Perigord noir


Sans titre


 grand taureau, à l'origine de l'emblème du département


Discovery :

12 september 1940, four teenagers: Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agniel and Simon Coencas, played the adventurers during their free time. Equiped with a rudimentary material, they go down into a crack and get to, with difficulty, a big room where they perceive paintings. Then they get to the bottom of a hole which will prove to be the famous Well of Lascaux. Aware of the importance of their discovery, they decide to inform, on September 18th, 1940, Leon Laval a retired schoolmaster passionately fond of history, who goes to the place on the scene the next day.

l'abbé Breui, Jacques Marsal, Marcel Ravidat, Georges Agniel


21 September, abbots Breuil and Bouyssonie, accompanied with doctor Cheynier and with D.Peyrony, visit the cave and at once believe it dates from to the superior Palaeolithic age. From 27 December, their preliminary reports lead, , to a fast classification of the site as the ancient memorial.

In 1947, rehabilitation of the cave was done. The site was opened to the public on 13 July 1948 with Marcel Ravidat and Jacques Marsal as guide.

Lascaux became very well known. After about fifteen years of exploitation, we noticed that the visit of hundreds of thousand persons, had changed the atmospheric balance and the degree of humidity of the cave. Small green seaweeds began to spread all over the walls, and the rock started deterrorarety.

On 20 April 1963, the cave was closed to the public, André Malraux, Minister of the Cultural affairs orders that the cave should be closed in order to preserve the fresco paintings. Lascaux was restored by a team of scientists for several years. Today, its visit is authorized only to the researchers and the specialists.

Charactéristics :

Owing to the collapse of the cave porch, the climate of the cave remained very homogeneous, which allowed a perfect preservation of the paintings. These works are traditionally attributed to the ancient magdalénien (These paintings are estimated to be 17 000 years old), a period when the climate was relatively mild, as wich were predomined painted the presence of deers on walls shows it. 1900 paintings have been listed, representing 600 animals. The animals are deers, bears, aurochs and horses. Reindeers are strangely absent, while we think that they represented 90 % of the hunting of the prehistoric men. The paintings marry the relief of the cavity and are executed with some iron oxide and some manganese oxide.

salle des taureaux

The average size of the paintings is close to 60 cms, but we find some even more spectacular paintings, like the auroch big painted on the ceiling, in real measuring 5m50. We can thus assert, with the remains found on the ground (holes in the wall 2 meters deep the ground, as well as the remains of oak) that these works required the building of scaffolds, to reach such heights.
We much is said about the lighting used by those people who painted in caves. In fact ,they are said to have made small stone bowls ordishes which they filled with a flammable product in which a wick was placed. We found it relics of their bowls almost everywhere in the Lascaux cave. Contrary to most of the other neighbouring caves, Lascaux contained many relics which allow to understand the techniques used as well as ways of the lifestyle of those who passed on to us the fruit of their creativity.

Lascaux II :

To make up for the damage done to the public the closure of the Lascaux cave, the realization of a reproduction was soon envisaged. Lascaux II project began in 1972 supervised by D.Debaye, representing the department of the Dordogne, and various administrations involted. It was a genuine copy of the original, but only the Rotonde and its axial Diverticule were reproduced, which represents 90 % of the original paintings .

The cave opened to the public in 1983. Situated, in a abandoned quarry , near the original site, it was built in a stiff shell in the forms and in the real dimensions of the initial cave. The sculptor René Sanson was then able to dress the shell by reproducing wall faithfully. Then the painter Monique Peytral had to decorate the shell, using a similar technique and working with a palette composed of the same colouring agents (red ochre and manganese oxide resulting from the deposit close to Régourdou) as the painted frescoes. It needed 10 years.

What is worth seeing :

Before getting into the cave, presentation let's the Lascaux story.

Then access to the Room of the Tauruses or Rotonde. First of all we find an animal looking like a unicorn, then a herd of magnificent black bulls (in fact of aurochs). They almost seem to be alive. Indeed, the artists of the prehistory took advantage of the uneveness of the rock, every bump or the harshness to emphasize some limbs of an animal. And so a very round bump can represent a very plump paunch or a back.

la licorne

Besides, the use of perspective, said "twisted", gives even more the illusion of reality and movement (for example, head or body in profile and horns three-quarters-length born). One of the bulls is more than 5 metres high.

cheval du diverticule axial

After the room of bulls, you get into narrow Diverticule Axial where there are real compositions, such as the cow which jumps, the falling horse and the frescs of the small horses. Finally there is, a whole series of graphics (parallels, rectangles, punctuation, sort of harpoon, etc.) always raise problems of interpretation to the researchers. 

Lascaux theories :

The prehistorians have given various interpretaions of this parietal art. Numerous theories were meaning: magic of the hunt, totémisme, shamanism … Nobody revealed the deep sense of the works left by our ancestors. Today, Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez, an independent French researcher, has ventured a new hypothesis. For her, the Lascaux frescoes represent an astronomical chart. The sky which the first humanity painters observed 10 000 years ago. But, this theory is harshly criticized by all the prehistorians. As is worth keeping an eye on...

Information :

No more than 2000 entrances(entries) a day to the Lascaux II cave are allowed. Buy your tickets very early in the tourism season. From Easter to the end of September, the box office is outside the tourist information office of Montignac, under arches, it's open from 9 am till 7 pm, visit every 10mn till 8:30 pm, off season tickets are sold directly on the spot (road signs since Montignac).

To see the map: click here



Thot :

la scène du puit

Some other reproductions of paintings (frescoes of deers, leaned bisons and black cow of the Nave as well as the scene of the Well are exposed in the park of Thot, 4,5 miles southwest of Montignac (Tonac). You will find in Thot all the explanations concerning the Lascaux II construction and will also learn to cut the flint as our ancestors did.

Do not forget to visit the wildlife park where alive animals at the time of the superior Palaeolithic can be seen.

Reconstructions of the prehistoric everyday life scenes are also visible.

A Very instructive site, to visit with one's family.



                                                                  Thank J.Kaigre for translation.

The Black Perigord