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Visiting France

Giant replica of prehistoric cave ready to open in south-east France

media Drawings showing lions in the replica of the Chauvet Caves, Vallon Pont-d'Arc in the Ardeche region, 8 April 2015. Reuters/Robert Pratta

After two and a half years' work, involving 35 companies, hundreds of workers and a budget of 55 million euros, a replica of the famous prehistoric site, the Chauvet Caves, was inaugurated by French President François Hollande on Friday.

Discovered by local amateur explorers Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Brunel and Christian Hillaire in 1994, the Chauvet Caves are the world’s oldest known caves decorated by humans with paintings estimated to date back to be the Aurignacian era about 36,000 years ago.

It is thought a rockfall closed the cave around 23,000 years, leaving it sealed against discovery by humans until 1994.

Experts have recorded about 1,000 images across the cave’s walls and it was placed on Unesco's World Heritage List in 2014.

Reproductions of some of the world's earliest prehistoric cave paintings go on display in this replica cave built in Vallon Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche region of south-east France, a couple of kilometres from the original.

Modern humans will never get to see the original cave's masterpieces but the replica cave – 3,500 square metres of space with Stone Age paintings of animals, red dots, engravings - will open to the general public on 25 April.

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