It is one of the greatest international successes of Salisbury Archaeology. The construction of the Centre international de l’art pariétal Montignac-Lascaux started back in 2015. Salisbury Archaeology expert teams worked together with German archaeology specialists to carry out an exceptional assignment for the Lascaux 4 project: replica production of objects collected in the cave, and the presentation of the painting techniques and tools used by the Paleolithic artists.
We took part namely in the realization of the interactive exhibition area nr. 3. Through this area called Understand Lascaux – Lascaux’s artists workshop (Comprendre Lascaux – Lascaux, l’Atelier) pigments, tool reconstructions and replicas of objects (the ones found on the site) are showcased in display cases. The visitors not only can see here the raw materials and tools used by the artists for the creation of more than 17,000 years old rock paintings and engravings but are introduced to their creation process as well including the fabrication of the pigments and the different paint techniques (outlining or creating a sense of depth, finishing touches) the artist may have applied. For the first time, here, this is a facsimile that represents the almost entire original cave. The Centre, using the latest technologies and cutting-edge techniques, is situated near the Lascaux cave and opened in December 2016.
The Lascaux cave paintings in southwest France are one of the most important ensembles of the Upper Paleolithic parietal art creations both with regard to their quality and in terms of the quantity.
Lascaux is a 250 m long complex cave with several areas and contains nearly 2,000 prehistoric figures painted or incised into the stone.
They primarily consist of images of large animals (aurochs, goats, equines, bisons, stags) most of which have lived in the area at that time, and abstract signs. These works of art, estimated to be more than 17,000 years old, are today added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with others prehistoric sites in the Vézère valley.
The entry of the cave with this unique heritage of the history of mankind was discovered by four young French students in 1940.
During the fifties, the cave has become one of the most visited sites by tourists but the exhalations of the visitors, the presence of light and changes in air circulation threatened – and still threatens – the artworks which led to the closure of the cave in 1963.
In the meanwhile, the preventive conservation and actions to improve the knowledge and dissemination of the Lascaux wall monument painting art are still ongoing. A facsimile reproducing 90% of the original paintings can be seen in an artificial cave just a few meters from the original one since 1983 (Lascaux 2). The reproduction of the rest of the paintings has been touring the world since 2012 (Lascaux 3).
The project Lascaux 4 opens a new chapter in the promotion and popularization of the Lascaux cave.
The main objective of the Lascaux International Centre of Art parietal is to introduce the visitor to this art first by the contemplation of the artwork, then through their possible interpretations.
One of the major innovations is the full-scale facsimile that reproduces the almost entire original cave and its, as far as possible, the original internal environment.
It allows visitors to enjoy in an unparalleled way the monumental paintings in an authentic cave atmosphere.
One of the interpretation galleries consists of an interactive exhibition where visitors can discover the techniques and tools of the art creators of that time. It is there that the object replicas and other items realized by Salisbury Archaeology are exposed: mortar and pestle for grinding pigments, chalk, flint burins and coloring stone tools and the decorated fat-burning lamp collected two years after the discovery of the cave.
The use of the original techniques and raw stone material collected from local sources known in the prehistory made possible to produce replicas as close to the original as possible.
For the painting tools, we delivered different tool reconstructions, such as tubes supposedly used to blow paint on the rocks, leather stencils to create the sharp outlines of part of an animal’s body, brushes and tools used for the pigment production. We also collected from original raw material sources iron earth pigments, red ochre, yellow ochre, mineral form of manganese oxide that gives black and kaolin used for white.
The President of the French Republic, François Hollande inaugurated the 8,500 m2 new exhibition and interpretation centre in December 2016.
For more details and videos:
Official site of the project Lascaux 4: http://www.projet-lascaux.com/en
Video of the visitors’ centre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FqPO9-vdy0
Site of the Centre international de l’art pariétal Montignac-Lascaux: http://www.lascaux.fr/en