One of the greatest tourism attractions in France takes visitors thousands of years into the past and offers a unique insight into the lives of prehistoric humans.  This attraction are the famous Paleolithic cave paintings inside the Lascaux cave, located in the Dordogne district of France and near the village of Montignac.  Now part of the UNESCO World Heritage together with some other caves in the same valley, Lascaux is famous for the large number of Upper Paleolithic art consisting in various large animal drawings, scattered on the walls of the cave. These animals, some known today and some that have disappeared are one of the best testaments on the fauna that used to inhabit the area some 17,000 years ago.

The cave painting of Lascaux exhibit.  Photo: Jason M. Ramos
The cave painting of Lascaux exhibit. Photo: Jason M. Ramos

After the cave was initially discovered in 1940 by a local boy and his friends, the fame of the cave grew so much that it endangered the very existence of the paintings. The cave was closed down and the art was restored to its original condition. After a few years, a replica of two of the halls inside the cave was opened to visitors just 200 meters from the original cave that was being preserved. Today, there are still threats that threaten the integrity and appearance of the paintings inside the Lascaux Cave but scientists are steadily working to preserve these highly important cultural heritage marks. The rooms of the original cave include amazing paintings located inside The Hall of the Bulls, The Passageway, The Shaft, The Nave, The Apse and The Chamber of Felines.

The thousands of paintings throughout the cave are uniquely grouped according to animals, humans and abstract signs.   Many of the paintings have been analyzed and descriptions are offered for most of the images.  However, there are still many unidentified abstract signs and animals. There have also been many theories on the significance and interpretation of the Lascaux paintings. From hidden star charts to ritualistic visions or a sort of hunting record, scientists have not yet agreed on the magnificent paintings in this cave. Nevertheless, the anthropological and cultural importance of this site is immense and is considered one of mankind’s treasures.


Cover image courtesy of Jack Versloot (CreativeCommons).