An Early Picasso ... or How Stone-Age Cave Dwellers Viewed French Women

Article excerpt

THE OLDEST depiction of a woman yet discovered - a cave painting 32,000 years old of a woman's, hips, legs and sexual organs - has been identified by researchers in the south of France.

The drawing was captured by a makeshift, long-distance, photographic lens in an obscure corner of the Chauvet cave complex in the Ardeche, north of Avignon, where a treasure trove of more than 400 animal paintings was discovered seven years ago.

A photograph of the painting appears for the first time in the most comprehensive book of images from the Chauvet caves yet to be published, La Grotte Chauvet, L'Art des Origines, Editions du Seuil, Paris.

Some of the paintings in the caves, including the image of a woman, are thought to date from 30,000BC - 15,000 years before the celebrated cave paintings discovered at Lascaux in the Dordogne.

Small statuettes of the female form have been found in central Europe, dating from roughly the same period. But the scientific team exploring the Chauvet caves - the only people now authorised to enter them - believe that this is the oldest painting of a woman to be found anywhere in the world. Images of men hunting animals appear in several, other groups of cave paintings. …