|Lascaux IV, Montignac, Dordogne
|Although you cannot visit the actual Lascaux Cave, Lascaux IV provides an amazing experience, immersing you in the art and culture of prehistory.
Lascaux IV, whose formal name is International Centre for Cave Art (Centre International d’Art Parietal), opened to the public in December 2016. We were fortunate enough to visit it the following year.
Located near Montignac in the lovely Vézère Valley, Lascaux IV's dramatic building, with its striking architecture, dominates the hillside and provides lovely views of the area (map).
Described as a "holistic museum and educational experience," Lascaux IV allows you to immerse yourself in prehistory and imagine yourself in the Cave almost 20,000 years ago.
Guided visits (which must be reserved on line in advance) begin with a trip in an elevator to the terrace of the building. From there you can enjoy beautiful views and then begin the descent toward the cave replica. Participants have headsets and the guides provide excellent information throughout the visit. The lighting in the caves is subtle, recreating the atmosphere that the prehistoric artists would have experienced, and highlighting certain areas.
The art itself is amazing. The guide will point out some of the most significant paintings, but your own eyes will find other details on your own. It is awe-inspiring. You know it is a replica, but the size, scope, and realistic recreation make it easy to think you are really in a cave. The care that went into creating this replica shows great respect for the site. Twenty-five artists used the same pigments as were used in the original paintings to create almost 2000 paintings and engravings in the resin rock.
When you finish the visit to the Cave (about an hour), there is lots more to see and do. Enter the Atelier de Lascaux and you are greeted with an expanse of high tech reproductions of the paintings, as well as a variety of interactive educational experiences.
Outside of the ambience of the cave, in this area you can get close to some individual images and explore them in more detail. There is plenty of information about the history of the cave and the people who lived in the area, as well as descriptions of the discovery of the cave and the work of archaeologists, artists, conservators, and others to study, understand, preserve, and reproduce this work.
And of course, after your visit you can visit the gift shop, and/or enjoy a coffee or a meal at the Café Lascaux. Or, if you'd rather leave the Cave and savor your visit in another setting, head to nearby Montignac and enjoy a meal along the river at one of the many restaurants there.
Lascaux provides visitors with the unique opportunity to connect, in some small way, with our history. We don't know what the people who did the art were trying to say, but we can conjecture and learn. We can admire the artistry and marvel at the sophistication of works that were made 17,000 years ago, in caves, with limited lighting, few resources, and challenging circumstances. These people are our ancestors, and being able to experience their art provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect on our lives and our connections over the millenia. Don't miss the chance to visit Lascaux!
And if this should whet your appetite for more prehistoric art, consider a visit to the Grotte Chauvet 2 Ardèche, near Orange, in Provence. This replica presents cave art that is 15,000 to 20,000 years older than that at Lascaux!
Lascaux IV/Centre International d’Art Parietal