The area has no fewer than 37 decorated caves and shelters, as well as an even greater number of habitation sites from the upper paleolithic (cave man) era. These sites are the highest concentration in Europe.
Geologically, the Vézère drainage basin covers one fourth of the département of the Dordogne (river). At its centre point, the river’s course is marked by a series of turns flanked by high limestone cliffs.
The entrance to the Lascaux Cave was discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat when his dog, Robot, fell in a hole, in 1940. It was getting late in the year, and in an dangerous area, so he decided to return with some friends another day. They entered carefully through a 15m or 50 feet shaft. The teenagers discovered that the cave walls were covered with depictions of animals. Some dating to an estimated 17,000 years.
6,000 figures: animals, human figures, and abstract signs, in about 600 areas were found.
Using mineral pigments, red, yellow, and black colours were crushed and mixed from a complex multiplicity of plants and minerals. Included was iron compounds such as iron oxide (ochre), hematite, and goethite, As well as manganese-containing pigments. These were a little more advanced than taking charcoal from a stick and drawing on the wall. Many of the images are now precisely studied. 364 paintings are horses, as well as 90 paintings of horned deer. Also represented are cattle and bison, each representing 4 to 5% of the images. There are a bunch of other unique images, includes seven felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human.
The most famous section of the cave is the Hall of the Bulls where bulls, equines, aurochs, stags, and even a cave bear is depicted. One of the 36 animals represented here is a bull. It is 5.2 metres (17 ft 1 in) long. The largest animal discovered so far in cave art. And, some of the bulls in this drawing appear to be in motion.
On some of the other cave walls, unique art methods were used. It is believed colour was applied as a suspension of pigment in either animal fat or calcium-rich cave groundwater or clay, and applied using swabbed or blotted paint, instead of brush. In a few other areas, the colour was applied by spraying the pigments by blowing the mixture through a tube. Many images are faint or totally deteriorated. Where the rock surface is softer, some designs were incised into the stone.
Did you know? After the cave had been opened, 15 years later, 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, and instead, it was decided 4 replicas get created nearby the cave site.
Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley”. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Jan 2023
Lascaux IV International Centre for Cave Art, official website.
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. ISBN1400043484.
Hirst, Kris. “The Beautiful and Famous Lascaux Cave”. ThoughtCo. Jan 2023
Lascaux’s 18,000-year-old cave art under threat”. Phys.org. Jan 2023