Have you heard about the Lascaux cave? The cave is located near a town called Montignac in southern France. The Lascaux cave was discovered in 1940 by four French boys who were exploring the countryside. They found the cave walls were covered with colourful paintings of horses, bulls, deer and other prehistoric animals. Scientists have worked out that the paintings are at least 17,000 years old.
Nobody is sure of the purpose of the cave. It might have been a spiritual place, where people came to pray in the hopes of hunting more food. Perhaps the cave was a meeting room and the ancient people thought it would be nice to decorate the walls. It has also been suggested that the images are an astronomical map which helped people calculate the seasons. Even if we don’t understand the purpose of the cave, we cannot deny that it is an incredible place. It shows how talented and clever people were, even without our modern technology. These people were not simply ‘cavemen’, they were an advanced civilisation. It is amazing how the images survived for so long, completely untouched. After the cave was discovered in the 1940s, millions of visitors started coming to see it. This changed the atmosphere inside the cave and a fungus started to grow which began to destroy the original images. Wisely, the French government ordered the cave to be closed in 1963. Nowadays, only scientists are allowed to see the real cave. They are still trying to stop the fungus from destroying the irreplaceable wall art.
To satisfy the tourists, an exact copy of the cave was created. The fake cave is very realistic, and the paintings are astonishing. Although the cave is very small, it is the quality of the images which is so exceptional. When I was in France, I went to see the fake cave, which is called Lascaux II. A small group of us were taken underground to the reproduction cave. It was cold and silent inside. A tour guide explained how the prehistoric artists used natural minerals to create brown, black, red and other colours to paint the animals. They painted the animals to look like they are moving, which is a very clever technique. For me, the cave felt very spiritual, so I think it might have been used for religious ceremonies or festivals. We sometimes think that we are the most intelligent humans to have ever lived on this planet. But the Lascaux cave made me realise that even thousands of years ago people had built great civilisations. We can trace the roots of our current society all the way back to these ancient people. I think it’s amazing!
Note from editor: the photo isn't from Lascaux caves.
Have you ever visited a cave?