On Christmas Eve in 1994, humans entered a cave in the mountains of south-eastern France
for what was probably the first time in 20,000 years.
The vivid images of more than 300 animals that Jean-Marie Chauvet and his assistants found on the cave walls were like none that they had seen before.
Unusual in the Grotte Chauvet, as the cave is now called in honor of its discoverer,
are paintings of many flesh-eating animals.
Other known caves from the same geographical area and time period contain only paintings of plant-eaters.
The paintings in this cave refute the old theory that Cro-Magnon people painted animals that they hunted and then ate.
Now many specialists believe that cave paintings were not part of a ritual to bring good luck to hunters.
They point out that while deer made up a major part of their diet, there're no drawings of deer.
They believe that the animals painted were those central to the symbolic and spiritual life of the times,
animals that represented something deep and spiritual to the people.
Scientists are hopeful that Grotte Chauvet will yield new information about the art and lifestyle of Cro-Magnon people.
They readily admit, however,
that little is understood yet as to the reasons why ice age artists created their interesting and detailed paintings.
Scientists also wonder why some paintings were done in areas that are so difficult to get to.
In caves, for example, that are 2,400 feet underground and accessible only by crawling through narrow passageways.