When Cro-Magnon Man painted his surroundings... 30 000 years ago

If today Cro-Magnon man was to return to the Monts d'Azur Reserve, it would look familiar to him. He would find many of the fauna he lived alongside and that he recreated on cave walls just before the Neolithic Age: the bison, wild horse, deer, wolf, lynx and chamois.


The European bison and Przewalski horse are certainly the two species most represented in cave paintings. Outsanding artists, prehistoric men created remarkably lifelike paintings.

For 20 000 years, in Lascaux, Niaux, Chauvet, Combe-Nègre, Marsoulas and in hundreds of other caves, prehistoric man decorated the walls with horses and bisons, along with deer, ibex, aurochs.. However, our intention to restore the wild fauna of ancient times has not yet lead us to reintroduce mammoths, lions and rhinos into the Reserve!

Cave of Niaux (Ariège, Pyrenees) Magdalenian Period

A Przewalski horse drawn on the wall of Niaux's "Salon Noir" 13 000 years ago, during the Magdalenian Period.

The horse has the same features as the horses at the Reserve: small, short tails, manes sticking up and a wide dark v-shaped mark on the crest. Never tamed by humans, this horse has kept its original appearance.


Niaux has 29 images of horses and 54 of bison. But there are very few paintings of the more dangerous animals (lions, rhinos, mammoths).

Bison in the Cave of Niaux painted around 12 800 BC.

The resemblance between our bison and those found on the cave walls is also striking.

Horses and bison in the Salon Noir of the Cave of Niaux.


Lascaux Cave. Magdalenian or Solutrean Period (15 - 18 000 BC)

At Lascaux, (17 000 BC) horses and European bison were still predominant on the cave walls. Were the painters the shamans of the tribe? The prehistorian Jean Clottes certainly thinks so.



The bison hunt

In this scene called "le puits" a bison appears to be spilling his entrails opposite a man lying down. Is he injured? Is this a hunting scene or a metaphor?

Here, deer in single file, crossing a stream perhaps.

« cheval chinois » de Lascaux.

Chauvet Cave (Ardèche). Aurignacian Period (30 000BC)

Przewalski horses are also painted on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in the Ardèche, one of the oldest in the world. Carbon dating of these paintings puts them at 31 000 years old.



Above, the horses on the walls of Chauvet cave, below, the horses at the Reserve.

La peinture aurignacienne montre une maîtrise exceptionnelle.


Ce bison de la grotte Chauvet date exactement de 30 340 ans avant notre ère.

Text : F. Lewino – Photos : Sites officiels des Grottes.

with colaboration of :
zooConseil général des Alpes-MaritimesPrefecture des Alpes Maritime