France Ancient Cave Paintings

Want to learn more about France’s ancient cave paintings? Read our guide for facts and info on ancient cave paintings discovered in France…

One of the most interesting discoveries of the 20th century is France’s ancient cave paintings, found in the cave of Lascaux. There is a vast concentration of Paleolithic caves in the northern slopes of the Pyrenees and the western edges off the Massif Central.

There are over 130 sanctuaries and the Lascaux is the most renowned of these. The caves of Lascaux are located on the left bank of the river Vezere and are slightly away from the other prehistoric sites found downstream between Bugue and Moustier.

These caves are part of the French prehistoric heritage, and are in an amazing state and have been preserved due to the natural caves in limestone and rock shelters in this area.

France Ancient Cave Paintings Chance Discovery

A chance discovery by four teenagers in 1940 opened up a new chapter in the history of ancient cave paintings.

The floor of calcite created a series of gourds which were bordered off and full of water. The boys were carrying a light lantern and could barely make out the paintings on the wall, in fact it was almost when they approached the entrance to the keyhole shaped gallery of the ancient cave paintings that they noticed the artwork on the walls. The four teenagers now are part of history were Georges Agnel, Jacques Marsal, Marcel Ravidat and Simon Coencas.

France Ancient Cave Paintings Pinnacle of Paleolithic Cave Art

The gallery of the France ancient cave paintings is rightly considered the epitome of Paleolithic cave art. The drawings rise up to the entire upper reaches of the wall and in the first quarter of the Gallery, the paintings and figures cover the surface of the vault. Access to the cave was made more comfortable with the excavation and restoration work carried out after the Second World War.

The entrance to the cave at Lascaux was only 3.50 meters high and required a bit of enhancement on the site to create a pathway to the upper reaches of the walls and the vault. Halfway through the passage, a line of natural holes are visible along both sides of the Gallery. It is generally believed that it could be a temporary wooden structure that was used as a support to permit access to the vault surface, thereby allowing the artist to create the artwork at the upper reaches of the vault.

The ledges perhaps made it easier for the artist to create the upper section of the painting which has bovines and horses visible till today.  The excavations from the decorated cave are proof that this cave was only a temporary abode for the Paleolithic man and they lived in the cave only for art activities. These sanctuaries were not used as homes because the natural light engulfs only the first few meters of the vestibule.

For easy access, the entrance was size ably enlarged to accommodate the influx of up to 1200 tourists per day and allow them to navigate more easily inside the cave.  However, this access was short lived since wide spread deterioration of the paintings surfaced in 1955 when it was realized that the excess carbon dioxide breathed out by visitors was responsible for the problem.

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