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Last Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006, 16:35 GMT
French caver makes historic find
A 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, he told AFP news agency.

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, AFP says.

"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 told the news agency.

"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.

The Lascaux Caves, in the Dordogne, are among the best known and most important prehistoric sites of Stone Age cave art.

Experts think the caves were used for hunting rituals and shamanistic rites, and it is thought that the first paintings were done some 17,000 years ago.


SEE ALSO:
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Cave colours reveal mental leap
11 Dec 03 |  Science/Nature
Prehistoric art 'no longer under threat'
27 Mar 03 |  Science/Nature


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