But these hauntingly beautiful prehistoric cave paintings are in peril.
Recently, in Paris, over 200 archaeologists, anthropologists and other scientists gathered for an unprecedented symposium to discuss the plight of the priceless treasures of Lascaux, and to find a solution to preserve them for the future.
Radiocarbon dating has long been the method of choice, but it is restricted to organic materials such as bone and charcoal.
When such materials are lying on a cave floor near art on the cave wall, archaeologists have to make many assumptions before concluding that they are contemporary.
The Symposium took place under the aegis of France's Ministry of Culture and Communication, and presided over by Dr. Sections have been identified in the cave; the Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.
The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, which can be grouped into three main categories - animals, human figures and abstract signs. Also represented are cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human.
At the same time, prehistoric art took a massive leap forward, as exemplified by the cave painting of western Europe, that reached its apogee on the walls and ceilings of Lascaux Cave (France) and Altamira Cave (Spain), both of which contain some of the greatest examples of Franco-Cantabrian cave art, from the Solutrean-Magdalenian era, dating to between 17,000 and 15,000 BCE.
The challenge of dating Lascaux's art This is probably one of the most important and debated question when it comes to studying Lascaux – when were the paintings and engravings created and were they all done at the same time?
A room at the end of the visit – a "theatre of parietal art" – will enable visitors to replace the paintings in their historical context and to pierce their secrets.
There are some questions however that archaeologists and prehistorians themselves do not have answers to.
he proposed that the Ahnenerbe, a Nazi organization, take control of the great cave paintings and their preservation—a plan that Nazi officials would have surely acted upon if Germany had won the war.
Alarmed, the UNESCO world heritage committee has stepped in, threatening to place Lascaux on its list of endangered cultural sites of global significance – a huge embarrassment for the French government, which prides itself on its love of culture and art.