La Grotte de LASCAUX (Cave of Lascaux ) – one emotion of nearly 200 centuries

To come across back in time to the prehistoric age, before about 20,000 years, front of the replicas and original artifacts from this era is one indescribable state of the imagination and thought. So, that's the period of time by almost 200 centuries, approximately equal to the life expectancy of the 1000 generations! And ... how they are lived these prehistoric people before whole worlds?! Secrets of LASCAUX, now revealed to the public, show us the oldest thus far traces of a conscious human emotion and creative imagination through the unique colorful cave frescoes left by prehistoric man from the time of Upper Paleolithic.

The Humanity always has been curious to learn more about his origin and history, about the things that have happened in long past times and eras. This thirst to understand more about us ourselves has been the unremitting inspiration for generations of researchers, archaeologists, historians. Not infrequently, their boldness to discover new pages of human history has been crowned with success and have provided unique facts deserving the world admiration.

Newly, the Musée du Cinquantenaire (Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire) in the Park Cinquantenaire, Brussels (Royal Museums of Art and History) showed "The LASCAUX International Exhibition" (Brussels, 14 November 2014 to 15 March 2015 - extended to 12 April 2015) with some of the most exciting exhibits and replicas of artifacts found in LASCAUX. The exhibition was organized and produced with the participation of the Conseil Général de la Dordogne, France (General Council of the Dordogne) and prestigious international organizations. LASCAUX is a complex of caves and is located in southwest France, near Montignac, in the Vézère Valley, department of Dordogne, Aquitaine Region (43°03'16"N; 01°10'13"E). It is world famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave colorful paintings.

In the early autumn of 1940, everything began as an adventure: On September 8, 1940 Marcel Ravidat during a walk in the proximity of Montignac follows his dog, which was poked into one hole. Stones began to roll and a deep echo begins to resonate. A few days later, on September 12, Marcel Ravidat returns, but this time accompanied by three friends. Armed with makeshift instruments and lamps, they begin to descend down into the hole. Initially, the four young men thought that they was stumbled upon a secret underground tunnel to the Montignac mansion. But to their surprise, they understand that have found a huge cave. They remain amazed at its ornately decorated walls. Ahead of them has been decovered paintings on the rocks and colors which look as very, very old. Something that they have never before seen ...

The "revealers" of LASCAUX: Ever, in 1940, people who have the honor to be called revealers of the cave were adolescents filled with youthful boldness and curiosity about the world. In France, the discoverer of treasure gets the reputation to be its revealer. Marcel Ravidat (18 y.) and Jacques Marsal (15 y.) from Montignac are the "discoverers" of LASCAUX just like the Parisians Georges Agniel (16 y.) and Simon Coencas (13 years), in 1940. After the war (WWII), Ravidat and Marsal become the guides of the cave. Agniel and Coencas not return, except very rarely on the place of their fabulous archaeological discovery.

In ancient-historical aspect Homo sapiens inhabit Europe about 40,000 years BC. This is the era of the Nomad who lived by hunting and gathering. His lifestyle is developing with the changes in his living environment. With his evolution, also began to change and the manner of his perception of the environment and the surrounding world, resulting in, the then man begins to change and his attitude towards the walked around it reality. The man began to produce a conscious images of this actuality. The colored drawings engraved on the walls of the LASCAUX cave are unique direct testimony to manifested conscious, emotional and figuratively reflection of the world in which lives the prehistoric man and is considered one of the peaks and most famous examples of parietal art.  These exceptionally valuable from a cognitive point of view full color frescoes are dated (in a more general context) before about 20,000 years BC. Various sources indicate a period from 19,000 to 11,500 years back in the time. Today, 75 years following the detection of LASCAUX, is still looking for an explanation of the historical and cognitive significance of these remarkable creative works of cave-art, known to humanity through the incredible discovery of one of the oldest caves in the world, in 1940.

Actually, LASCAUX International Exhibition, shown in 2014 - 2015 in the Cinquantenaire Museum at the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels demonstrated for the audience some perfectly sculpted replicas of the rock masterpieces from the original cave. They are made with perfect accuracy and precision by a team of scientists and specialists who have devoted many hours and months of work to find the most true copy in colors, texture and size of the unique archetypes created by Cro-Magnons. The Cro-Magnons, they were very similar to us, but loaded with different evolutionary, informative, emotional and cultural charge which inhabited the cave LASCAUX and its surroundings in the Upper Paleolithic.

The colossal work of scientists includes 1,800 hours of processing stone: Laser scanning of part of the wall with images; Pictures with high resolution and stereoscopic images of the masterpieces; Determination of the geodesic points (3D virtual model of the wall); Polystyrene matrix by etching with a water jet under high pressure; Sculpting of micro-relief; Forming negative copy in a polymer; Applying a layer of mineral and glass fibers by bonding resin. Result is: ultra-thin replica of the wall (10 mm), called "voile de pierre" (stone sail). Then: patinated of "voile de pierre", engraving and painting, guided by high-resolution images and stereoscopic couplets (Implemented by Philippe Psaila, by courtesy of Ateliers facsimiles of Perigord (AFSP),

Ten years of work includes: Shaping a "bunker" in career; Geodesic markings by Institut Geographique National (IGN, France) on the Walls of the Bulls and Axial Gallery (Painted Gallery); Building the framework of a triple wire mesh; Concreting of internal walls; Applying a covering reproducing the colors and textures of the walls; Drawings and trigonometric markings by Monique Peytral (ca. 1970’s); Outlining with a chalk of the outline of figures; Reproduction the engravings and painting with natural pigments; Screening of wall for the reproduction of the mineral texture ("À l'école des peintres de Lascaux”: André Leroi-Gourhan (auteur), Daniel Carnot (realisateur), Service du Film de Recherche Scientifique (producteur), CERIMES (distributeur), 1974,  

Preparation for the audience: In 1948 the cave was reopened after a massive reconstruction - construction of road, a monumental entrance, electrification, stairs and lower floors; conditioning, in 1958. All these repairs are realizing without archaeological supervision. From 1948 to 1963 more than one million people have visited LASCAUX.

Crises in the state of LASCAUX and remissions: Since 1950, LASCAUX cave goes through different stress conditions - first undergoes green then white "disease", black spots. The preventive measures that are taken to eradicate the diseases have never solved the problem completely. After the state decided to limit human presence and leave the cave to rest, LASCAUX is better. The traces of its various "diseases" are inconspicuous. The works were not affected in an irreversible way. LASCAUX is in remission, but is very sensitive. Monitoring is now ongoing ("Visiteur microscopique Indésirable", Laboratoire de Recherche des Monuments Historiques, LRMH, France,

The dating through objects: The paintings at LASCAUX are made with mineral pigments without organic matter. Thus, it's impossible to be dated by the method of radioactive carbon ¹⁴C. The dating were obtained by studying organic matter in objects found in the cave. The first data obtained in 1959, have indicated  an approximate period between 11,500 and 17,000 years in the prehistoric times. Therefore, they were referred to Magdalenian era. Recently, however, (between 1990 and 2000), was made the new dating of objects in bone and deer horn by the method of mass spectrometry, allowing more precise measurements and indicates that the materials are about 19,000 years old ("Solutrean Age", Upper Palaeolithic, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP).

The dating by style: Recent studies confirm the hypothesis for a consecutive invasion of animals represented in the frescoes, and the style of paintings and engravings in the cave of LASCAUX suggest the phase of Solutrean before about 20,000 years. ("Cerf Solutréen", Norbert Aujoulat).

Today LASCAUX contains several projects:
The original LASCAUX cave (1) should be carefully preserved and protected. After the World War II, from 1948 to 1963, it was daily visited by over 1500 people from worldwide. But, the measuring systems to maintain proper climatic conditions indicate that the carbon dioxide from human breath is significant abnormal levels and this can be detrimental to the unique natural formation with its precious colorful frescoes. So, the original cave is now closed to visitors, since 1963.

The project Lascaux (2), opened for visit in 1983, is thorough replica of the original cave as was reproduced perfectly just over 80% of masterpieces by the same colors, techniques and pigments. At the beginning of 1970, because of great interest to the LASCAUX, the project of replica of the cave is supported by a representative of the family La Rochefoucauld, former owner of the place where is the LASCAUX (2). There is built a large concrete casing to accommodate future realization of the artist Monique Peytral and sculptor Peter Weber. This is a project LASCAUX (2) replica of the Great Hall of Bulls and the Painted Gallery which is located only 200 meters from the original cave, and can be seen in the picturesque park Le Thot of the city of Thonac, near Montignac, France (24290 Thonac, France).

By decision of the Conseil Général de la Dordogne (General Council of Dordogne), from July to December 2008, in the workshops of Montignac they were made extra copies of another original works to be more fully represented the exhibition, shown to the public of Dordogne. This creative work lasted five years and the realized replicas were divided into eight panels. These really light housings of panels (less than 10 kg/m²), consisting of removable panels have been specifically designed to be easily transported in order to participate in the International Exhibition of LASCAUX intended to travel the world for several years as an ambassador of Dordogne and its Vallée de l'Homme. So, in this way have reached the LASCAUX (3), one traveling exhibition. In great interest worldwide, the LASCAUX International Exhibition has already been presented in several cities in Europe, North America and Asia.

International Centre for rock art (art pariétal) presents an integrated project of all paintings adorning the cave of LASCAUX (the Hall of Bulls, Painting Gallery, Diverticule Axial, Passage, Apse and nave), to be created near the original location of LASCAUX. This project was called LASCAUX (4). It was a competition for architects, were sent 163 offers. On October 18, 2012 the Steering Committee selects for a contractor of the project Norwegian team of Snøhetta. Presumably this will be a full copy of the original LASCAUX, of all its masterpieces, situated in precisely manufactured parts of the halls of the cave, at one constant place. After a period of financial difficulties, the project is in the stage of implementation and the General Council of the Dordogne indicating possible date for the opening of the exhibition to the general public at the end of 2016. In January 2016, the workshop for facsimiles of Périgord (these are thirty-four people painters, sculptors, art restorers, designers, fitters, graphic designers and specialists in informatics) have completed for two and a half years, thirty-six panels with a total area of 900 m² decorated surfaces. It is expected that at the opening of the completely finished LASCAUX (4) to attend a half million people. The impressive replica of the cave LASCAUX will cost around 60 million euros. This should be done exactly the architectural, artistic and embossed copy of the original cave with its amazing colorful murals of prehistoric images, numbering about 2000 from the late Paleolithic showing a herd of deer, various big animals, bison, birds, wild horses, cats and others. It's curious that among all these images there is only one of a person (The wounded man). LASCAUX (4) will show the 5 main parts (halls): Hall of Bulls, Dead Man's shaft, Painted Gallery, camera of the cats and camera of engravings. This will be the culmination of a 70-years of work and the result of many emotions, scientific efforts, technology and boldness to see in full splendor the phenomenon LASCAUX, stayed by our ancient predecessors before so many millennia and try to understand the nature of Cro-Magnons, who lived about 20,000 years before our era!

We can imagine that these are approximately 20,000 years = 20 millenniums = 200 centuries = 1000 generations! And, as much as is approximately indicated, this is exceptionally impressive, because that are the oldest found so far colorful paintings reflecting the observations of the prehistoric man and his emotional attitude to the surrounding world!

The cave LASCAUX is one of the worlds famous examples of cave-art with over 1,500 engravings and 600 drawings which makes it the richest, known until today collection of color images from the prehistoric era. Situated in the Vézère valley in South France, where have found 147 prehistoric sites dating from the Palaeolithic and 25 are decorated caves with parietal art. In 1979, LASCAUX cave is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Source of information: Musée du Cinquantenaire at the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (Royal Museums of Art and History), Park Cinquantenaire, Brussels
Photos (personal archive): made of exhibits and posters during The LASCAUX International Exhibition (Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels, 14 November 2014 - 12 April 2015)

Related images

Panel of the black cow (detail), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Panel of the black cow (detail), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Panel of the shaft scene (setail), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Panel of the shaft scene (detail), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Panel of the shaft scene (detail), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Panel of the crossed bisons (detail) Lascaux International Exhibition Cinquantenaire Museum Brussels

Poster of Vézère Valley (France), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Fragment of a poster from 1940, Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Part of discoverers of Lascaux cave, Lascaux International Exhibition Cinquantenaire Museum Brussels

Marcel Ravidat in 1940 (poster), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

Part of discoverers of Lascaux cave, Lascaux International Exhibition Cinquantenaire Museum Brussels

Poster of Vézère Valley (France), Lascaux International Exhibition, Cinquantenaire Museum, Brussels

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