The Sistine Chapel of Prehistory – Lascaux, Dordogne

Lascaux is referred to as the ‘The Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’. Visit Lascaux to venture back to pre-historic times and see replicas of cave paintings around 17,000 years old. The original Lascaux cave system was discovered in 1940 by local schoolboys after their dog disappeared down a pothole. What they encountered underground was one of the world’s most significant pre-historic sites; its walls alive with vibrant cave paintings.

The original cavern, a short distance southeast of the town of Montignac, in the Dordogne, is sadly no longer open to the public. The carbon dioxide from visitors was destroying the paintings and a film of greenish micro-organisms was creeping steadily across the walls. Lascaux Caves, DordogneUsing sophisticated 3-D plotting techniques, and new advances in resin and ferro-cement technology, experts created an exact replica some 200m away, and the second Lascaux is what today’s visitors experience. Even so, the whole re-created cave structure looks, and even feels, authentic.

During your visit to the Dordogne you can learn more about the techniques used by the original artists as they worked by the light from stone lamps. They mixed mineral pigments to achieve the desired shades and often allowed the natural contours of the rockface to accentuate the forms of the animals depicted.

Speckled effects were achieved by blowing diluted pigment through plant stems to create gradual tone. Even if the original intent behind the pictures remains a mystery, the overall effect is fantastic.

Need somewhere to stay in the area? Try searching amongst our Dordogne Gites


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