Rather than depicting only the familiar herbivores that predominate in Paleolithic cave art, i.e.

horses, cattle, mammoths, etc., the walls of the Chauvet Cave feature many predatory animals, e.g., cave lions, panthers, bears, and cave hyenas. Typical of most cave art, there are no paintings of complete human figures, although there is one partial "Venus" figure composed of a vulva attached to an incomplete pair of legs.

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.

The dates have been a matter of dispute but a study published in 2012 supports placing the art in the Aurignacian period, approximately 32,000–30,000 years BP.

A study published in 2016 using additional 88 radiocarbon dates showed two periods of habitation, one 37,000 to 33,500 years ago and the second from 31,000 to 28,000 years ago with most of the black drawings dating to the earlier period.

Many of the paintings appear to have been made only after the walls were scraped clear of debris and concretions, leaving a smoother and noticeably lighter area upon which the artists worked.

Similarly, a three-dimensional quality and the suggestion of movement are achieved by incising or etching around the outlines of certain figures.

28,000–23,000 BP) and the black paintings are from the Early Magdalenian period (early part of c. Pettitt and Bahn also contended that the dating is inconsistent with the traditional stylistic sequence and that there is uncertainty about the source of the charcoal used in the drawings and the extent of surface contamination on the exposed rock surfaces.

By 2011, more than 80 radiocarbon dates had been taken, with samples from torch marks and from the paintings themselves, as well as from animal bones and charcoal found on the cave floor.

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.

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.

A 2016 study in the same journal examining 259 radiocarbon dates, some unpublished before, concluded that there were two phases of human occupation, one running from 37,000 to 33,500 years ago and the second from 31,000 to 28,000 years ago.

This combination of subjects has led some students of prehistoric art and cultures to believe that there was a ritual, shamanic, or magical aspect to these paintings.