The Lascaux Caves are in peril.
Mold, fungus and bacteria began plaguing the walls and ceiling of this hidden treasure within just a dozen years of its discovery.1 No one knows why the invasive life forms have taken hold so aggressively. Is it because humans had not been in those caves for thousands of years and now human presence was toxic? Was it the polluted air of France in the modern age?
The authorities in France have tried several solutions over the years to control the climate in the caves, but some believe the remedies have only made the problem worse. Great pains are being taken to restore the caves to their original condition. Access to the caves is now restricted so that since 2006, only researchers and restoration experts may visit in person.
A public museum called Lascaux II, built just a few miles away, is a duplicate of the two main caverns,2 with identical images drawn using the same materials. If you can’t go in person, the next best way to experience the Lascaux Caves is to do a virtual tour via this link: www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en#/en/02_00.xml
When studying ancient civilization, the home educator has a lot of great resources to “visit” the Lascaux Caves. Take one of several virtual tours on the internet, and see the many images from one or all of the many rooms in the Caves.
Project: Create your own “cave painting.”
Once your students get to “experience” Lascaux, they can make their own cave drawing.
The materials you need are:
- A brown paper grocery bag
- Some chalk pastels (black, red, brown, rust, beige, white)
- And some cheap hairspray
Step One: Tear out (don’t cut) a shape out of the one side of a brown paper shopping bag. Use the non-printed side.
Step Two: Crumple up the brown paper bag piece in to a tight ball in your fist. Then un-crumple it and smooth it flat. This bumpy, weathered surface will mimic the cave wall.
Step Three: Using a black chalk pastel, outline the image of an animal that is found in the caves of Lascaux. Remember that the drawings were primitive, so focus on basic shapes rather than details. Options include a Chinese horse, a bull, an Oxen, a red deer.
Step Four: Once you are pleased with the outline, fill in the upper part of the torso and head with either red, brown, rust pastel, and then blend. Use just one finger to blend the brownish color up against the black outline and spread and press the chalk pastel into the brown paper.
Step Five: use a lighter pastel, like beige or white into the belly portion of the animal. Use a clean finger to blend the lighter pastel gently into the darker color in the body.
Step Six: Go back and outline again in black pastel.
Step Seven: Spray the finished drawing with a light coat of cheap aeresol hairspray from at least 12 inches away.
To experience touring the Lascaux Caves:
Are you receiving the See the Light newsletter filled with free art tutorials and more? Subscribe below and receive the free His Eye is on the Sparrow art project.