Inside Chauvet Cave a cave bear skull sits atop a large rock. No one’s sure exactly how long it’s been perched there, but carbon dating and various estimates suggest it’s been sitting there for 30,000 years. No one knows why it’s there either. That’s anyone’s guess! But it’s fair to assume it hasn’t moved in that 30,000 years – the cave was sealed in by a landslide, and only discovered in 1994.
I love the idea of this skull. The thought of it sitting there motionless for 30,000 years, sealed off from the rest of the world. It’s an image and thought I can’t quite let go of. Imagine all that’s happened in the world while that skull has quietly sat there!
It was sat there while cave bears and mammoths died out, and while Stonehenge was erected. An ice age came and went. The Pyramids rose out of the sand. In fact, just thinking about what has happened while that skull has sat there makes me realize how little I know about ancient history. I think of the Pyramids as ancient, but at 3-5000 years ago, they’re just a recent blip for this skull.
30,000 years! I find it very difficult to imagine 30,000 years. One way to think about it is in terms of generations. It’s been sitting there for my entire life, throughout my parents’ lives, my grandparents…. At 30 years each generation, you can go back 1,000 generations. And all that time, the cave bear’s skull has just sat there on that rock.
But for all that I can’t conjure with the enormity of 30,000 years, I can imagine placing a skull on a rock. A skull on a rock looks right to me, feels right. In a way, I can imagine having put it there myself. And that’s the strangeness of it.