September 12, 1940: Discovery of Lascaux cave paintings

September 12, 1940: Discovery of Lascaux cave paintings
September 12, 1940: Discovery of Lascaux cave paintings

The story of the discovery of the prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, in the Dordogne region of southwest France, is one worthy of a Boys’ Own adventure ripping yarn. On 12 September 1940, Marcel Ravidat, aged 18, was walking his dog Robot in the hills outside the town of Montignac. Robot, scampering along the hillside, suddenly disappeared from view.

Going On A Journey

At 18, Marcel Ravidat had a budding career as a mechanic in the area. On September 12, 1940, he went on an adventure with a few of his friends. They didn’t want to do something basic like chase squirrels, either. They wanted to locate an underground passage. Like Alice In Wonderland, Ravidat found a hole leading to the Lascaux caves. Upon entering the area, he found 1,500 engravings and 600 paintings plastered around the walls.

Gotta Sketch This One

After making the discovery, Ravidat knew this was something important. He enlisted the help of Catholic priest Henri Breuil. Aside from his work in the church, Breuil won accolades for his cave paintings. Breuil didn’t come alone for this journey, either. Prehistory Museum curator Denis Peyrony joined him to witness this greatness in person. After sketches were made, they opened this cave to the general public. On July 14, 1948, they held the grand opening.

Keeping The Tradition Going

Things were going fine until the growing amount of visitors ruined the wall paintings. To prevent further damage, the cave was closed in 1963. Fortunately, Breuil’s sketches helped create Lascaux II. Opened in 1983, this area replicates the paintings Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery. In 2012, they decided to take it on the road with Lascaux 3. In 2016, Lascaux 4 was opened in Paris, and the plethora of folks going through its doors was a shock to residents. “Local people have been understandably concerned about the volume of visitors,” admitted the director, Guillaume Colombo. “But when we invited them for a preview last week, they understood completely what we are trying to do and loved it,” director Guillaume Colombo told France Today. While people might be tired of sequels, Lascaux seems to be doing just fine.

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