Save Lascaux Prehistoric Cave Art
Members of the International Committee
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The Minister of Culture
The Cave of Lascaux in the Dordogne region of southwest France is well-known as the Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art. Proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1976, Lascaux contains the most famous and complex composition of prehistoric paintings in the world.
In 1999 a decision was made by the Government of France to replace the aging air-circulating machine which had been in place and working well with the interior climate of Lascaux since the 1960s. This cave sensitive machine was replaced with a totally inappropriate, ill-fitted air conditioning machine.
The consequences of this new installation have been disastrous, setting in motion a critical disturbance in the ecological balance of the cave. Its irreplaceable art is now at grave risk. Lascaux is attacked by increased moisture levels and rising temperatures; by the proliferation of fungus on its walls, ceilings and floors; and by the rampant spreading of black spots forming through the cave moving dangerously close to the paintings. The white calcite, which gave a particular brilliance to the paintings, has turned a dingy gray.
There is no effective strategy in place to end the crisis in Lascaux. The Governments management of the crisis has not only failed to restore the climate balance to the cave, but has directly contributed to the critical condition inside the cave. Lascauxs irreplaceable testament to the human spirit, art and development is now dangerously and directly threatened.
There is no monopoly on human cultural heritance and the creative achievements of our species. While the Cave of Lascaux and its beautiful prehistoric paintings lie in the ground of France, they do not belong only to France. The Art of Lascaux, the Art of our ancestors, belongs to all of mankind. As human beings, we are who we are today because of the strides, accomplishments and creativity of all who have come before us.
To that end, the International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux and all of the undersigned call up on the Government of France to immediately allow an independent, non-government appointed, international committee of scientists, artists and experts in cave art conservation access to the Cave of Lascaux. This committee would serve as an aid to the Government in monitoring the interior of the cave on a regular basis, publicly reporting to the world on the caves on-going condition and offering expertise to Government officials in finding solutions to end the crisis, thereby preserving the treasure of Lascaux for ages to come.