Lascaux (French: Grotte de Lascaux, "
Lascaux Cave"; English:
/læsˈkoʊ/, French: [lasko]) is the setting of a complex
of caves near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne
in southwestern France. Over 600 parietal wall paintings cover the
interior walls and ceilings of the cave. The paintings represent
primarily large animals, typical local and contemporary fauna that
correspond with the fossil record of the
Upper Paleolithic time. The
drawings are the combined effort of many generations, and with
continued debate, the paintings are estimated around 17,000 years
Lascaux was inducted into the
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
list in 1979, as element of the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves
1 History since rediscovery
1.1 Ochroconis lascauxensis
2 Geographic setting
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
History since rediscovery
view • discuss • edit
Earliest stone tools
Earliest exit from Africa
Earliest fire use
Earliest in Europe
Axis scale: million years
Also see: Life timeline and Nature timeline
Modern entrance to the
On September 12, 1940, the entrance to the
Cave was discovered
by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat. Ravidat (died in 1995) returned to the
scene with three friends, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon
Coencas, and entered the cave via a long shaft. The teenagers
discovered that the cave walls were covered with depictions of
animals. Galleries that suggest continuity, context or simply
represent a cavern were given names. Those include the Hall of the
Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber
of Felines. The cave complex was opened to the public on July 14,
1948. By 1955, carbon dioxide, heat, humidity, and other
contaminants produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged
the paintings. As air condition deteriorated fungi and lichen
increasingly infested the walls. Consequently, the cave was closed to
the public in 1963, the paintings were restored to their original
state and a monitoring system on a daily basis was introduced.
Lascaux II, an exact copy of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the
Painted Gallery opened in 1983 in the cave's vicinity, a compromise
and attempt to present an impression of the paintings' scale and
composition for the public without harming the originals. A full
range of Lascaux's parietal art is presented a few kilometres from the
site at the Centre of Prehistoric Art, Le Parc du Thot, where there
are also live animals representing ice-age fauna.
Ochroconis lascauxensis is a species of fungus of the Ascomycota
phylum, in May 2012 officially described and named after the locality
of its first emergence, the
Lascaux cave. It was along with a closely
related second species Ochroconis anomala, first observed in 2000
inside the cave and the following year black spots appeared among the
cave paintings. No official announcement on the effect and/or progress
of attempted treatments has ever been made.
As of 2008, the cave contained black mold. In January 2008,
authorities closed the cave for three months, even to scientists and
preservationists. A single individual was allowed to enter the cave
for 20 minutes once a week to monitor climatic conditions. Now only a
few scientific experts are allowed to work inside the cave and just
for a few days a month but the efforts to remove the mold have taken a
toll, leaving dark patches and damaging the pigments on the walls.
In 2009 it was announced: Mould problem "stable". In 2011 the fungus
seemed to be in retreat after the installment of an additional, even
stricter conservation program.
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (December 2012) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
Lascaux artwork in
In its sedimentary composition, the
Vézère drainage basin covers one
fourth of the département of the Dordogne, the northernmost region of
the Black Périgord. Before joining the
Dordogne River near Limeuil,
Vézère flows in a south-westerly direction. At its centre point,
the river's course is marked by a series of meanders flanked by high
limestone cliffs that determine the landscape. Upstream from this
steep-sloped relief, near Montignac and in the vicinity of Lascaux,
the contours of the land soften considerably; the valley floor widens,
and the banks of the river lose their steepness.
Lascaux valley is located some distance from the major
concentrations of decorated caves and inhabited sites, most of which
were discovered further downstream. In the environs of the village of
Eyzies-de-Tayac Sireuil, there are no less than 37 decorated caves and
shelters, as well as an even greater number of habitation sites from
the Upper Paleolithic, located in the open, beneath a sheltering
overhang, or at the entrance to one of the area's karst cavities. This
is the highest concentration in western Europe.
Megaloceros with line of dots
The cave contains nearly 6,000 figures, which can be grouped into
three main categories: animals, human figures, and abstract signs. The
paintings contain no images of the surrounding landscape or the
vegetation of the time. Most of the major images have been painted
onto the walls using red, yellow, and black colours from a complex
multiplicity of mineral pigments:110 including iron compounds
such as iron oxide (ochre),:204 hematite, and goethite, as
well as manganese-containing pigments.:208 Charcoal may also
have been used:199 but seemingly to a sparing extent. On some
of the cave walls, the colour may have been applied as a suspension of
pigment in either animal fat or calcium-rich cave groundwater or clay,
making paint, that was swabbed or blotted on, rather than applied
by brush. In other areas, the colour was applied by spraying the
pigments by blowing the mixture through a tube. Where the rock
surface is softer, some designs have been incised into the stone. Many
images are too faint to discern, and others have deteriorated
Over 900 can be identified as animals, and 605 of these have been
precisely identified. Out of these images, there are 364 paintings of
equines as well as 90 paintings of stags. Also represented are cattle
and bison, each representing 4 to 5% of the images. A smattering of
other images include seven felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and
a human. There are no images of reindeer, even though that was the
principal source of food for the artists. Geometric images have
also been found on the walls.
The most famous section of the cave is The Hall of the Bulls where
bulls, equines, and stags are depicted. The four black bulls, or
aurochs, are the dominant figures among the 36 animals represented
here. One of the bulls is 5.2 metres (17 ft) long, the largest
animal discovered so far in cave art. Additionally, the bulls appear
to be in motion.
A painting referred to as "The Crossed Bison", found in the chamber
called the Nave, is often submitted as an example of the skill of the
Paleolithic cave painters. The crossed hind legs create the illusion
that one bison is closer to the viewer than the other. This visual
depth in the scene demonstrates a primitive form of perspective which
was particularly advanced for the time.
Some anthropologists and art historians theorize that the paintings
could be an account of past hunting success, or could represent a
mystical ritual in order to improve future hunting endeavors. The
latter theory is supported by the overlapping images of one group of
animals in the same cave location as another group of animals,
suggesting that one area of the cave was more successful for
predicting a plentiful hunting excursion.
Applying the iconographic method of analysis to the
(studying position, direction and size of the figures; organization of
the composition; painting technique; distribution of the color planes;
research of the image center), Thérèse Guiot-Houdart attempted to
comprehend the symbolic function of the animals, to identify the theme
of each image and finally to reconstitute the canvas of the myth
illustrated on the rock walls.[further explanation needed]
Cave painting of a dun horse (equine) at Lascaux
Julien d'Huy and Jean-Loïc Le Quellec showed that certain angular or
barbed signs of
Lascaux may be analysed as "weapon" or "wounds". These
signs affect dangerous animals—big cats, aurochs and bison—more
than others and may be explained by a fear of the animation of the
image. Another finding supports the hypothesis of half-alive
images. At Lascaux, bison, aurochs and ibex are not represented side
by side. Conversely, one can note a bison-horses-lions system and an
aurochs-horses-deer-bears system, these animals being frequently
associated. Such a distribution may show the relationship between
the species pictured and their environmental conditions.
bison fight one against the other, and horses and deer are very social
with other animals. Bison and lions live in open plains areas;
aurochs, deer and bears are associated with forests and marshes; ibex
habitat is rocky areas, and horses are highly adaptive for all these
Lascaux paintings' disposition may be explained by a belief
in the real life of the pictured species, wherein the artists tried to
respect their real environmental conditions.
Less known is the image area called the Abside (Apse), a roundish,
semi-spherical chamber similar to an apse in a Romanesque basilica. It
is approximately 4.5 metres in diameter (about 5 yards) and covered on
every wall surface (including the ceiling) with thousands of
entangled, overlapping, engraved drawings. The ceiling of the
Apse, which ranges from 1.6 to 2.7 metres high (about 5.2 to 8.9 feet)
as measured from the original floor height, is so completely decorated
with such engravings that it indicates that the prehistoric people who
executed them first constructed a scaffold to do so.
The famous shaft scene of Lascaux: a man with a bird head and a bison.
David Lewis-Williams and
Jean Clottes who both studied
presumably similar art of the
San people of Southern Africa, this type
of art is spiritual in nature relating to visions experienced during
ritualistic trance-dancing. These trance visions are a function of the
human brain and so are independent of geographical location. Nigel
Spivey, a professor of classical art and archeology at the University
of Cambridge, has further postulated in his series, How Art Made the
World, that dot and lattice patterns overlapping the representational
images of animals are very similar to hallucinations provoked by
sensory-deprivation. He further postulates that the connections
between culturally important animals and these hallucinations led to
the invention of image-making, or the art of drawing.
The conservation room at Lascaux
The opening of
Cave after World War II changed the cave
environment. The exhalations of 1,200 visitors per day, presence of
light, and changes in air circulation have created a number of
problems. Lichens and crystals began to appear on the walls in the
late 1950s, leading to closure of the caves in 1963. This led to
restriction of access to the real caves to a few visitors every week,
and the creation of a replica cave for visitors to Lascaux. In 2001,
the authorities in charge of
Lascaux changed the air conditioning
system which resulted in regulation of the temperature and humidity.
When the system had been established, an infestation of Fusarium
solani, a white mold, began spreading rapidly across the cave ceiling
and walls. The mold is considered to have been present in the cave
soil and exposed by the work of tradesmen, leading to the spread of
the fungus which was treated with quicklime. In 2007, a new fungus,
which has created grey and black blemishes, began spreading in the
Organized through the initiative of the French Ministry of Culture, an
international symposium titled "
Lascaux and Preservation Issues in
Subterranean Environments" was held in Paris on February 26 and 27,
2009, under the chairmanship of Jean Clottes. It brought together
nearly three hundred participants from seventeen countries with the
goal of confronting research and interventions conducted in Lascaux
Cave since 2001 with the experiences gained in other countries in the
domain of preservation in subterranean environments. The
proceedings of this symposium were published in 2011. Seventy-four
specialists in fields as varied as biology, biochemistry, botany,
hydrology, climatology, geology, fluid mechanics, archaeology,
anthropology, restoration and conservation, from numerous countries
(France, United States, Portugal, Spain, Japan, and others)
contributed to this publication.
The problem is ongoing, as are efforts to control the microbial and
fungal growths in the cave. The fungal infection crises have led to
the establishment of an International Scientific Committee for Lascaux
and to rethinking how, and how much, human access should be permitted
in caves containing prehistoric art.
Art of the Upper Paleolithic
Cave of Altamira
List of archaeological sites by country
List of caves
Stone Age art
^ "American English Dictionary: Definition of Lascaux". Collins.
Retrieved 18 August 2013.
^ "English Dictionary: Definition of Lascaux". Collins. Retrieved 18
Cave Paintings: Layout, Meaning, Photographs - Dating -
Chronological questions about the age of Lascaux's cave paintings,
over what period they were created, and the identity of the oldest art
in the complex, are still being debated..." Visual arts cork com.
Retrieved December 28, 2016.
^ "Ice Age star map discovered - thought to date back 16,500 years".
BBC. August 9, 2000. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
^ "Lascaux, France. These paintings are estimated to be around 17,300
years old". Ancient-wisdom. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
^ "Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the
UNESCO World Heritage Center. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
^ Thomas Jr., Robert McG. (March 31, 1995). "Marcel Ravidat is Dead at
Lascaux Paintings". The New York Times. Retrieved 30
^ a b Bahn, Paul G. (2007).
Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age
Caves of Europe. London: Frances Lincoln. pp. 81–85.
^ Littlewood, Ian (2005). Justin Wintle, ed. The timeline history of
France. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 296.
^ le retour des loups “préhistoriques”
^ Martin-Sanchez, Pedro Maria; Nováková, Alena; Bastian, Fabiola;
Alabouvette, Claude; Saiz-Jimenez, Cesareo (2012). "Two new species of
the genus Ochroconis, O. lascauxensis and O. anomala isolated from
black stains in
Lascaux Cave, France". Fungal Biology. Elsevier. 116
(5): 574–89. doi:10.1016/j.funbio.2012.02.006.
^ Moore, Molly (July 1, 2008). "Debate Over Moldy
Cave Art Is a Tale
Human Missteps". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 December
^ "Lascaux's 18,000 year-old cave art under threat". Phys.org.
Retrieved December 28, 2016.
^ a b Nechvatal, Joseph (2011). Immersion Into Noise. Ann Arbor: Open
Humanities Press. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-1-60785-241-4.
Retrieved 30 December 2012.
^ a b c Dickson, D. Bruce (1992). The Dawn of Belief: Religion in the
Upper Paleolithic of Southwestern Europe.
^ a b c Chalmin E, Farges F, Vignaud C, et al. Discovery of Unusual
Minerals in Paleolithic Black Pigments from
Lascaux (France) and Ekain
^ a b c Rapp, George R. (2013). Archaeomineralogy.
^ a b c "
Cave Paintings: Layout, Meaning, Photographs".
^ a b Curtis, Gregory (2006). The
Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries
of the World's First Artists (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
pp. 96–97, 102. ISBN 1400043484.
^ Guiot-Houdart, Thérèse (2004).
Lascaux et les mythes (in French).
Périgueux: Pilote 24. ISBN 2-912347-39-4.
^ Julien d'Huy et Jean-Loïc Le Quellec (2010). "Les animaux
'fléchés' à Lascaux: nouvelle proposition d’interprétation"
Préhistoire du Sud-Ouest 18(2): 161-170
^ Denis Tauxe (2007)."L’organisation symbolique du dispositif
pariétal de la grotte de Lascaux", Préhistoire du Sud-Ouest, 15:
^ Julien d'Huy (2011). "La distribution des animaux à Lascaux
reflèterait leur distribution naturelle", Bulletin de la Société
Historique et Archéologique du
Périgord CXXXVIII, 493-502
^ Leroi-Gourhan, André. The Art of Prehistoric Man in Western Europe.
London: Thames and Hudson. 1968. p. 315
^ Mario Ruspoli, The
Cave of Lascaux: The Final Photographic Record
(New York: Abrams, 1983) pp. 146-47
^ Harry Francis Mallgrave (26 June 2013). Architecture and Embodiment:
The Implications of the New Sciences and Humanities for Design.
Routledge. pp. 190–. ISBN 978-1-135-09424-9.
^ Gray, S. W. (2014).
"The cartographic paradigm in contemporary Australian landscape
painting"] Check url= value (help).
^ Joëlle Dupont; Claire Jacquet; Bruno Dennetière; Sandrine Lacoste
(2007). "Invasion of the French Paleolithic painted cave of
members of the
Fusarium solani species complex". Mycologia. 99 (4):
526–533. doi:10.3852/mycologia.99.4.526. PMID 18065003.
^ At the
Takamatsuzuka Tomb in Japan, and Altamira in Spain, for
^ Coye, N. dir. (2011),
Lascaux et la conservation en milieu
souterrain: actes du symposium international (Paris, 26-27 fév. 2009)
Lascaux and Preservation Issues in Subterranean Environments:
Proceedings of the International Symposium (Paris, February 26 and
27), Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 360 p. In french
and english. 
^ Simons, Marlise (9 December 2007). "Fungus Once Again Threatens
Cave Paintings". World:Europe. New York Times. Retrieved 15
Dubowski, Mark (2010). Discovery in the
Cave (Children's early
reader). New York, New York, USA: Random House.
Curtis, Gregory (2006). The
Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of
the World's First Artists. New York, New York, USA: Knopf.
Lewis-Williams, David (2004). The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and
the Origins of Art. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28465-2
Bataille, Georges (2005). The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and
Culture. New York, New York: Zone Books. ISBN 1-890951-55-2
Joseph Nechvatal, Immersive Excess in the
Apse of Lascaux,
Technonoetic Arts 3, no3. 2005
B.et G. Delluc (dir.), Le Livre du Jubilé de
Société historique et archéologique du Périgord, supplément au
tome CXVII, 1990, 155 p., ill.
B. et G. Delluc, 2003 :
Lascaux retrouvé. Les recherches de
l'abbé André Glory, Pilote 24 édition, 368 p., ill.
B. et G. Delluc, 2006 : Discovering Lascaux, Sud Ouest, nouvelle
édition entièrement revue et très augmentée, 80 p., ill. plans et
B. et G. Delluc, 2008 : Dictionnaire de Lascaux, Sud Ouest,
Bordeaux. Plus de 600 entrées et illustrations. Bibliographie (450
références). ISBN 978-2-87901-877-5.
B. et G. Delluc, 2010 :
Lascaux et la guerre. Une galerie de
portraits, Bull. de la Soc. historique et arch. du Périgord, CXXXVI,
2e livraison, 40 p., ill., bibliographie.
A. Glory, 2008 : Les recherches à
Lascaux (1952-1963). Documents
recueillis et présentés par B. et G. Delluc, XXXIXe suppl. à
Gallia-Préhistoire, CNRS, Paris.
Joseph Nechvatal, 2011: Immersion Into Noise, University of Michigan
Library's Scholarly Publishing Office. Ann Arbor.
Rigaud, Jean-Philippe (October 1988). "Art Treasures from the Ice Age:
Lascaux Cave". National Geographic. Vol. 174 no. 4.
pp. 482–499. ISSN 0027-9358. OCLC 643483454.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lascaux.
The microbiology of
Lascaux Web site, from the French Ministry of
Lascaux Official website of the International Committee for the
Preservation of Lascaux
Cave Art Symposium The Bradshaw Foundation
Human Timeline (Interactive) – Smithsonian, National Museum of
Natural History (August 2016).
Discussion of paintings by
Janina Ramirez and Alice Roberts: Art
Detective Podcast, 08 Feb 2017
Last common ancestors
H. e. erectus
H. e. georgicus
H. e. lantianensis
H. e. nankinensis
H. e. palaeojavanicus
H. e. pekinensis
H. e. soloensis
H. e. tautavelensis
H. e. yuanmouensis
H. s. idaltu
H. s. sapiens (anatomically modern human)
Origin of modern humans
Recent African origin
Evolutionary biology portal
Prehistoric cave sites, rock shelters and cave paintings
Caves containing pictograms
Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes
Trou de l’Abîme
Vézère Valley World Heritage Site
Abri du Poisson
Other World Heritage Sites
Other caves with decoration
La Chaire a Calvin
Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura
Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura World Heritage Site
Cave of Altamira
Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic
Cave Art of Northern
Caves in Cantabria
Hornos de la Peña
Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin
Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin World Heritage Site
Roca dels Moros
Other World Heritage Sites
Other caves with decoration
Barranc del Migdia
Iberian Southern Tip
Peñas de Cabrera
Red Lady of Paviland
Huto and Kamarband
Tham An Mah
Tam Pa Ling
Ras Baalbek I
Ras El Kelb
Enkapune Ya Muto
Ifri n'Amr or Moussa
Kelif el Boroud
The White Lady
Cradle of Humankind, World Heritage Site
North and South America
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Rei do Mato
Toca da Tira Peia
Piedras del Tunjo
Punta del Este
On Your Knees
New Guinea II
Northern Mariana Islands
Papua New Guinea
List of caves
New Stone Age
New World crops
Ard / plough
Mortar and pestle
Bow and arrow
Game drive system
Langdale axe industry
British megalith architecture
Nordic megalith architecture
Neolithic long house
Abri de la Madeleine
Alp pile dwellings
Wattle and daub
Megalithic architectural elements
Arts and culture
Art of the Upper Paleolithic
Art of the Middle Paleolithic
Stone Age art
Bradshaw rock paintings
Carved Stone Balls
Cup and ring mark
British Isles and Brittany
Mound Builders culture
Stone box grave
Unchambered long cairn
Origin of language
Divje Babe flute
Origin of religion
Spiritual drug use
BNF: cb119342678 (data)