Marja-Leena Rathje
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fungus in Lascaux Caves

Image from The Painted Gallery

This is disturbing news. After reading it, I had to go and revisit the online Lascaux Caves site to marvel over the great art, such as the image above.

'A pernicious white fungus has spread "like snow" in the caves of Lascaux in France where the fabulous rock art has been described as the "Sistine Chapel of prehistory".

The fungus is believed to have been introduced after contractors began to install a new air conditioning system that was meant to preserve the precious 17,000-year-old cave paintings from the heat and humidity generated by their many visitors.

The historical importance of Lascaux is immeasurable and any damage to its art would have serious repercussions given the cave's status as an evolutionary icon for the development of human art and consciousness.

The figures are so modernist in design that when Picasso emerged from the cave soon after it was first discovered in 1940 he exclaimed: "We have invented nothing." '

Read more in The Independent.

Related links: Time magazine and Lascaux Caves replica, an earlier post.

Marja-Leena | 10/05/2006 | 6 comments
themes: Rock Art & Archaeology


We are both blessed and cursed by our advances in science and technology. At this point I count our blessings that the art has been comprehensively photographed and reproduced so that it can be seen and appreciated everywhere, and by future generations. And also thank goodness there is the reproduction in Lascaux2, where as I have seen, the experience is similar to if not identical with seeing the original.

Archaeology and conservation achieve so many wondrous things every year, I suppose it is inevitable that some horrific mistakes are made as well as the destructions of nature itself. Let's just hope that it is not as bad as one suspects, and that it provides a lesson for future attempts at conservation.

Oh, geez. Talk about destroying the village in order to save it!

Omega and Dave, thanks for chiming in - you have both summarized the situation very well!

Do you know if they've found a way to remove the mold without harming the work?

Oh no! I hope they figure out some way to stop it. Very disturbing. The caves at Lascaux must have been where my Art 100 course began, where art began.

Elise, I don't know - I sure hope so! It is a small consolation that the replica Laskaux II exists for us.

Leslee - indeed it is very disturbing. I don't remember Lascaux in my art history classes, though it was long ago. I agree that Lascaux and many other prehistoric sites are where 'art began' which is why they are so important.