The paintings record a world of cave lions, mammoth, bison and horses, which we are only just beginning to unravel using the combined technologies of ancient DNA and radiocarbon dating.
In Europe, however, our early studies of ancient bison DNA were perplexing.
By studying mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited exclusively through the maternal line, we realised that many of the bones were clearly not from Steppe bison, although this was the only species thought to have been in Europe before 10,000 years ago.
More than 30,000 years ago, early cave artists in what is now south-western France ventured deep underground into limestone caves, where they painted elaborate and detailed frescoes of the huge animals that dominated their lives.
The accuracy of the depictions was remarkable — far better than most of us could manage crouched under a sloping damp wall under the flickering light cast by flaming bundles of vegetation and fat.
We dated this hybridisation to more than 120,000 years ago.