Lascaux was discovered by 4 young men, 2 from the local area and 2 from Paris, in September 1940. The discovers were made responsible for guarding the cave. One was eventually put in charge.
On April 20, 1963, the cave was closed due to “white disease” – carbonic acid from the breath of all the visitors, and “green sickness” – growth of algae. After enduring for millennium, the drawings were being covered with white calcite deposits, and the light was allowing the growth of the algae. Admission is now limited to 5 prehistorians twice a week.
Lascaux 2 took 15 years to build. It is located 200 meters below the original. It replicates the two most important chambers, the Hall of the Bulls and the ‘Diverticule Axiale’, which together comprise 90% of the paintings found in the original cave. The paintings in Lascaux 2 were done by Monique Peytral with the same colors and techniques used 17,000 years ago. Lascaux 2 reproduces the faults, shadows and protuberances of the original cave.
Lascaux contains at least 600 paintings of aurochs, horses, deer, signs, and almost 1500 engravings, predominantly of horses. The ‘falling horse’ is located in the Axial Gallery. This horse is interesting because it is painted around a rock such that the artist could not see the whole horse at once. Still it is correctly drawn and maintains its scale and aspect around the rock.
At Lascaux, in addition to the familiar 3 pigments, the people were experimenting with powdered minerals and combinations and heating. The color of ochre is modified by heat. One interesting technique used to provide perspective is the way a small gap is left between the leg and the body on the leg that is behind (on the farside).
There is also a Lascaux 3 which is a traveling exhibit and Lascaux 4 which is under construction and will become the main exhibition when it is finished.