The French Cover Up

How Authorities Mislead the World


From the beginning of the crisis in 2000 until now, the curator of the Lascaux cave has denied publicly that the famous 17,000 years old paintings had been contaminated by fungi and mold.

 

The TIME article, Saving Beauty, (May 15, 2006) which chronicles the Lascaux crisis from the first invasion of fungus through the steps and missteps of the authorities to the present, published a photograph of fungus growing on one of the prehistoric paintings. While some success has been noticed with the slowing down of Fungus:
Any one of the members of the thallophyte division such as mushrooms, molds and mildews, who subsist on dead or living organic matter
fungus
growth, one member of the French appointed Scientific Committee of Lascaux Cave:
Formed in 2002 by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, current Minister of Culture, to study the crisis in Lascaux and offer recommendations. The Committee which includes several scientists meets approximately twice a year and produces a report not made available to the public.
The decision making process is still in the hands of the bureaucrats responsible for Lascaux’s current debacle:

Philippe Oudin, the architect who selected and installed the disastrous new air system,

Jean –Michel Geneste, curator of the Lascaux cave, who accepted the plans,

Isabelle Pallot- Froissard, the director of the Laboratory of Historic Monuments, who made no inspections of the cave during the construction work.

Danny Barrault, administrative director of the archaelogy department of Aquitaine, who authorized the funding.

“How a committee so constituted can arrive at unbiased answers is “a good question," admits Marc Gauthier, an expert on the Gallo-Roman era, and the committee’s chairman. (TIME)

The ICPL asks why none of the scientists involved in the design of the original air system, which maintained the equilibrium of the cave for the past 40 years, have been included in the committee.
Scientific Committee of Lascaux Cave
, told TIME: “They tell us the cave’s condition is stable. But that is what they say about Ariel Sharon.”

 

In June, Jean-Michel Geneste, curator of Lascaux, told the Wall Street Journal exactly that: “Now the situation is stable”. WSJ reporter Lee Rosenbaum writes Geneste stated explicitly, “There is no damage to the paintings.” and asserted the growth of fungi has “disappeared naturally from the paintings.”

 

But one must ask: If the fungi have “disappeared naturally”, why are restorers in the cave three days a week manually removing the fungi by its roots? And, how can one say the paintings have not been damaged when the root extractions leave dark marks and circles on the paintings? Clearly, the public is not being told the truth about the state of Lascaux.

 

The ICPL:
The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux is dedicated to preserving the original, prehistoric paintings in the cave of Lascaux. The ICPL works to raise public awareness of the rapid deterioration of the cave and its irreplaceable art; to initiate public action in efforts to safeguard Lascaux for future generations and to actively engage professionals from all fields of conservation in the preservation of the cave and its paintings.

It is our belief that the art of Lascaux is a legacy belonging to all mankind. The cave’s discovery in 1940 redefined what was previously known about our creative development as human beings and our ability to construct image from abstract thought. This critical leap, and its resulting tangible evidence, is invaluable to understanding our global human heritage.
International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux (ICPL)
and other concerned citizens, wrote the French Ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, following publication of the TIME article urging the French government to take immediate action to remedy the situation in Lascaux. The official response, while polite, was dismissive with no assurances that the government would do anything but maintain its current course blaming much of the degradation on the “first two decades of intensive frequenting of the cave”. Levitte also added it is “highly probable that global warming has fostered the explosion of molds and bacteria in the cave.”

 

However, it must be noted that Lascaux was stable and free of fungus for more than two decades until Lichens:
Compounds composed of a fungus in symbiotic union with an algae, typically forming a crust like, scaly or branchy growth on rocks or trees.
lichens
were found growing in 1998. The French authorities took no action then and proceeded with the invasive installation of an ill-fitted air conditioning system in 2000 which began the huge proliferation of fungus growth inside the cave on painted and unpainted surfaces.

 

The TIME article was picked up by many news organizations around the world and much attention has been focused on Lascaux and its critical state. Unfortunately, to date, the French press has remained silent.

 

The ICPL:
The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux is dedicated to preserving the original, prehistoric paintings in the cave of Lascaux. The ICPL works to raise public awareness of the rapid deterioration of the cave and its irreplaceable art; to initiate public action in efforts to safeguard Lascaux for future generations and to actively engage professionals from all fields of conservation in the preservation of the cave and its paintings.

It is our belief that the art of Lascaux is a legacy belonging to all mankind. The cave’s discovery in 1940 redefined what was previously known about our creative development as human beings and our ability to construct image from abstract thought. This critical leap, and its resulting tangible evidence, is invaluable to understanding our global human heritage.
ICPL
continues to call for a truly independent, international committee of scientists and experts in cave art and its conservation to monitor and report to the world on Lascaux and its health.

 

 

 

Back to Top