Lascaux - Threats

Threats

The opening of the Lascaux cave after World War II changed the cave environment. The breath of 1,200 visitors per day, presence of light and changes in air circulation have created a number of problems. In the late 1950s appearance of lichens and crystals on the walls led to closure of the caves in 1963. This led to restriction of access to the real caves to a few visitors every week and the creation of a replica cave for visitors to Lascaux. In 2001, the authorities in charge of Lascaux changed the air conditioning system which resulted in regulation of the temperature and humidity. When the system had been established, an infestation of Fusarium solani, a white mold, began spreading rapidly across the cave ceiling and walls. The mold is considered to have been present in the cave soil and exposed by the work of tradesmen, leading to the spread of the fungus which was treated with quicklime. In 2007, a new fungus, which has created grey and black blemishes, began spreading in the real cave.

Organized through the initiative of the French Ministry of Culture, an international symposium titled “Lascaux and Preservation Issues in Subterranean Environments” was held in Paris on February 26 and 27, 2009 under the chairmanship of Jean Clottes. It brought together nearly three hundred participants from seventeen countries with the goal of confronting research and interventions conducted in Lascaux Cave since 2001 with the experiences gained in other countries in the domain of preservation in subterranean environments. The proceedings of this symposium were published in 2011. Seventy-four specialists in fields as varied at biology, biochemistry, botany, hydrology, climatology, geology, fluid mechanics, archaeology, anthropology, restoration and conservation, from numerous countries (France, United States, Portugal, Spain, Japan, and others) contributed to the realization of this publication.

The problem is ongoing, as are efforts to control the microbial and fungal growths in the cave. The fungal infection crises have led to the establishment of an International Scientific Committee for Lascaux and rethinking how, and how much, human access should be permitted in caves containing prehistoric art.

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