Debate Over Moldy Cave Art Is a Tale of Human Missteps By Molly Moore, Washington Post Foreign Service
MONTIGNAC, France -- The regal black bull painted by a Stone Age artist on a cave wall in southwestern France 17,000 years ago has survived millennia of war and pestilence just a few yards above its subterranean gallery.
Today the prehistoric bovine could face annihilation by an army of encroaching black mold spots, the latest in a series of threats unwittingly brought in over the years by tourists, scientists and bureaucrats.
"Each time we try to resolve one problem, we create another," said Marie-Anne Sire, the cave administrator who coordinates the scientific teams trying to save the endangered reindeer, potbellied ponies and woolly rhinos of the Lascaux cave, which contains one of the world's most famous collections of prehistoric art.
I think the scientists are missing the point here. What are they preserving the artwork for? And for whom? Art is not a scientific experience, and the paintings are not some sort of bat, with a life in their own right.
I doubt if I will ever get to France, but if so, (since I have no special status or contacts) I have no interest in viewing the Lascaux replica. The power of the paintings is what and where they are, and the spirit of the place to be experienced. I suspect many people who visited the originals fell under their spell, but going to the replica? It strikes me sort of like visiting the Matterhorn in Disneyland, not the real thing.
Now, I laud their efforts at preservation, for whatever reason, but I tend to agree that the damage has been done, and continuing to meddle with the environment in there is not doing the paintings any good, because we're just not smart enough monkeys.
This is a case where I might buy global warming as the detrimental agent...the paintings, after all, were created under a much colder regime. Has anyone seriously proposed freezing them and killing what ails them that way?
Maybe we should get some New Agers together and do a drum circle or something. I suspect they understand more what is going on here than the scientists.