12th of September 61 years ago, the Lascaux cave paintings were discovered in theLascaux grotto. Detailed pictures of red deers, bovines and cows were documented in the main cavern of theLascaux grotto. Archaeologists believed that it was a centre for hunting and religious rites.
Interestingly, the grotto was opened as a tourism site in 1948 after WWII but closed in 1963 due to destruction of the cave interior which damaged the pictures. A replica of the cave was opened in 1983 thereafter.
This got me wondering, with a little digression, the beautiful Waitomo Caves that I had been exploring earlier in New Zealand. I stepped into this tiny cave, probably paling in comparison to the Jenolan Caves at Blue Mountainsat first encounter. As we proceeded along the cavern, we spotted little glowing strands…Glow-Worms! I do not appreciate creepy crawlies but this was such an amazing sight it was worth every second of awe, even in that freezing winter. For those who have not been frequent cave-explorers – caves are capable of maintaining a relatively constant temperature, but a really cold one too. Fortunately for me, the cave was warmer than its exterior! So I continued down the narrow pathway and we approached sounds of running waters. Inching forward in the pitch dark, we arrived at a little boat, navigated solely by the guide’s body weight and a rope that stretches across the cave walls! That was not the main point. Looking up in the little boat, everything was like stars. It was something I had never seen in my life – in that kind of darkness, there was no fear, there was no anxiety – solely a peaceful tinkle of water flowing, a quietness so soothing, and these millions of glow-worms lit up the cave like a wondrous night sky out of Disney’s Aladdin.
Upon reading about the replica of theLascauxcaves, I began to wonder if I had merely explored a commercialized man-made cave instead of the bona fide Waitomo. While I had my reservations of its authenticity, it was an unforgettable experience that I wished I had embarked upon 7 years earlier.
Lascaux grotto – my next destination – it may not seem much to anyone, probably equally commercialized for tourists. But this does not deter my interests in this site. Have you ever wondered what its true purpose was? Anyone could say, “hunting and religious rites”, but is that true? I do not discount the great works of archaeologists and prehistoric-art scientists, but one must always remain inquisitive and keep thinking – dig deeper, think, imagine, whatever it may be – you never know where this brings you.
Who painted these pictures?
Why did they paint these pictures?
How did it serve them – for evil or for goodness?
Hosting paleolithic cave paintings in Montignac,Lascaux is of monumental importance to prehistory – of which a tumultuous economic environment has reduced most people’s interest and enthusiasm in its preservation. I wouldn’t want to postpone another day for this trip, if I could’ve helped it.
We need to move ahead and not be burdened by the past – we are often told to do so – look ahead and be optimistic. I’m not so sure this works, at least not for the eternal sceptic in me. Without reflections, moving forward is congruent to stumbling over known obstacles. Why do we advocate such behaviour?
Doesn’t matter if the world chooses to give up on prehistory – those who understand the intricacies of it will persevere.