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19 February 2006
French caver makes historic find

An amateur French caver has discovered prehistoric cave art believed to date back 27,000 years - older than the famous Lascaux paintings. Gerard Jourdy, 63, said he found human and animal remains in the chamber in the Vilhonneur forest, in caves once used to dispose of animal carcasses. The paintings included a hand in cobalt blue.
     The discovery was made in November, but kept secret while initial examinations were carried out. Mr Jourdy also said he saw a sculpture of a face made from a stalactite - which would be a scientific first for the era, but experts were dubious about this claim. "In a small chamber I found the bones of two hyenas - complete skeletons, which is rare. And I saw human bones amid the debris - tibias, vertebrae and shoulder-blades," he said. "Then in the bigger chamber there was this hand - very beautiful, very delicate. There was just the one in cobalt blue. When you come into the chamber it is like it is greeting you. It's incredible."
     The French culture ministry confirmed the findings, but a spokesman said that although the discovery was of interest, the paintings were not as spectacular as those in the Cosquer and Chauvet caves in the Ardeche. Michel Bilaud, the governor of Charente department, said: "There are traces of human occupation. There are bones and there are lines on the wall. There is a print of a hand. But for the rest, it's just marks."

Sources: Associated Press, BBC News, MSNBC (6 February 2006), The Guardian (8 February 2006)

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