The Lascaux Caves are a series of complex caves located near the village of Montignac in the south-west of France. The caves are famous for a series of late Stone Age paintings and engravings that are estimated at an age of 17,000 years. The cave contains almost 2000 figures in total and most of these are depictions of animals known from the time. The site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, but unfortunately visitors are not allowed to enter the caves. This is due to the fact that the carbon dioxide produced from people breathing in the caves was destroying the paintings. Lascaux II, a reproduction of two main caves, is open to the public and is a popular attraction. Let’s find out who discovered these important caves and their paintings.
Who discovered Lascaux Caves?
Lascaux Caves were discovered by four boys from the local area on September 12, 1940. There are a number of stories about the discovery, but the most well known is that Marcel Ravidat was walking his dog, Robot, in the woods surrounding Montignac. The dog crawled into a hole and then fell into a larger cave. Ravidat called his friends Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas. When Ravidat entered the cave he saw a painting on the wall. The boys told their teacher Leon Laval who then informed Henri Breuil, the famous French archaeologist. Breuil explored the cave for many years and published his findings internationally.
Did you know?
Carbon dioxide is not the only threat to the cave. In 2001 the ventilation system in the cave was changed, which caused an infestation of a white mold. Later in 2007 a new mold that causes black and grey staining to the cave walls began to damage the paintings. In 2008 the cave was closed to all people, including scientists, for three months. Today only a few experts are allowed to enter the caves.