Today was our last full day in Perigord and we saved the best for last. We timed our rise, breakfast and drive to be at the ticket window when it opened at 9:00am. We heard beforehand about crowds but were surprised to have no trouble getting tickets for the 10am tour in English.
Lascaux celebrated its 70th anniversary two years go, which is a funny statement when you consider that the cave paintings are 17,000 years old. The anniversary is of its discovery by four teenagers who were in the woods with their dog. The dog fell down a hole in some brush and when the boys realized it was an unknown cavern, came back with equipment to explore the cave.
They told a teacher about their discovery and the teacher contacted a well-known specialist in prehistoric man. It wasn’t hard to find such an expert, since Cro-Magnon man was found very close by in Les Eyzies. They had an amazing adventure and are now famous in France.
Coincidence of history
The only reason Lascaux exists is through coincidence. The art was created and soon after, the entrance to the cave collapsed, leaving no air to enter and no humidity to ‘work’ the rock. Secondly, a layer of clay above the cave kept water from seeping into the chambers, preserving the cave even better than a California ghost town.
We could spend a great deal of time explaining why Lascaux is remarkable, even though the place the outside world visits is an exact replica (I was skeptical beforehand, too), but this is something you need to see. The face that it was found in France, a country known for its appreciation of art, only makes it more rich.
This is simply a place you have to go and see for yourself. No photograph can do justice to the use of colors, techniques and the shapes of the rock itself. What you realize even before the guide tells you is that the ancient man who created these works were remarkable artists who understood perspective, motion and other ‘advanced’ concepts that we wouldn’t normally attribute to their time period.
Go to Lascaux and see it for yourself.