Lascaux Cave, Montignac


Wednesday 19 June 2019

Aside from Carnac, the other French prehistoric site I was aware of was Lascaux Cave.

The cave was discovered in September 1940 by a dog, but credit has been given to its master, 18 year old Marcel Ravidat. Ravidat told his teacher, his teacher told an expert, Henri Breuil; there are many similar sites in this area of the Dordogne. Due to the war the cave wasn’t publicised.

The cave contains over 600 Cro Magnon paintings of animals,

mainly aurochs (bulls), horses and deer.

in black, red and ochre. Though they ate reindeer, there are none depicted, which is a conundrum.

There are a few depictions other animals such as a bear and a lion, but these were put in places where they were hidden, or painted over, almost to rob them of their power.

There are no depictions of humans, save one, again in an obscure place.

Is he wearing a bird mask? Why has he four fingers like a bird? Is he a deity or a shaman, or was it just one hell of a party? Who knows? And what’s with the long legged duck and the bison. I ask myself, is it all just some cock and bull story?

In truth, the whole thing is a fabrication. The damage done by 1200 visitors a day between 1948, when the cave was opened to the public, and 1955, largely due to carbon dioxide and moisture from breath damaging the paintings and encouraging mould to grow, meant the caves were closed. They remain closed and under strict environmental controls.

What visitors are taken through today is an exact facsimile of the cave, with a few adjustments so people don’t need to get on their hands and knees. It took three years to build and is extremely well done.

It is housed in this building,

The cave is in the woods behind.

As you’d expect, there are exhibitions and films and, like every tourist attraction I’ve seen in France, it’s all very well done.

The medieval old town of Monignac, where I’m staying, is a twenty minute walk from the cave.

It’s pretty, and a good place to stay while visiting the cave.

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