If a tree fell in the woods, would you find art under it?

That day in 1940 started with a fallen tree, a dog, a hole in the ground, and four teems. It ended with the discovery of 17,000 year old cave paintings that rocked the world of archeology.

How’s that for a fun romp through the woods?

On September 12, 1940, four French teens (Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas) walked through the woods above Lascaux manor. Some years before, a large pine tree fell over, revealing a hole in the ground. The boys’ dog dug a bit, then scooted down the hole. Thus engaged, the boys widened the hole some and followed their dog down the pile of rocks and into the ground.

As they reached the bottom of the pile, the crevice widened into a larger space. Their eyes widened as they saw simple pictures of bulls, yellow horses, black stags, and large red cows scattered around the walls. The next day, they continued exploring, ultimately finding several caverns adorned with ancient artwork.

By the following week, the world’s top archeologists visited the site as well, and were amazed at what they saw.

After World War II, the French government enlarged the cave entrance and lowere the floor to facillitate the costant flow of visitors to the cave. Almost 1,200 people saw the caves each day. After just a few years of heavy human traffic, the ancient drawings began to deteriorate from the change in temperature and a reaction to the carbon dioxide in the visitors’ breath.

The caves were closed to the public in 1963. Since then, scientists stableized the cave environment and preserved the drawings. The French government also built a life-size replica of the two most significant sections of the cave at Lascaux II, in Montignac (about 200 meters from the original cave). There, visitors can walk through the replicas and experience some of what it felt like to stand in the original cave.

And to think it all started with a tree and a dog. Too cool!


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