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28,000–23,000 BP) and the black paintings are from the Early Magdalenian period (early part of c. Pettitt and Bahn also contended that the dating is inconsistent with the traditional stylistic sequence and that there is uncertainty about the source of the charcoal used in the drawings and the extent of surface contamination on the exposed rock surfaces.
By 2011, more than 80 radiocarbon dates had been taken, with samples from torch marks and from the paintings themselves, as well as from animal bones and charcoal found on the cave floor.
The cave was first explored by a group of three speleologists: Eliette Brunel-Deschamps, Christian Hillaire, and Jean-Marie Chauvet for whom it was named. In addition to the paintings and other human evidence, they also discovered fossilized remains, prints, and markings from a variety of animals, some of which are now extinct.
Further study by French archaeologist Jean Clottes has revealed much about the site.
This combination of subjects has led some students of prehistoric art and cultures to believe that there was a ritual, shamanic, or magical aspect to these paintings.
One drawing, later overlaid with a sketch of a deer, is reminiscent of a volcano spewing lava, similar to the regional volcanoes that were active at the time.
The soft, clay-like floor of the cave retains the paw prints of cave bears along with large, rounded depressions that are believed to be the "nests" where the bears slept.
Above the Venus, and in contact with it, is a bison head, which has led some to describe the composite drawing as a Minotaur.
There are a few panels of red ochre hand prints and hand stencils made by blowing pigment over hands pressed against the cave surface.
Many of the paintings appear to have been made only after the walls were scraped clear of debris and concretions, leaving a smoother and noticeably lighter area upon which the artists worked.
Similarly, a three-dimensional quality and the suggestion of movement are achieved by incising or etching around the outlines of certain figures.