Since its discovery, the Chauvet cave elaborate artwork called into question our understanding of Palaeolithic art evolution and challenged traditional chronological benchmarks [Valladas H et al. (2001) Nature 413:419–479]. Chronological approaches revealing human presences in the cavity during the Aurignacian and the Gravettian are indeed still debated on the basis of stylistic criteria [Pettitt P (2008) J Hum Evol 55:908–917]. The presented 36Cl Cosmic Ray Exposure ages demonstrate that the cliff overhanging the Chauvet cave has collapsed several times since 29 ka until the sealing of the cavity entrance prohibited access to the cave at least 21 ka ago. Remarkably agreeing with the radiocarbon dates of the human and animal occupancy, this study confirms that the Chauvet cave paintings are the oldest and the most elaborate ever discovered, challenging our current knowledge of human cognitive evolution.