|Emily Whale. "Lascaux Great Hall of the Bulls". 2010-Mar-09. 2012-Jul-21.|
Look, But Don’t Breath!
The total number of individuals to ever see the images painted on the cave walls at Lascaux before those 4 boys reported their findings was utterly mediocre to what was about to happen in the next 25 years.
In 1948 the caves were opened up to visitors. Once opened, as many as 1,200 visitors each day flocked to the caves to gaze upon the unique artwork. That many living, breathing individuals traversing the enclosed caverns created an amplification which began a hastening of the art’s destruction. In 1963, the caves had to be closed to the public.
Today, Lascaux is guarded by a wire fence and two German shepherds. It can only be seen by qualified people. Applicants connected with science, journalism, teaching, art, museums, even politics, may get invitations, but only after waiting for months.
20th Century Replication
In the mid 1970’s, a project began allowing visitors to once again experience the wonders of Lascaux without further damaging the original drawings. This project, known as Lascaux II, would take 9 years to complete and involved creating a faux cave. The simulated cave was to be 131 feet long with about 100 of the drawings replicated on its walls. It opened in 1984, on a site just adjacent to Lascaux I.
According to a website dedicated to underground museums; “Molded above ground by 12 Brazilian, Greek and French sculptors over nine years, the cave is a feat in itself as the cement truly resembles rock. A French artist worked seven years with prehistoric tools and pigments to copy the paintings from photographs. The copiers even repeated holes where the prehistoric artists had inserted logs to stand on so they could reach a high ceiling to paint a circle of horses reminiscent of Chinese art."
21st Century Virtual Representation Makes Cave's Wonders A Global Experience
However, it was a collaborative venture between a variety of heritage centres, French national educational resources, and international experts on prehistory using the marvels of digital imagery that would bring the caves wonders to a global audience!
The result of their work was an outstanding museum-like website that includes text, video, topographical overlays and digitized photographs of the cave paintings. A site map allows the visitor to travel virtually throughout the Lascaux I (the actual cave network containing the original drawings) to see in high-definition quality the works etched on the walls more than 17,000 years ago.
(One word of advice...this website is filled with incredible high-definition imagery so, be sure to bring an ample supply of patience along with you as it can take some of the site’s pages a number of minutes to fully download!)
Lascaux I is a designated World Heritage Site and carries with it the title of “the Sistine Chapel of pre-history”. Through techniques such as photo scanning, digital imagery & photography, generations to come will be able to enjoy these splendid marvels of the past as the once sealed museum’s treasure trove of art is unlocked for the entire world.
Now, that is something we can all breathe easier about!
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