Tag Archives: Lascaux Caves

This Week in History: Lascaux Paintings Discovered 1940

On September 12, 1940 near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings was discovered by four teenagers while chasing their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.

The Lascaux grotto’s main cavern is 66 feet wide and 16 feet high. The walls of the cavern are decorated with  600+painted and drawn animals and symbols and nearly 1,500 engravings. Animals depicted include horses, red deer, stags, bovines, felines, and what appear to be mythical creatures. There is only one human figure depicted in the cave: a bird-headed man with an erect phallus. Archaeologists believe that the cave was used over a long period of time as a center for hunting and religious rites. The cavern is now closed to visitors because of degradation of the paintings.    Rita Bay

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Ancient Wall Art

 The earliest use of pigments dates to about 400,000 – 350,000 BC.  Pigments, such as ochres and iron oxides, and  paint grinding equipment from that period were discovered in a cave in Zambia. Archaeologists uncovered evidence that early humans used paint for body decoration. (See ochre pic)

The earliest recorded information consists of paleolithic cave paintings in Chauvet Cave in France circa 30,000 BC. Magnificent paintings covered the wall featuring animals in motion, signed with hand prints of children in red ochre. Many cave paintings are deep inside caves, often in inaccessible locations. They would have been  painted in darkness lit by small oil lamps or torches. The paintings may not have been for public display, but were for ritual purposes. The Lascaux Caves, a cave complex in southwestern France, contain some of the most remarkable paleolithic cave paintings in the world, from about 15,000 years ago.

Tomorrow, Figurative Art    Rita Bay

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