Famous Paintings

What are the Lascaux Cave Paintings? Learn About This Prehistoric Site

What are the Lascaux Cave Paintings? Learn About This Prehistoric Site
Written by Noah Roy

Lascaux cave paintings

Ancient art gives us a glimpse into cultures that have existed for thousands of years. In Spain, the Altamira Cave is a well-preserved example of Stone Age paintings. However, it is not the only exhibition of prehistoric art. Outside a small village in southwest France is the site of some of the most famous examples of Paleolithic painting: Lascaux Cave.

Discovered in the mid-20th century, this series of underground chambers contains more than 600 paintings – including more than 2,000 figures – of animals that people hunted and feared during the Stone Age. While the real cave was closed to the public in 1963, life-size replicas offer visitors a chance to see the wonderful paintings by people wanting to express themselves and their lives over 17,000 years ago.

Scroll down to learn more about Lascaux Cave and its paintings.

What is Lascaux Cave?

Lascaux cave paintings

Abbe Breuil in the Lascaux Caves at La Mouthe (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

the Lascaux Cave It is actually a network of multiple caves in southwestern France covered with frescoes from the Upper Paleolithic (between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago). These image galleries are believed to have been created over generations around 17,000 years ago.

The site was first discovered in 1940 by a teenager outside the village of Montignac. He returned with a local priest who recorded the results in a series of drawings. Later, the entire site was excavated and they revealed more than 600 paintings on the walls and ceilings of the caves, mainly depicting animals from that period.

By the mid-1950s, the cave was open to the public and received thousands of visitors daily. However, no preservation methods were implemented and the plates deteriorated at a rapid rate. As a result, the caves Closed to the public since 1963. Lascaux replicas have been made in Paris and the Lascaux Museum.

Lascaux Cave Museum

Lascaux Museum (Photo: FreeProd/DepositPhotos)

cave layout

Lascaux cave paintings

Painting of a giant deer from Lascaux (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Walk around the cave

Lascaux Cave consists of several galleries of different lengths and heights. The entrance to the cave leads directly to the main portico called Bulls Hall– The most famous section of Lascaux Cave and one of the most important examples of Paleolithic art. This long trail is about 62 feet long and features several paintings of bulls, horses, a darling, and one rhinoceros. This corridor leads to two separate galleries, one of which is a dead end.

In the center of Lascaux there is a semicircular room called bend. This area is about 15 feet in diameter and is completely covered with animal carvings and abstract symbols. Most of the cave art is concentrated in this branch of it.

One of the most narrow passages in the cave is macaron room. This 100-foot long kitchen includes numerous photographs of cats and some horses at an unusual angle.

Lascaux cave paintings

Inside Lascaux Cave (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO


More than 2000 numbers Lascaux Cave Covering. Most of these animals apparently depict animal forms native to Paleolithic Europe that artists hunted, including deer, musk oxen, horses, oxen, and bison. Some images also depict predators such as big cats and bears. In the cave there is only one human figure showing the head of a bird above the man’s body.

Other images depict abstract symbols that do not have a clear meaning. These include various points, lines (straight, parallel and divergent) and shapes. These are usually placed around pictorial drawings.

Painting of a bull in Lasko

A painting of a bull (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

All the artworks in Lascaux Cave stand out for their stunning realism. These images not only show an understanding of anatomy and realism from the artists, but also knowledge of how to communicate movement (such as running animals) and sequences (arrows aimed at an animal’s body).

Materials and Techniques

Lascaux cave paintings

Inside the Lascaux Caves (Photo: Arzu çakır via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Lascaux cave art is characterized by paintings, drawings, and engravings, which were used independently of each other and sometimes together.

mural paintings From this period it was not produced with a paintbrush. Instead, artists created outlines for shapes using moss or hair and filled large areas of color blowing paint through bone or wooden tube (which had an effect similar to spray painting). Paint pigments were made from local minerals, including iron oxides (red) and charcoal (black). There is evidence that the inhabitants built a scaffolding system in order to create images on the ceilings.

Painting of a bull in Lasko

Drawing of a bull (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO International)

engraving Ask the artist to scratch the surface of the stone wall with an even solid material (most likely a rock). This technique produced a painting-like effect on the wall, where the outline of the target appears slightly lighter than the rest of the surface.

Stag carving in Lascaux Cave

Stag engraving (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)


Paleolithic Lascaux Cave

There are many theories as to why these paintings were made. Due to the focus on animals and hunting, some speculate that they were made to celebrate a successful hunt, or as a ritual before hunting.

Another theory suggests that these images were made to accompany oral storytelling, during which people would have gathered in the cave near a campfire.

Related articles:

6 Incredible Facts About Prehistoric Altamira Cave Paintings

15,000-year-old bison sculptures perfectly preserved in a French cave

Archaeologists discover children’s handprints in a 200,000-year-old cave

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Noah Roy

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