updated 2/6/2006 9:33:50 AM ET 2006-02-06T14:33:50

Cave drawings thought to be older than those in the famed caves of Lascaux have been discovered in a grotto in western France, officials from the Charente region said Sunday.

A first analysis by officials from the office of cultural affairs suggests the drawings were made some 25,000 years ago, Henri de Marcellus, mayor of the town of Vilhonneur where the cave is located, told France-Info radio.

He said, however, that the date could only be confirmed by further investigations.

Cavers exploring a part of a grotto in the Vilhonneur forest made the discovery in December, the local newspaper Charente Libre reported Saturday.

News was withheld until a first investigation could be carried out, local officials said on French radio.

"If this first expertise is confirmed, the paintings discovered date to Lascaux and Altamira in Spain," Michel Boutant, head of the local government, said on France-Info radio.

The famed Lascaux Cave in Montignac, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, has long been considered one of the finest examples of cave paintings.  The art dates back 13,000 years, like those in Altamira, in northwest Spain.

However, the Chauvet cave, discovered in the mid-1990s in southeast France, features some 300 examples of Paleolithic animal art dating back in some cases 31,000 years.

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