Filed under: Art, Cool Site of the Day, History, Science/Technology | Tags: 17300 year-old paintings, A Visit to the Cave, The Lascaux Caves
Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France noted for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers and their dog. The cave was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, it was determined that the carbon dioxide produced by 1,200 visitors a day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art.
The caves are now carefully monitored, and only a few scientific experts are allowed to work inside the caves. Some efforts at preservation have met with unintended consequences. A black mold may have been the result of air conditioning or lights intended to protect the paintings.
The caves contain nearly 2,000 images which have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments, although some have been incised into the stone. The Hall of the Bulls is the most famous, with four black bulls that are the dominant figures. One of the bulls is 17 feet long.
The paintings are estimated to be 17,300 years old, mostly of large animals, many of which are known from the fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. There are varied theories about some of the other images and dot clusters, ranging from star charts to visions experienced during ritualistic trance-dancing. Others suggest that the images could be a record of hunting success, or a ritual in advance to insure hunting success.
The website is huge, and rewards patient investigation. Clicking on a British flag will get you the English language. Sometimes the view can be dragged with your mouse, and sometimes not. The Wikipedia article about Lascaux is available here. If the Paleolithic music gets on your nerves, it can be turned off by clicking on the word ‘sound’ at the bottom of the page. Beyond that, you’re on your own. Enjoy.
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