Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux

lascaux

A story for today which links past and present. Today I heard on France Culture a programme about Lascaux and it set me thinking.

In 1949 I was teaching history to a class of 11 year olds in Paddock House Grammar school, Oswald twistle ( the very name of the place is redolent of English History and Language.) They were eager to learn and I had something special to tell then about. It was a discovery which had been made 9 years before on 12 September but because of the war and the remoteness of Montignac it was known to very few.

I had heard of it on the radio so I started telling my class about the boys in the french countryside walking with their dog when suddenly he disappeared down a rabbit hole, it was a true story of Alice in Wonderland.

One boy enlarged the hole to try to find his dog, found himself in a small tunnel and then slid down into a cave. There was hardly any light but he came out telling the others that he had seen wonderful paintings of animals on the walls. They told their schoolmaster and that was how the world knew about Lascaux.

Seven years later in May 1956 I was travelling in the Dordogne with Tony, our friend Eric Jewesbury and Robin, then 8 months old. We visited the fabulous cave and saw the paintings made by cromagnan men.

Many other people came and the visits damaged the cave so much that they were closed to all but scientists in 1963. None of us can see them anymore, the wonder of masses of people was destroying them. Since then an exact copy of the cave of Lascaux has been built next to the real one. So now people go to this musem to see what the reality a few metres away looks like.

I do not want to draw a moral but it seems to me that Lascaux points clearly to the strange and destructive relationship modern man has with pre history.

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