The Caves of Lascaux – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Francesco Bandarin [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (]
Francesco Bandarin [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (]

The Caves of Lascaux, together with several other prehistoric sites and caves in the Vézère valley in France, have been listed since 1979 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves, which lie in Montignac in the Dordogne, were first discovered in 1940. Because of their rich decoration, they are considered the most famous works of art dating from the Old Stone Age. The cave paintings date from about 15,000 to 10,000 BC and were made with brown, yellow, red and black colours. The works are attributed to the Magdalénian Culture.

Lascaux II
Reproduction of cave paintings in Lascaux II. Jack Versloot [CC BY 2.0].

The paintings

The images in Lascaux mainly depict animals such as horses, deer, reindeer, bison, rhinoceroses and prehistoric oxen known as aurochs. The level of preservation of the drawings and the colours is remarkable. The images vary from line drawings and etchings to paintings with large painted surfaces.

Lampe a graisse - Lascaux

Oil lamp filled with deer fat found in de caves of Lascaux Olielamp, about 19.000 years old. This object is placed in the National Prehistoric Museum in Lez Euzies de Tayac ((Sémhur [CC BY-SA 4.0]))

Art in danger – the new Lascaux

Because of the threat to the cave paintings by bacteria and fungi, the caves have been closed to the general public since 1963. In 1984 a replica of the cave was opened to the public 200 metres away from the real cave: this is known as Lascaux II. The new underground museum known as Lascaux IV was opened in 2016.

Lascaux-IV 29
Lascaux IV. © Traumrune / Wikimedia Commons.


Lascaux II Lieu-dit Lascaux 24290 Montignac

Text Nadine Lemmers

Translation Alun Harvey


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