Las­caux, the site one of the most crit­i­cal ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies of the 20th Cen­tury has long been the world’s top pre-his­toric tourist at­trac­tion. Since its re­cent €58 mil­lions makeover, it now of­fers an even more mind-blow­ing jour­ney into pre-histo

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - CLARE O’HA­GAN

The Pre-his­tory’s Cis­tine Chapel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

JAR­RING WITH THE BU­COLIC SCENERY OF THE PERIG­ORD NOIR, all rolling hills and lime­stone vil­lages, an im­mense, fu­tur­is­tic glass and stri­ated-con­crete struc­ture has ap­peared in the Vezere Val­ley. Opened in De­cem­ber 2016 by Francois Hol­lande, this awe-in­spir­ing 8500 square-me­tre vis­i­tor cen­tre took spe­cial­ist builders and crafts­men years to com­plete. It is de­signed to of­fer an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of pre-his­toric cave art, and, just for a few hours, to close the an­thro­po­log­i­cal gap be­tween us and our fore­bears, who hunted Bi­son An­tiquus here when tem­per­a­tures were a lit­tle chill­ier. In the early Au­tumn of 1940, a lo­cal teenager, Mar­cel Ravi­dat dis­cov­ered the en­trance to a deep cave while walk­ing his dog, Ro­bot. A few days later, he re­turned with some friends. These young lads were the first to lay eyes on over 2000 paint­ings of bulls, bi­son, horses, stags, birds and hu­mans etched onto the cave’s walls in red, yel­low and black pig­ments. The dis­cov­ery rep­re­sented a gi­ant leap for stone age stud­ies.

But, when armies of vis­i­tors be­gan to troop through the cave, a fun­gus ap­peared, caus­ing dam­age to the pre­cious 17,000 year old art-work. The cave was closed to the pub­lic in 1962, and an impressive replica built in 1983, Las­caux II, which was a hit for decades, but is a lit­tle too close to the real Las­caux for com­fort.

The re­cently opened Cen­tre In­ter­na­tional d'art Par­ié­tal, dubbed ‘Las­caux IV’, uses tech­nol­ogy to take us on a mul­ti­sen­sory jour­ney into the Up­per Pa­le­olithic pe­riod. Each vis­i­tor is given a tablet to guide them through a series of interactive ex­hibits, films and work­shops, un­lock­ing the mys­ter­ies of both the an­cient art, and the daily lives of the artists who cre­ated it. The new ‘fac­sim­ile’ cave is a far more ex­act replica than its pre­de­ces­sor. Dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, laser imag­ing and 3D print­ing help lend as much au­then­tic­ity to the re­pro­duc­tion paint­ings and en­grav­ings as pos­si­ble.

The sounds, tem­per­a­ture and smell of the orig­i­nal cave have been con­jured up, al­low­ing us to con­tem­plate the paint­ings as Cro-magnon man would have done, il­lu­mi­nated by flick­er­ing can­dle-light. Las­caux is a pas­sion project; a bril­liant meditation, not only on the his­tory of mankind, but on the his­tory and role of great art.


The impressive black cow: a 2,15 me­ters fresco.

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