Lascaux IV

All these animals that seems to be leaping out of the walls, full of life, it was indescribable. Simon Coencas one of the finders in 1940.

We have visited Lascaux II three times so it was a real treat to find out that a coach trip from Daglan would be visiting the new Lascaux IV. It would be organised by La Municipalite et le Club de I’Amitie and would be taking place on the 27th January. I think that we can speak for all of the people who attended on the two coaches, it was a brilliant excursion.

Unearthed in the middle of a World War 2 by four teenagers, Lascaux almost disappeared, a victim of its immense popularity. Now protected by the State the cave can again be viewed as magnificent replicas.

The building nestles at the foot of the hill of Lascaux like an incision into the landscape. A little like a rock shelter in the Vezere Valley in the epoch of the Upper Palaeolithic. Created by an Norwegian Architect Kjetil Traedal Thorsen co-founder and co-director of the Snohetta Office.

Lascaux IV.

The result: there are no apparent pillars on the transparent facade. An 8,600 square metre landscape building blending into the hill; 150 metres long and only 8 meters high, it fits snugly into the topography.
 

At the start of the tour we were given a tablet with head phones so that we could listen to commentary of the very knowledgeable tour guide and to extra information in your own language. The tablet can also be used to access more detail such as 3D maps of the cave system and includes a built in camera which I think is a brilliant idea.

At first we were taken to the top of the building where we could walk and admire the view of the valley on one side and the forest on the other. Then we were taken via a small tunnel to the ‘path of discovery room’, so that each visitor is drawn into the heart of a prehistoric forest displayed on a large screen, using sound environments and 3D visuals. It ends of course with the finders of the cave the four boys and Robot the dog.

Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Simon Coencas and Georges Agriel who found the cave in 1940.

At first they did not see the paintings. They walked past the enormous bulls painted onto the vault over head so it was not until they had reached the Axial gallery that the boys discovered by the light of a torch a procession of red cows, deer and black and yellow horses painted onto a background of white calcite.
 

The pigments used were yellow, brown and red ochres, iron and manganese, that the artists gathered from the environment before mixing them into a palette of about twenty colours which are unique to the Prehistoric Period.
 

One of the Aurochs or Giant Bulls, which is one of our favourites due to the vivid colours and the detail in the painting.
 

Visitors pass through the Hall of Bulls and then the Axial Gallery, before going into the Nave to discover the paintings that have not been reproduced in Lascaux II. A total of 1,963 paintings approximately 20,000 years old were completed by the original Master Artists of the Southern Period of the Palaeolithic Era.

Workshops consist of interactive tablets and panels of the reproduced cave paintings which are a brilliant way to study the workmanship of the artists who produced these magnificent paintings. The artists used 3D scanners with laser technology to compile and process the information to from a 3 dimensional digital reconstruction of the rock.

There is also a 130 seater cinema with two screens front and ceiling. Plus a large souvenir shop selling everything from books, T-shirts, cups etc. to whiskey.

From the Axial Gallery a red cow with a black head. Which looks similar to Egyptian Art, showing a side view with all of the details.
 

“What these people achieved twenty thousand years ago, with the limited means that they had and under those conditions, is incredible”. Francis Ringenbach.
 

Falling horses. Their knowledge of using the rock to the ultimate effect. In the cave it looks like the horse is falling into a pit or hole.

The total budget: 57 million euros to create Lascaux IV, with 33 million euros provided by the Department and French State. They receive up to 4000 visitors per day during the Summer months.

Write it into your to do list when you visit the Perigord. It is well worth a visit or two.
 
 

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Lascaux II

Our first visit to the cave at Lascaux was in 2010 and to be honest I was a little disappointed on our arrival due to the fact that I was expecting to see the original cave!. Lascaux II, is a replica of two of the cave halls, the Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery and was opened in 1983, 200 meters from the original cave. However, what it taught me was to always research any Cave, Chateau, etc before the visit.

Once inside Lascaux II the disappointment was over and the only word I could say was “awesome”. Having never seen cave paintings before, I was hooked and ready for more. They are especially awesome when you think what these great artists had to work with e.g. colour blowing onto the rock and using the natural relief of the rock in order to create volume. Our guide that day adjusted the lighting in several ways in order to bring out the extraordinary fullness and depth of the drawings, it is impossible to believe that anyone could make such perfect lines and shading on an irregular stone surface with only a dim smoking lamp of mammoth fat to guide their hand, it is truly remarkable.

Lascaux is a complex set of caves near to the village of Montignac which date from the Palaeolithic period and are thought to be about 17,300 years old. They primarily consist of images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence which was found in the area. The cave complex was open to the public in 1948 but by 1955 it was found that carbon dioxide produced by the many visitors had visibly damaged the paintings. After the caves were closed, the paintings were restored and monitored on a regular basis.

The caves contain the Hall of the Bulls, Painted Gallery, Shaft, Nave, the Apse and the Chamber of Felines. Being a cat lover I would particularly like to see the Chamber of Felines.

Taureau au trident-you can see that it looks like two animals running, one male and one female, the female is overlaid in front of the male and a curious trident in the bottom left hand corner.

Lascaux II paintings

Taureau au trident

The colours are outstanding on the horses, bulls and deer in the paintings.

Outstanding colours

Outstanding colours

The detail in the paintings is wonderful.

Lascaux II paintings

Lascaux II paintings

If you are in the Dordogne do not miss a visit to the Lascaux II caves. You will need to book in advance at the ticket office in Montignac. They will then offer you a chose of tour guides in your own language. Remember that the caves will be closed for a few hours at lunch time.

Lascaux III is a travelling exhibition of the site which is on a worldwide tour, while the new Lascaux IV centre will be open near Montignac in 2016.