Lascaux Cave Walls: Prehistoric Drawings

Lescaux Cave Walls France Sisse Brimberg Sisse  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 ?

---Rene Char

blackstag Lascaux Lascaux Caves Artist Unknown 15,000-17,000 B.P.

*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

Lascauxhollowstag  Lascaux Caves 17,000 B.P. Artist Unknown

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.

cave drawing26c8-5ee0-40d6-aa83-ddbd24c92bd3

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”

Pavane Op. 50 G. Faure, Meyers-Cutsinger duet


  1. I had no concept of how large the paintings are. In my mind, I saw them as much smaller. The amazing National Geographic photo gives such perspective on so many levels.

  2. As I pondered the cave paintings, and watched the focused serenity of the two musicians playing that wonderful Faure duet, I felt myself in complete alignment with the creative process – or more metaphysically, the co-creative process. Such a sense of joy and peace. Heaven perhaps.
    This weekend in the place I find my spiritual nourishment on Sunday mornings, I was reconnected to the idea of the “space” or “gap” between our thoughts (much like the space between railroad cars as they go by). Eckhart Tolle, and Deepak Chopra, among others, have written about the gap as the space where there is nothing but pure possibility. I think it is in this space that one finds the inspiration to paint something extraordinary on a cave wall, or finds the perfection in the music. Watch the musician on the right at the end of the piece. He is totally there.
    It makes me realize how much time I spend paying attention to the endless clattering of my thoughts, and how little focus to the possibilities waiting for me in the spaces. What co-creation is calling to me?

  3. I am deeply moved by your meditation on the Lascaux paintings and the Faure piece. I believe that the Romantics wrote also about that space of possibility in the "in between" almost a meditative, other-worldly space that can be given over to poetic or artistic imagination. Yes, the guitarist on the right, is "there" as you say. He caresses the guitar lovingly throughout the Faure piece, so that one cannot tell make a separation between the music and the one who plays it. He is one with it and the silence at the end is filled with that unity of being. "Co-creation" is a fine word. I found myself listening to the music several times and looking at the cave paintings at the same time. It was a very nice effect.


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