Lascaux is a network of caves near Montignac, in the Dordogne department, southwestern France. Over 600 parietal wall paintings cover the interior walls and ceilings of the cave.
The Lascaux cave was discovered by three teenagers in 1940, and the abbot of the church of Les Eyzies made many sketches of the cave to study its art.
The cave was opened to the public in 1948, and initially, archaeological investigations began in 1955. By 1963, the original cave was closed due to deterioration of air condition and fungi infesting the walls.
The cave walls are painted with a complex multiplicity of mineral pigments, including iron compounds, hematite, goethite, manganese-containing pigments, and charcoal. Some designs were incised into the rock, and others are too faint to discern.
About 900 images of animals have been found in the museum. These images include equines, stags, cattle, and bison, but no reindeer.
The Hall of the Bulls is a famous section of the cave where 36 animals are represented, including four black bulls and a bear.
A painting from the Paleolithic cave painters called “The Crossed Bison” displays a primitive form of perspective.
What are the paintings about
It is unclear whether Palaeolithic Art is a record of past hunting success or a mystical ritual to improve future hunting endeavors.
The Lascaux paintings were analyzed by the iconographic method of analysis in order to reconstruct their myth.
A cave painting of a dun horse at Lascaux may be a weapon or a wound. The artists believed in real life of the pictured species and tried to respect their real environmental conditions.
The shaft scene of Lascaux is similar to hallucinations produced by sensory deprivation and thus is related to visions experienced during ritualistic trance-dancing.
André Leroi-Gourhan studied the cave from the 1960s, and his theory of the cave’s graphics is based on a masculine/feminine duality and four successive styles of cave decoration.
What is Lascaux II
Lascaux II is a reproduction of the Great Hall of the Bulls and Painted Gallery, which is about 200 m away from the original. There are also live animals at the Centre of Prehistoric Art, Le Parc du Thot.
A new copy of Lascaux IV presenting all the painted areas of the cave is now displayed in a new museum.
The Conservation Room at Lascaux
The opening of Lascaux Cave after World War II created problems in terms of mold, light, and air circulation. The authority changed the air conditioning system in 2001, and a new fungus began spreading in 2007.
In 2008, black mold was found in the cave, and in 2009 the problem was stabilized, but in 2011 it seemed to be in retreat. Two research programs have been instigated at the CIAP concerning how to best treat the problem.
An international symposium organized by the French Ministry of Culture was held in Paris on 26 and 27 February 2009 to discuss preservation issues in subterranean environments. The proceedings of this symposium were published in 2011.
In 2018, Ochroconis lascauxensis was named after the place of its first emergence, the Lascaux cave, and black spots began to appear among the cave paintings.
An ongoing problem with fungal growths has led to an International Scientific Committee for Lascaux.