Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Many hands painted Lascaux caves
One thing that strikes the visitor is the exuberance of the compositions, with hundreds of animals, including bison, horses and deer, parading along the walls and ceilings, often overlapping. A big problem in sorting out possible groupings of animals, and possible motives for painting them, has been the issue of contemporaneity — what was painted when?

A recent study by scientists at the Louvre’s research and conservation laboratories has suggested one avenue of approach, by studying the chemical structure of pigments from the cave walls and ancient antlers from Palaeolithic sites. The presence of minuscule antler fragments in the paints may enable animal figures composed at the same time, using the same batch of paint, to be isolated and then studied apart from neighbouring depictions.