Rendez-vous at Lascaux II, in Montignac (Dordogne)
The Vezere Valley, in Perigord, a UNESCO World Heritage area, is filled with prehistoric sites. The valley is home to 147 prehistoric sites dating back to the Paleolithic and 25 decorated caves including the famous Lascaux caves in Montignac.
The Most Important Discovery of the 20th Century
The Lascaux cave was discovered accidentally by four teenagers, in 1940. The site drew crowds from the moment it opened to the public in 1948. However, the cave closed in 1963, after signs of deterioration caused by carbon dioxide from the breath of visitors appeared.
In 1983, only a few hundred meters away from the original cave, Lascaux II opened. The virtually identical replica (80% of the original paintings reproduced) became a popular tourist destination, with approximately 250 000 visitors per year.
Lascaux or the "Prehistoric Sistine Chapel"
With thousands of wall paintings dating back almost 20 000 years, the Lascaux cave is regarded as the hot-spot of parietal art. The site was more of a sanctuary than a living space for Humanity’s first artists, the cavemen.
The depictions on the walls consist mainly of symbols and animals (bison, horses, deer, aurochs…). Yet, a few mystifying human representations were also found.
Although drawing and engraving are the two most common types of Paleolithic cave art, painting largely predominates at Lascaux.
Numerous resources were used by prehistoric artists: stone tools for carving, brushes made from animal or human hair and from plant stems, crayons made from pieces of organic pigment, animal fur for dabbing and sponging application, ground pigment... Painting techniques varied according to the rock surface: blowing paint through a tube (made from bone, wood or reeds), or using hands.
Cro-Magnon painters used mineral-based pigments. The incredibly rich colors wavered between black and warm colors (dark brown, red, and yellow).
Lascaux III: the International Exhibition
Lascaux III is not a replica of the cave, but a travelling exhibition which is currently enjoying a great success.
The life-size reproductions of the cave paintings have been touring the world since 2012: Chicago, Houston, Montreal, Brussels, Philadelphia, Shanghai, Tokyo… In 2014, the exhibition won Touring Exhibition of the Year at the Visit Brussels Award.
Excitedly, facsimiles of the Shaft and the Nave —scenes that were not replicated in Lascaux II— can be seen in Lascaux III.
2016: Lascaux IV or Lascaux Parietal Art International Centre (CIAP)
As an alternative to the real cave, Lascaux II has been attracting crowds of tourists and their cars, which have started damaging the densely wooded hills of Lascaux. And so, a new project was launched in 2014: Lascaux IV, Lascaux Parietal Art International Centre (CIAP).
The new 11 000 m² replica is being built approximately 1km away from the original cave. The complete representation of the real cave will open to the public in 2016.
Tours will be organized by groups of 30. Visitors will be given interactive flashlights that reveal information on lighted paintings. The complex will include center featuring 3D exhibitions and films devoted to prehistoric art.
Lascaux II will remain open, more likely attracting researchers and historians. However, visitors will access the site by electric cars.
Grotte de Lascaux II