The later Gravettian occupation, which occurred 25,000 to 27,000 years ago, left little but a child's footprints, the charred remains of ancient hearths, and carbon smoke stains from torches that lit the caves.
Based on radiocarbon dating, the cave appears to have been used by humans during two distinct periods: the Aurignacian and the Gravettian.
Most of the artwork dates to the earlier, Aurignacian, era (30,000 to 32,000 years ago).
The art is also exceptional for its time for including "scenes", e.g., animals interacting with each other; a pair of woolly rhinoceroses, for example, are seen butting horns in an apparent contest for territory or mating rights.
The cave contains some of the oldest known cave paintings, based on radiocarbon dating of "black from drawings, from torch marks and from the floors", according to Jean Clottes.
It is located near the commune of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc on a limestone cliff above the former bed of the Ardèche River, in the Gorges de l'Ardèche.
Discovered on December 18, 1994, it is considered one of the most significant prehistoric art sites and the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO granted it World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.
The researchers’ findings are based on the analysis using geomorphological and dating of the rock slide surfaces around what is believed to be the cave’s only entrance.
Their analysis showed that the entrance was sealed by a collapsing cliff some 29,000 years ago.
Their findings put the date of human presence in the cave and the paintings in line with that deduced from radiocarbon dating, i.e., between 32,000–30,000 years BP.