoughts on “Treasure Hidden

  1. I think the older we get, the more we acknowledge what we don't know. At least if we have developed any humility and wisdom we can own that we don't know everything. I'm still in the 'definitely right or definitely wrong' stage, having a little trouble with the gray areas. I am still hopeful that one day I will be grown up enough to qualify as “wise.” 'Humble' may never happen. :-/

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  2. @DM.I so often find a sense of validation and completeness in many of your remarks and wish I had thought of the precise words. How virtues change in this, an age of overconfidence. Moses was described as “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” By today's standards he was clearly wrongly advised. He should have hired an agent, sharpened up his image, let slip some calculated indiscretions about his conversations with the Almighty and sold his story to the press for a six-figure sum. With any luck, he might have landed his own TV show, dispensing wisdom to those willing to bare their soul to the watching millions. Goatherd meets Jerry Springer. He would have had his fifteen minutes of fame. Instead he had to settle for the lesser consolation of three thousand years of moral influence.

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