Lascaux in brief
Where is Lascaux?
Lascaux is located in the township of Montignac, in France’s southwestern Perigord region.
What is Lascaux?
Lascaux is a cave once frequented by prehistoric humans who embellished the cave with paintings and engravings. Lascaux is one of the most famous prehistoric art sites.
How long ago was Lascaux?
Early humans decorated and spent time at Lascaux about 20,000 years ago, that’s 200 centuries ago. Because the cave’s art and engravings cannot be precisely dated, estimates about the cave’s heyday are based on objects discovered in the cave.
What is rock art?
Rock art includes any artwork painted or engraved on natural stone walls. Modern humans began creating rock art approximately 50,000 years ago. Proof of these artistic exploits can be found just about everywhere around the world. This art form constitutes a precious legacy left by our prehistoric ancestors.
Who were the Lascaux artists?
The works found at Lascaux were created by the Cro-Magnons, the Homo sapiens who lived in Europe between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. They are modern humans, just like us.
What about the Neanderthals?
The Neanderthals, also known by their scientific name Homo neanderthalensis, were hominids who lived in Europe and Asia during the same period as Homo sapiens except they disappeared about 30,000 years ago. They might have come across the Cro-Magnons before the era of Lascaux. The Neanderthals are close cousins of the Homo sapiens and ressembled them except for their smaller size, their elongated skull and the absence of a discernable chin.
Were there dinosaurs at the time of Lascaux?
Definitely not. Dinosaurs disappeared long before the appearance of the first prehistoric humans. The first hominids wandered the Earth about 7 millions years ago, while the dinosaurs ruled the Earth about 65 million years ago. Their paths never crossed.
What did the Cro-Magnons wear?
Their clothing and footwear were made from the pelts of the animals they hunted. Eyed needles made of bones and buttons made of ivory found in the cave serve as proof of their sewing skills. Some researchers believe that they had already invented weaving and could make clothing from plant fibres. The Cro-Magnons also wore charms such as necklaces made from sculpted teeth and beaded headdresses made from sea shells.
Did the Cro-Magnons live in the cave at Lascaux?
Prehistoric humans would not have lived in the cave. The Cro-Magnons were nomadic and followed the migration of the animals they hunted for food. They lived in temporary shelters, often in tents made from animal pelts stretched onto wooden stakes and also under rock faces. Caves were much too cold and dark, and would have trapped the smoke from their campfires.
How did the Cro-Magnons see inside the cave at Lascaux?
The Cro-Magnons used two types of lighting: torches and oil lamps. Since fire has been domesticated for some 800,000 years, the Cro-Magnons knew how to start a fire at any given moment, either by rapidly rubbing a stick against dry wood, or with a make-shift lighter (striking flint against pyrite).
What did the Cro-Magnons eat?
The Cro-Magnon were omnivores and primarily ate reindeer meat cooked over the fire. They would also eat fish, eggs and birds depending on the season, and would also pick fruits, berries and mushrooms.
Why did the Cro-Magnons draw on cave walls?
No one really knows but many theories have been proposed. Was the cave at Lascaux a spiritual or religious sanctuary? Was it a ritual site? Was it reserved for initiation ceremonies or for shamanistic practice? The mystery remains.
Meanwhile, in Québec…
While Cro-Magnons were busy painting at Lascaux, Québec was still buried under a kilometer of ice. The glaciers had to recede before the first humans could begin wandering on Québec soil about 11,000 years ago. Not long after, the first paintings and etchings began appearing here as well.