Current problems in dating palaeolithic cave art

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In 1979, several decorated caves of the Vézère Valley - including the Lascaux cave - were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

But these hauntingly beautiful prehistoric cave paintings are in peril.

"It is also shedding light on the reasons for its production - why do you get a sudden flourishing of cave art at certain periods?

" The results so far are in line with archaeologists' hypothesis that sudden flowerings of cave art came as rapid climate change was causing Palaeolithic cultures to move quickly about Europe, first as the coldest period of the ice age approached, and then as the ice age drew to a close and inhabitable areas expanded.

Lascaux is famous for its Palaeolithic cave paintings, found in a complex of caves in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, because of their exceptional quality, size, sophistication and antiquity.

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First discovered in 1868, though not fully appreciated until the 1900s, Altamira was the first of the great caches of prehistoric art to be discovered, and despite other exciting finds in Cantabria and southern France, Altamira's paintings of bisons and other wild mammals are still the most vividly coloured and visually powerful examples of Paleolithic art and culture to be found on the continent of Europe.Instead of trying to date the paintings and engravings themselves, they are analysing carbonate deposits like stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over them.This means they don't risk harming irreplaceable art, and provides a more detailed view of prehistoric cultures.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.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.

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