Tourists will finally be able to experience France’s stunning 18,000-year-old Lascaux Cave paintings in a perfect full-sized replica setting, from December 15, when the €66 million project opens its doors for the first time.
The original cave has been closed to visitors since 1963 because the fragile paintings were being damaged.
The new replica, which took four years to build, is a 1:1 identical copy of the entire cave system, complete with perfect copies of all the paintings which have made the UNESCO world heritage site caves world-famous.
“It’s the first time that we’ve reconstructed the entire Lascaux cave,” Jean-Pierre Chadelle, an archaeologist working with the Dordogne regional authority, told the media.
Visitors will have the full 4-D experience in the reconstructed cave system, and will be exposed to the temperatures, dampness, and atmosphere of the real cave. Flashlights will be necessary to navigate the complex.
The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne, and were first discovered by accident in September 1940. Since then, they have become one of the most recognizable icons of Upper Paleolithic culture, noted for their intricate and detailed depictions of aurochs (a now extinct large wild cattle), horses, and deer.
The images were all painted onto the walls using red, yellow, and black colors made up from iron oxide (ochre), haematite, and goethite. Some of the images were painted, while others were sprayed on—most likely by blowing through a tube.
Over 900 of the paintings are of animals, including 364 paintings of horses, 90 stags, and numerous cattle and bison. There are also seven cats, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and one human. The most famous section of the cave is the Hall of the Bulls, where the largest painting is 17 feet long.