The Forgotten Cave:  A Tale of Discovery

By accident they stumbled into history.  Four teenage boys and a dog discovered the remnants of an ancient culture buried underground.  It was 1940 France, and the war hadn’t quite reached their little village.  Seventeen-year-old Marcel Ravidat was desperate to escape boredom, so he invited three friends to go exploring in the woods with him and his dog Robot.  Jaques Marsal was the youngest at fourteen, and he was eager to accompany the most admired boy in Montignac. They were joined by two Parisians; Georges Agnel was visiting his grandmother, and Simon Coencas, a Jewish boy, had fled Paris to escape the Nazis.  As they walked down the path, Robot ran ahead after some animal and for his trouble fell down a hole.  When the boys followed the little dog, they found something no human eye had seen in tens of thousands of years. 
I was drawn to this story by its mysterious, almost fantastical quality.  A group of normal teenagers stumble accidentally into a different world.  I chose chalk pastels for their dusty texture.  They evoke an atmospheric quality which complements the sense of mystery.  As I imagined the sequence of events, it struck me that this is such a strong visual tale the pictures communicate even without words.

The paintings at Lascuax were not the first discovered, but they are arguably the most important:  they are the largest group and best preserved examples of prehistoric art ever found.  Although no one was able to properly document the caves until after the war, the boys’ find changed the way the public thought of prehistoric people forever.  Not all significant historical finds are made by Ph.D.s digging in the desert.  Anyone can make a discovery.

 


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