Now on show in Joburg: Art that really rocks
Replicas of ancient Lascaux cave masterpieces
Lascaux is among the most significant and beautiful sites of ancient human art. The Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa, a life-sized replica of parts of the cave walls, is on show at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg, until the end of September.
These iconic works of cave art at Montignac in the Dordogne region of France have a fascinating modern history. They have been admired, studied, spoken about and almost lost forever since their discovery.On September 12 1940, Robot, the pet dog of 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat, chased a rabbit and disappeared down a hole. Marcel hurried after his dog and discovered a cave. He called his friends. They went back with torches and discovered a treasure trove of artwork – each piece in pristine condition, having been left undisturbed for some 17,000 years.
The Lascaux caves were opened to the public. They quickly became a tourist magnet, and thousands of visitors visited Lascaux each year to view the cave art.
By now, carbon dioxide, heat, humidity and other contaminants produced by 1,200 visitors a day were visibly damaging the artworks. Humanity was at risk of losing one of its greatest treasures.
The situation reached crisis point. Scientists noted that lichens and crystals were beginning to grow on the walls.
The caves were permanently closed to the public. Limited entry was granted to researchers, scientists and preservationists.
Lascaux was inducted as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Lascaux II, an exact copy of two of the main halls within the caves (the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery), opened a little way from the original site. To date, it has attracted more than eight million visitors.
Scientists detected a new fungus growing on the cave walls. It created grey blemishes and was spreading rapidly.
Black mould was found in the cave and the site was closed to everyone, including scientists and preservationists, for three months.
Scientists discovered a new species of fungus in the cave. They named it Ochroconis lascauxensis.
Lascaux III (the touring replica of selected cave wall panels) embarked on its journey around the world.
Lascaux III opened for public viewing in SA, exhibited alongside the rock art of this country.Dr More Chakane, CEO of the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, has urged all Gautengers to visit this exhibition before it closes on October 1. “It is the kind of exhibition that shows that we are all connected through history and art. This is a great opportunity to see how artists told their stories through these incredible paintings. And although techniques may have changed, it is still how we tell and share our stories.”
• Tickets are R70 for adults, R50 for children and free for under-fours until the end of the September (including Heritage Day on September 24), with free entry for all visitors on September 12.