How ‘Scenes From the Stone Age’ Nailed Lascaux’s Cave Man Style

The Field Museum went all out to make these full-scale replicas of the Lascaux caves.

Photograph: Philippe Psaila, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

You might have heard that Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux opened at The Field Museum this week. You might have thought the curators hauled a bunch of caves to Chicago from France. You’re wrong. But the curators still undertook an incredibly difficult process just to recrate five full-scale replicas in a cave-like gallery.

Artists “reverse engineered” the paintings as closely as they could, says Anna Altschwager, exhibition project manager, grinding their own pigments from ochre, manganese, and iron ore. They then applied clay, powdered glass, crushed limestone, and other natural pigments to the fiberglass “stone veil” to replicate the colors and textures of the original cave walls. Each scene took more than 1,800 hours of work.

Conseil General de la Dordogne in France replicated the scenes for the first time using 3D printing. “This is the next step in technology to better understand this ancient artwork,” says Altschwager.

Here’s a preview of the exhibit, which runs through September 8.
 

Photograph: CNP – DRAC – MCC, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

The Lascaux cave’s iconic Hall of Bulls details 36 paintings of deer, horses and bulls. (One bull stretches 17 feet).

 

Photograph: Philippe Psaila, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

These overlapping bison show the artistic skill of the cave painters, who were using perspective more than 17,000 years ago.

 

Photograph: Philippe Psaila, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

This is the only image of a human among almost 2,000 figures at Lascaux.

 

Photograph: S. Entressangle/E. Daynès, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

French sculptor Elizabeth Daynes recreated the people of the Lascaux cave using facial reconstruction techniques. The result is shockingly lifelike.

 

Photograph: Philippe Psaila, courtesy of the Field Museum
 

Through 3D scans of the cave, staff at the Conseil General de la Dordogne were able to build a topographical map, which was used in creating an exact replica. It’s a major step up from the tracing paper used to record the paintings when they were first discovered.
 

Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux appears at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, through Sept. 8.

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