An interview with François Bouiyssavy, director at Lascaux 2.
François Bouiyssavy, director of Lascaux 2 played a game of Questions & Answers about the Lascaux Cave regarding its discovery, its universe, its various techniques…
In front of him, 3 sixth grade students : Banna, 11 years old, Lucas, 10 years old and Mathéo, 11½ years old.
- Banna : Who discovered the Lascaux Caves ?
You have to know that kids discovered Lascaux. Older than you, they were between 15 and 17 years old. This discovery happened in 1940. In September. The oldest of them, Marcel Ravidat was taking a walk on the Lascaux hill when his dog disappeared under an old trunk. He noticed a small gallery deeper in this hole. After taking back his dog, he decided to come back on the hill a few days later and then met the way of three other young people from the village : Georges Aniem, Simon Coencas and Jacques Marsal. The four friends got closer from the entry, cleared a way in and snaked in where the dog went by few days ago. Here is how we discovered the Lascaux cave. It was on a 12th of September of 1940.
- Lucas : What was the point in making a new one close from the former one ?
First, a partial copy of the Lascaux Cave has been made. It was called Lascaux 2. It opened in 1983 to let people enjoy Lascaux’s paintings again. Because this cave, and maybe you know it, is the most famous cave in the world. Though, there was a strong demand for seeing the paintings after the original one was closed in 1963. There, we found great paintings of animals, big colorful animals and some symbols.
- Lucas : How many time did it take to build this copy of the cave ?
To build Lascaux 2, it took 10 years. For Lascaux 4, that just opened, it took roughly two years because nowadays the techniques are a lot more developed. Nowadays, making a facsimile is even more fast.
- Mathéo : Can we have the same feeling in this new than in the first one ?
Feeling is a personal concern, but Lascaux 4 is so close from the original that I think the emotion is that of the original cave. Those who know both could be misled facing such an extraordinary result.
- Lucas : Are there only animals showed in the cave or there is something else ?
There are not only animals. In Lascaux and the cave art in general, there are also a lot of symbols accompanying the animals : dots, lines, crosses and other strange signs which we ignore their meaning. Maybe it is a message. Animals and symbols are telling a story. The paintings in Lascaux are over 17.000 years old, today carbon-dating are being reconsidered differently. Most representations in Lascaux might be 20.000 years old.
Banna : How were they making colours ?
First, you have to know that there are more engraving than paintings in the cave. To paint, they used minerals, ochres, clay and dirt in various colours. We can see yellow in Lascaux, we can also find a red orange colour and we can also find black. This black has been made with a pretty greasy dark stone : a mineral called manganese and not charcoal. As for painting, they were putting it in their mouth, they were making stencils and they spat it right on the wall. They have thrown the paint to make it enter deeply in the rock.
- Lucas : Did they have tools, brushes or things alike to paint ?
When we see certain animal’s shapes, well stamped like some little deers, we thinks they were making brushes. Then, the best tool they had was their mouth. Sometimes they used hollowed bones to throw dry powder on a wet wall. All this helped by stencils, that is to say cover made out of animal skin, clay or maybe bark, we don’t know. But they were also using their hands to make demarcations.
- Mathéo : Were they living in the caves or were they only painting to decorate the walls ?
Mathéo, in reality, the cavemen did not really exist. Humans never lived deep in the caves except in infrequent cases. It was too wet, too dark and they couldn’t make fire. Though, cave art was not a decoration but something that tells a story.
(Source : France Info)