Lascaux Cave Walls: Prehistoric Drawings
Sisse Brimberg@photography.nationalgeographic.com Lascaux Grotto
The waters spoke into the ear of the sky.
You stags have leapt across millennia
From darkness in the rocks to the air’s caresses.
The hunter driving you, the spirit watching you,
How I love their passion, viewed from my wide shore!
And what if, in a moment of hope, I had their eyes ?
*All his life Char loved art. The poem above is taken from a sequence he wrote about the cave-paintings at Lascaux which he visited after the Second World War. It is titled after the stags of the frieze there. In it Char looks across the whole of human history in wonder at the beauty of the paintings at Lascaux. Maybe also we are being shown Char’s belief in the power of beauty to save us, and how long it has done so.”
Excerpt From Poetry in Translation May 29, 2010
No one knows exactly how the famous cave of Lascaux was discovered. According to one account, on September 8, 1940, 17-year-old Marcel Ravidat and three of his friends were looking for a lost treasure supposedly buried in a secret tunnel in the woods near Montignac, France. His dog Robot ran on ahead and became stuck in a hole. As the boys pulled Robot to safety, they discovered that the hole seemed bottomless. Other accounts, however, report that the boys knew about the strange hole already. Still others suggest that Robot never had anything to do with the discovery of Lascaux. No matter how the hole was found, what happened next is not in dispute. Marcel Ravidat and his friends were certain that they had found an entrance to the treasure-filled tunnel.
Ravidat first tried to explore the site himself, but without a light, he didn't get far. On September 13, he and his friends returned, this time prepared with a homemade lantern. Carefully, they made their way down into the cave and across a large room, about 100 feet long and 40 feet wide. It turned into a narrow passage and as they entered it, they raised their lamp higher and discovered that the walls were filled with the shapes of many animals. The next day, the boys made another remarkable discovery. Near the back of the cave was a shaft (now called The Pit) that Ravidat decided to explore. As his three friends held a rope, Ravidat climbed sixteen feet to the bottom of The Pit. He took a few steps, quickly realizing that The Pit was a dead end. But when Ravidat turned to retrace his steps, he discovered a painting of a bison knocking down a person: the person had a bird's head and four-fingered hands.
Soon the boys decided to tell their schoolteacher, Leon Laval, about their discovery. They knew Laval was interested in archaeology and would know what to do about their fantastic find. Monsieur Laval explored the cave and wrote the following description of his adventure: Once I arrived in the great hall accompanied by my young heroes, I uttered cries of admiration at the magnificent sight that met my eyes.... Thus I visited the galleries and remained just as enthusiastic when confronted with the unexpected revelations which increased as I advanced. I had literally gone mad. In a short time, word spread about the fantastic paintings of Lascaux.
--Story From James M. Deem’s “Story Museum”