The Lessons of Lascaux

To a remarkable degree, the cave paintings executed over 20 millenniums until about 11,000 years ago are concentrated in southern France and northeastern Spain. Some cultural impulse drove the early Homo sapiens of that region not only to venture deep into caves but also to paint and engrave them. Though some of the caves have been known for centuries, most were discovered — or rediscovered — in the 20th century.

Lascaux is the most famous: its grandeur makes it exemplary. But so do its travails, as José A. Lasheras, the director of the museum and cave of Altamira...

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