Visit Chauvet from his cave
It must be resolved : only a tiny minority of people will have the opportunity, during their lifetime, to see with their eyes what is called “the first masterpiece of humanity”: the parietal works of the Chauvet cave, in Ardèche, some 36,000 years old. That is why, a replica of the cave was made (see our video report). Inaugurated in 2015, it has already welcomed more than 2 million visitors. But again, reception capacities are limited. “The whole world will not visit the restitution space, admits David Huguet project manager at the Chauvet Cave. And we must take into account the environmental impact of mass tourism. Laurent Ughetto, president of the Ardèche department, is even more adamant : “We don’t want more tourists than we already have !”In this context, making the parietal art of the Chauvet cave more accessible could only go through digital.
In partnership with Google Arts & amp; Culture
Also, the public establishment now offers a virtual reality exploration of the cavity. Since 2006, the rock paintings have been patiently digitized in high definition using laser and photogrammetric techniques. To make them easily accessible to the general public, La Grotte Chauvet has partnered with Google’s now essential branch dedicated to virtual exploration of heritage: Google Arts & Culture (which has already collaborated with more than 1,200 museums in 78 countries and more than 100 institutions in France). The result was a website full of virtual exhibitions, an entry in the Google Arts & Culture mobile app available on Android and iOS, a 360° movie to watch on YouTube and a virtual reality app available on the Steam platform. And the whole thing is free. “It is a link between the ‘Street Art’ of 36,000 years ago and new technologies,” says David Huguet.
From a technical point of view, the result is remarkable : high-resolution images load quickly, navigation is easy, ergonomics crystal clear. The graphic content is also stunning. “Some details impossible to grasp in situ become perfectly observable,” explains David Huguet. To reveal them, the teams combined laser capture for topography and photogrammetry for geological textures. “When the walls of the cave are scanned, you get a cloud of points that you ‘unfold’ by putting it flat. We then affix all the photos and restore its shape to the point cloud.”The images thus obtained are manipulable from all angles.
Visit with Cécile from France
The Chauvet Cave teams went even further to make the visit attractive. Starting with this 360° film of about ten minutes, in which we walk through the cave in the light of a torch, accompanied by the voice of Cécile de France (or Daisy Rildey – the interpreter of Rey in Star Wars – for the English version). An experience that you can continue with your Smartphone by making two walls appear in augmented reality around you. Or by exploring one of the 21 thematic exhibitions (devoted to drawings, the presence of bears, the discovery of the cave, etc.) composed of photos accompanied by captions as short as they are informative. Before finishing by answering mini quizzes about our ancestors. The highlight of the show is reserved for owners of a virtual reality headset : they will be able to download an application that will allow them to wander without constraint throughout the cave.
Virtual reality exploration
“Closed to the public. Open at home”, as Google Art & Culture announces, the Chauvet cave reveals itself in every detail with an assumed vision of heritage discovery – controversies, academic studies and expert debates are absent. All that is missing is the silence, the fresh and humid air of the cave, and the emotion of wandering in the same place as our illustrious ancestors artists. Things that will remain inaccessible, even with the best of virtual reality.