French artists finish replica of 'magical' cave paintings

MONTIGNAC, France - An army of artisans have laid down their paintbrushes, chisels and pigments after three years of painstaking work to create a true-to-life replica of renowned Stone Age cave paintings long hidden away in southwestern France.

See Full Article

"Absolutely all the work you see on the wall has been engraved, worked and sculpted, chiselled by hand, with little paintbrushes and sometimes even tools used in dentistry," said Francis Ringenbach, the artistic director of the project to replicate the 18,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings.

The meticulously faithful copy of what has been dubbed the "Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art" is now ready to be transported one segment at a time -- 46 all together -- and installed just down the road from the original at a site semi-buried in a hillside in Montignac, in the Dordogne region.

The International Centre of Parital (rock wall) Art, 150 metres long (500 feet) and nine metres high, designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta, will open by the end of the year.

The nearly 2,000 Upper Paleolithic wall paintings depicting rhinos, horses, bison, deer and panthers make up Europe's most important collection of prehistoric art and were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1979.

The caves, discovered in 1940 by four teenagers, quickly became a massive tourist draw, with around a million people flocking to see the work of the oldest known modern humans, who came to Europe from Africa via Asia.

Authorities closed them to the public in 1963 out of concern over the danger posed by humans to the delicate micro-climate.

A limited set of reproductions have been on display in Montignac since 1983, while Chicago's Field Museum hosted the first exhibit outside France of copies of the paintings last year titled "Scenes from the Stone Age".

The 57 million-euro ($65 million) project to replicate the entire set has married cutting-edge technology with a desire for the utmost authenticity in the reproduction.

Ringenbach, himself a sculptor, says the need to be as faithful as possible to the original slowed the team down.

"Sometimes one has to spend hours reproducing just 10 square centimetres (1.5 square inches)," he says.

A 'magical' feeling

The artists benefitted from 3D digital scans of the original paintings that were projected onto the walls, creating a task akin to using tracing paper as they applied layer upon layer of natural pigments.

Chief painter Gilles Lafleur said of the original works: "We try to understand them really, to understand how and why they were painted this way."

But he admits that "time has taken its toll and these animals don't look the way they would have when they were painted. Time has had a visible impact, so we must also recreate that."

Ringenbach says he doffs his cap to the talent of our ancient forebears who only had rudimentary tools to create their masterpieces.

"They were extraordinary technicians, reproducing animal likenesses from memory with their highly vivid movements," he marvels.

Reproducing the originals is, he says, a "magical" feeling.

Whereas the smaller-scale original museum could give only "limited insight" into the site's significance, "here, we reach a whole new level in terms of helping people to understand what Lascaux represents for science, the history of art, prehistory."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Scientists may have found out why whales are so big

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Scientists think they have answered a whale of a mystery: How the ocean creatures got so huge so quickly. A few million years ago, the largest whales, averaged maybe 15 feet long. Source
  • Canadian students win big at robotics world championship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    For the second time in 15 years, Canadian students excelled at a global robotics competition. Toronto’s Bayview Glen School came in first out of 32,000 teams at the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) LEGO League world festival, held in St. Source
  • Egypt moves bed, chariot of King Tut to new museum

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAIRO -- Egypt has safely transported two unique items, a funerary bed and a chariot belonging to the famed pharaoh King Tutankhamun from a museum in central Cairo to a new one on the other side of the city. Source
  • Flood prediction, climate change impacts on water studied at new Canmore lab

    Tech & Science CBC News
    At a new research lab in Canmore, Alta., scientists are studying the impact of climate change on water, glaciers and snow, and developing tools to predict and warn people about future floods. The Coldwater Laboratory, led by John Pomeroy, recently moved from the Barrier Lake Field Station in Kananaskis Country to the Bow Valley. Source
  • Battery boast, better viewing angles for refreshed Microsoft Surface

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Microsoft is refreshing its Surface Pro tablet with longer battery life and faster processors. The new, fifth-generation device — simply called Surface Pro — won’t look or feel drastically different from its predecessor. But Microsoft is hoping its under-the-hood improvements will help it compete with newer laptop-tablet hybrids from Samsung and others. Source
  • Trump budget cuts funding for clean air and water programs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Trump Administration budget released Tuesday slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly one-third, laying off thousands of employees while imposing dramatic cuts to clean air and water programs. The White House's proposed spending plan for the EPA amounts to less than $5.7 billion, a 31 per cent cut from the current budget year, according to a briefing provided in advance to the media. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts tackle urgent station repairs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Spacewalking astronauts are making urgent repairs at the International Space Station. Commander Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer went out Tuesday morning, three days after a critical relay box abruptly stopped working. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts pull off urgent station repairs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Spacewalking astronauts completed urgent repairs at the International Space Station on Tuesday, replacing equipment that failed three days earlier and restoring a backup for a vital data-relay system. It took commander Peggy Whitson much longer than expected to install the spare unit. Source
  • Mudlarking: History buffs dig up priceless treasures along London's River Thames

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Sift through the mud on the shores of a Canadian river and you'd be lucky to find a lost necklace amid the washed-up bottle caps and beer cans. But take a walk along the edge of London's River Thames, and there's a good chance you'll find a piece of ancient history. Source
  • Computer beats Chinese champion in ancient game of Go

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WUZHEN, China - A computer defeated China's top player of the ancient board game go on Tuesday in the latest test of whether artificial intelligence can master one of the last games that machines have yet to dominate. Source