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Lascaux: where do we come from?

Grottes de Lascaux

The first cave paintings

In the collective consciousness, the name Lascaux immediately conjures images of the cave paintings brought to life by replicas: a great bull, horses running side by side, a handprint in negative on ochre dust… And to some extent, we are all familiar with the story of how the paintings were discovered, their archeological value, and the epic efforts undertaken to preserve them that continue to this day.

A fascinating mystery

But while we all know about the Lascaux caves and their paintings, a series of mysteries still escape scientists. For whom were these images intended? Who painted them and why? What drove these men, in those ancient times, to delve underground to depict the world around them? If the humans of that age resembled the cavemen from in the classic French movie “The Quest for Fire”, then how could they have mastered such sophisticated techniques? How could they have used the relief of the rock so skillfully to create perspective in their artworks, without a steady source of light? We still have no answers to the mystery of the meaning behind these paintings, not just those in the Lascaux caves, but all those of the Upper Paleolithic period.

The world’s first work of art: nature

These parietal paintings raise another fascinating point: mankind’s first work of art depicted nature and animals. There are a few human figures, but they are not especially representative, and are often fragmented or merged with animal forms. It was observing nature and animals that inspired man to create these images. Man did not begin depicting himself until much later, when cave art disappeared in around 10,000 BC. By that time, they had succeeded in domesticating animals.

Lascaux: a film and an exhibition

The mystery of the meaning behind the cave paintings is a fabulous subject for writing and directing a feature-length film, an immersive exhibition, even a TV documentary, short films, and e-learning courses.

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