"A DRAWING discovered by a potholer on the wall of a cave in the west of France appears to be the oldest known portrait of a human face.
The 27,000-year-old work was found by a local pensioner, Gérard Jourdy, in the Vilhonneur grotto near Angoulême.
Drawn with calcium carbonate, and using the bumps in the wall to give form to the face, it features two horizontal lines for the eyes, another for the mouth and a vertical line for the nose. “The portrait of this face is unique,” said Jean Airvaux, a researcher at the French Directorate of Cultural Affairs. “We have other drawings, but they are more recent. Here, it could be the oldest representation of a human face.”
Archaeologists are particularly interested in the Vilhonneur cave because there are several drawings, including one of a hand in cobalt blue, along with animal and human remains.
Jean-François Baratin, the regional director of archaeology in western France, said that there were only two known examples of prehistoric caves from this era containing both bones and drawings. The other is at Cussac in the Dordogne.
The discovery was made by M Jourdy in November, but kept secret until February while the site was sealed. The results of a scientific analysis were made public on Friday.
M Baratin said ribs, a thigh bone and a tibia taken from the floor of the cave had been dated by scientists in Miami, as were the drawings. These turned out to be about 11,000 years older than the renowned paintings at Lascaux in the nearby Dordogne.Michel Boutant, chairman of the local Charente department council, said: ‘The face reminded me of a Modigliani portrait.' "