French archaeologists may be on the verge of discovering 'second' Lascaux cave
The Lascaux caves are a complex of caves found in the Dordogne region of southwestern France containing a sensational collection of Palaeolithic cave paintings estimated to be up to 20,000 years old. Now archaeologists believe they are on the verge of a monumental discovery as they are investigating another site that is thought to be a ‘second’ Lascaux cave system, which may contain an equally rich array of ancient rock art.
The Lascaux caves were discovered in 1940 and immediately given statutory historic monument protection due to the exceptional quality, size, sophistication and antiquity of the discovery. The cave system, which now features on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list, contains incredibly well-preserved paintings of large animals that were once native to the region and has become known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Prehistoric era”.
There have long been rumours of another cave system hidden away in a separate underground cavern that contains another set of prehistoric paintings, but it appears local authorities are now ready to take them seriously after one local family shared a secret they had kept to themselves for half a century. A woman in her 70s approached the local mayor and told him that her husband, who died several months ago, had come across a cave with prehistoric frescoes in 1962, but covered the entrance back up out of fear of bringing hassle on himself.
The mayor obviously took the report seriously because a detailed investigation into a patch of land just 4 kilometres from the Lascaux caves is now underway. The culture department of the Dordogne regional administration will soon be mapping out a 10-hectare area for “further research” and the region has been placed under surveillance to prevent amateur archaeologists from conducting their own investigations.
The Lascaux caves attracted around ten million visitors to the small town of Montignac until the caves were closed to the public in 1983 in order to protect the site from damage. While it is not possible to see the paintings in person, a fantastic website has been set up which enables you to take a realistic 3D walking tour through the caves. Local residents are, of course, hoping that the rumours are true and that a new discovery will put their town on the tourist map once again.