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Cave etchings in France may be from 28,000 B.C.

SHARE Cave etchings in France may be from 28,000 B.C.

PERIGUEUX, France — Vivid prehistoric engravings that could date back as far as 28,000 B.C. have been found in a cave in western France, regional officials said Wednesday.

An archaeologist characterized the engravings as a major discovery. They are believed to predate the world's oldest cave paintings — the 18,000-year-old paintings in the famed Lascaux caves, also in western France.

"It is as important for engraving as Lascaux is for painting," Dany Baraud, chief archaeologist at the Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs of Aquitaine, said of the cave discovered in the hamlet of Cussac.

Officials said hundreds of yards of detailed engravings in the Cussac cave depict animals — including bison, horses and rhinoceroses — and human figures.

Seven graves containing human skeletons were also found in the cave. Radiocarbon-dating tests on the skeletons were not expected to produce results for several weeks, said Jean Clottes, a Culture Ministry official. It isn't known if the graves date back to the same period as the engravings.

"The presence of graves in a decorated cave is unprecedented," Clottes told a news conference.

Experts were also still analyzing age tests on the engravings, but did not consider them to be the oldest ever discovered. In 1994, a cave was found in the Ardeche region containing drawings and some engravings dating back 32,000 years.

Ministry officials said the Cussac engravings were notable mainly for their exceptional condition. The designs are particularly elaborate and remain deeply etched in the cave walls.

The site was discovered by an amateur cave explorer in September but not announced by experts until Wednesday.