Perigord possesses hundreds of caves representing all but themselves 200,000 years (the Paleolithic period), of evolution which will lead man to master and the to perfect the tool, create, conceptualize and ritualize everything. I'm talking of places like Les Eyzies, La Madeleine, Le Moustier, La Micoque, Lascaux... We have now remains to prove silex that was grossly sculpted and formed into tools, sculpted rock stone blocks, drawings and symbols all over the walls of numerous caverns, and above all, the formidable, animal and beast representations in Lascaux, which full beauty is still a secret for the greatest part of it.
This swarming of art works, shelters and caves all along the Valley of the Vézère, site which was classified to be part of world patrimony, by the UNESCO, doesn't surprise us when we admire the beauty of its landscapes, cliffs overhanging the rivers and cultivated plains, dense and mysterious forests. ALL HERE, up to the very soil we see at our feet, showing us marvelous fossils (urchins, shells, leaves….)…is impregnated by humanity's soul, the life of planet Earth.
This history of the caves of LASCAUX is a recent one. We are September 1940. Two young local citizens and two refugees from from Paris equipped themselves with all the necessary material and set off up the hill above Montignac. In fact they were looking for their dog. We even know the names of the 4 boys: Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel and Simon Coencas. The elderly had convinced them that there was some secret treasure into an old dump. Believing it was nothing more than a folk tale, the boys enlarged the overgrown opening and fumbled their way down to a discovery beyond anyone's dreams, one that was virtually c-vacuum sealed by a landslide.
The 73 years old priest Abbé Breuil, came within a week and was ravished by what he called "Sistine chapel of Prehistoric Art". Dating 15,000 years B.C. Scientists, foreign artists, came to ask to this perfect example of "animal art", to reveal its secret.
When you entered Lascaux, your first impression was the majesty of a sanctuary. The realism of the paintings learns us that this people were very evoluated. Will we even know why these artists, buried so deep all their hunter's desires. Physically and mentally they must have been not very far from US, the contemporary people.
The whole world came to see the marvels but a soon as 1960 it became clear that by the worst enemy of the Lascaux treasures was the "white disease caused by carbonic acid from the breath of millions of visitors. Small green weeds began to grow on the walls and all was fading under a film of white calcic deposits.
On 20 April 1963 Lascaux was closed forever to the public. The disappointment of the public was enormous!! The deterioration stopped completely but they still allow 5 prehistorians a week to study the grottoes.
It was then decided to build an exact replica of Lascaux called Lascaux II. The facsimile is located 200 m away from the original grotto, which gives us the opportunity to have a precise idea of the artistic wealth of the grotto of Lascaux.
Quatre cents siécles d'art pariétal, Montignac, by Breuil, H.(Centre d'Etudes de la Documentation Préhistorique 1952)
Mystery of the Montignac and the Lascaux cave by Dorothy Hinshaw.
A Taste of Perigord (mars 1994), from Helen Raimes-Pèlerinages en Périgord, by Pierre Fanlac-Le Périgord (1997) by Marcel Clévenot and Eric Jung-Contes-Lascaux or the Birth of Art,GeorgesBataille(Lausanne: Skira, 1955)