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

  • Gorillas, monkeys and lemurs among primates facing extinction, report says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Gorillas, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are in danger of becoming extinct, and scientists say it's our fault our closest living relatives are in trouble, a new international study warns. About 60 per cent of the more than 500 primate species are "now threatened with extinction" and three out of four primate species have shrinking populations, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Source
  • Will he be extradited? All eyes on Assange after Manning clemency

    Tech & Science CBC News
    President Barack Obama's decision to commute Chelsea Manning's sentence has brought fresh attention to another figure involved in the Army leaker's case: Julian Assange. On Twitter last week, Assange's anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks posted, "If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case. Source
  • Ambulance dispatchers say they're getting electrical jolts through their headsets

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Workers at an ambulance dispatch centre in Hamilton say they are enduring electric shocks at work, but say their employer isn't taking their complaints about it seriously enough. Dispatchers say they have been jolted through their headsets at their electronic workstations, where they receive emergency 9-1-1 calls and dispatch paramedics. Source
  • World's primates facing extinction crisis, new report says

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Gorillas, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are in danger of becoming extinct, and scientists say it's our fault that our closest living relatives are in trouble, a new international study warns. About 60 per cent of the more than 500 primate species are "now threatened with extinction" and 3 out of 4 primate species have shrinking populations, according to a study published in Wednesday's journal Science Advances. Source
  • Binational report: Laws needed to protect Great Lakes from farm runoff

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Voluntary measures to protect the Great Lakes from farm manure have proven insufficient and governments should now turn their minds to legislation, a binational report released Wednesday concludes. While the issue is of concern everywhere except Lake Superior, the problem is especially acute in Lake Erie, where out-of-control algae growth has created dead zones. Source
  • Is this the not-so-magical explanation for Africa's strange 'fairy circles'?

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The forces behind the mysterious "fairy circles" that dot a desert in southern Africa do not appear to be supernatural, but they are intricate and complex. The formations are circles of land dozens of feet wide that create a stunning pattern in the Namib desert and have mystified locals and scientists for ages. Source
  • Sleeping man wakened by heat and flames from Samsung S5 phone

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A Toronto man says he woke up to "massive flames shooting out the sides" of his Samsung S5 phone on Tuesday morning. Mario Jakab went to bed around midnight on Tuesday, and woke up from the heat and firework-like sounds coming from his bedside table. Source
  • Edmonton mechanic creates finger-saving wedding band

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Ken Rice knows a wedding band can cost you your finger. When thrusting his grease-covered hands under the hoods of trucks and cars, the Edmonton mechanic has to be careful not to snag his titanium ring on any moving parts. Source
  • Climate change means more 'mild days' ahead for Canada, study suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Research suggests climate change could increase the number of nice days Canadians enjoy. Most global warming studies have focused on extreme weather or broad-scale averages of temperature and precipitation. But Karin van der Wiel, of New Jersey's Princeton University, said that's not how people will experience their new circumstances. Source
  • CIA's declassified documents: Highlights of the 13 million pages out now

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Secret messages. Psychic experiments. UFO sightings. CTVNews.ca plunged into the heart of the Central Intelligence Agency archives (read: one writer browsed declassified files online), to dredge up the weirdest and wildest highlights from 13 million pages of declassified documents. Source