Cave Man and the Extinct Volcano

Continuing with my cave man theme, I decided to sculpture a volcano, as the extinct volcano left the caves that many a cave man lived in and entered.

I hope I captured the magnitude of the volcano and the colours left inside and out.

A volcano is a mountain that opens downward to a reservoir of molten rock below the surface of the earth. Unlike most mountains, which are pushed up from below, volcanoes are vents through which molten rock escapes to the earth’s surface. When pressure from gases within the molten rock becomes too great, an eruption occurs. Eruptions can be quiet or explosive. There may be lava flows, flattened landscapes, poisonous gases, and flying rock and ash that can sometimes travel hundreds of miles downwind.

Because of their intense heat, lava flows are great fire hazards. Lava flows destroy everything in their path, but most move slowly enough that people can move out of the way.

Fresh volcanic ash, made of pulverized rock, can be abrasive, acidic, gritty, gassy and odorous. While not immediately dangerous to most adults, the acidic gas and ash can cause lung damage to small infants, to older adults and to those suffering from severe respiratory illnesses. Volcanic ash also can damage machinery, including engines and electrical equipment. Ash accumulations mixed with water become heavy and can collapse roofs. Volcanic ash can affects people hundreds of miles away from the cone of a volcano.

Sideways directed volcanic explosions, known as “lateral blasts,” can shoot large pieces of rock at very high speeds for several miles. These explosions can kill by impact, burial or heat. They have been known to knock down entire forests.

Volcanic eruptions can be accompanied by other natural hazards, including earthquakes, mudflows and flash floods, rock falls and landslides, acid rain, fire, and (under special conditions) tsunamis.

The Chauvet-Pont D’Arc cave located in southern France may be the location of the world’s oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption. The walls of the “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” are filled with cones and spray-shaped images were previously unidentified. Research published in PLoS ONE confirmed that the depictions are from volcanic eruptions between 29 and 35 thousand years ago .

The Chauvet-Pont D’Arc cave is a historical site for cave art, discovered in 1994, and contains hundreds of paintings from tens of thousands of years ago. The paintings include lions, bears, woolly rhinoceroses, giant deer, horse, bison, and more. Similar animal themed paintings have been seen throughout the region; however, the spray images are only seen within this cave. The conical and spray paintings are sometimes overlain by Megaloceros and other animals. The paintings are largely created using a red pigment and appear to be traced with fingers, not tools. One spray painting can be seen emerging out of a Megaloceros head.

Not until recently have scientists begun to decipher what the spray paintings represent. This, combined with geologic dating of nearby volcanoes has given scientists a detailed glimpse into southern France’s volcanic history. This cave was granted world heritage status by the United Nations (UNESCO) status in 2014.

Chauvet cave paintings:

cave-pic

 

From Cave Art to Extinct Volcanoes

Nearby the Chauvet cave is the Bas-Vivarais volcanic field only 35 kilometres away . Radiocarbon dating of the cave spray paintings put their age between 34 to 37 thousand years ago. This roughly corresponds to the first Homo sapiens found on the continent. Meanwhile, geologists used 40Ar/39Ar age dating to confirm that strombolian eruptions from nearby volcanoes occurred during the same period. These volcanoes are visible from hills nearby the cave entrance and were likely the source of the cave paintings.

The cave was likely inhabited during two distinct times, from 34 to 37 thousand years ago and again from 29 to 31 thousand years ago based on speleothem U/Th age dating. These periods were separated by the likely presence of cave bears.

The spray shape that is seen in the Chauvet cave is indicative of a strombolian eruption. Strombolian eruptions are explosive releases of lava and gas. The explosions typically occur every few minutes during and can reach heights of hundreds of meters in the air. These violent eruptions are named after the Italian island of Stromboli. On this island there are regular spectacular and explosive eruptions.

The previous oldest known depiction of an eruption was the Çatalhöyük mural in Turkey 9,000 years ago. However, Chauvet outdates the Turkey mural by some 28,000 years. If you jump to the next oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption that would be the six petroglyphs found in Armenia of the Porak volcano 7,000 years ago.

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