In 1940, four young boys stumbled upon the Lascaux Cave system in Southern France and discovered perfectly preserved artworks from 17,000 years ago. Fast forward some 20 years later to the 1960’s and those artworks were not so perfectly preserved anymore. The vast amount of visitors admiring the cave each year was slowly causing the cave and it’s beautiful artwork to deteriorate. Mold and calcite were beginning to form on the walls, jeopardizing the cave paintings. In order to protect the art, the French government closed down the cave to tourists. Unfortunately, many people still wanted to see the magnificent Paleolithic paintings, and so Lascaux II was built, an exact replica of the real caves, which are right next door.
When I googled the Lascaux II Caves, I was shocked by the amount of articles and travel review blogs bashing these new caves for not being authentic. So many people were angry and upset that they could not go into the real caves and had to settle for the replica. One person wrote a trip advisor review simply saying, “Fake fake fake fake fake fake. Don’t go!” I had to fight the urge to respond, “Well obviously it’s fake. Would you rather destroy precious prehistoric cave paintings?” I am actually quite impressed by the French government’s efforts to keep the public involved in this important piece of history. They could have simply closed down the Lascaux Caves and made that the end of it. But instead, they spent millions of dollars to build a replica so that people could keep coming to see the art and learn about our past.
While searching for information on the Lascaux II Caves online, I came across an article about the construction of a replica of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. As it turns out, as around 1,000 people have toured King Tut’s tomb each day for the last 20 years. These tours cause the temperature and humidity inside the tomb to change, causing the walls to expand and contract, which is rapidly deteriorating the decorated plaster on the rock face. Taking a cue from Lascaux, the Egyptian government began efforts to record every tiny detail of the tomb so it could be recreated for tourists and in November of 2013, the replica of King Tut’s tomb, located less than 1 kilometer from the real tomb, was opened to visitors. I am a little shocked that it isn’t more common to build replicas of important archaeological sites around the world. Not only would it preserve the precious sites, but also it would keep the public educated and interested in archaeology and the importance of the past.