The amazing discovery of the Lascaux Caves

12 May 2015

The Lascaux Caves.

The discovery of the Lascaux Caves is a tale which would not be out of place in an Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ book.

In 1940 four boys (and their dog, Robot) dug a hole by a fallen tree. Once the opening was wide enough they squirmed down a passageway which eventually led into a vast chamber. The chamber (and the series of caves that led from it) were covered with wall paintings. They had stumbled across primitive images that dated back over 17,000 years.

Opening the Lascaux Caves

The Lascaux Caves contain over 1,500 engravings and 600 drawings, in many different styles. Some are relatively easy to interpret, but mystery surrounds images that could be constellations and others which are quadrilateral shapes. The colours and scale are incredible – several pictures are 15 feet long.

In 1948 the Lascaux Caves were opened to the public, but with the visitors came a series of problems. Carbon dioxide from their breath and spores brought in on footwear caused extensive damage to the paintings. In a bid to save them, the caves were shut to the public in 1963 and only a handful of experts are allowed access each year. More recently, the installation of a new air conditioning system has led to the spread of a new fungus. The battle to save the images in the Lascaux Caves continues.

Lascaux Caves – the sequel

The good news is that visitors to the area can visit Lascaux II – a replica of the cave complex that lies nearby. This opened in 1983, after 11 years of painstaking work by artists who used the same materials and methods as the original cave painters. The Upper Palaeolithic Art movement is alive and well!

If you fancy going on your very own adventure, the Vézère valley is a short(ish) drive from Les Milandes. Just remember to take a good picnic and lashings of ginger beer…

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