Lascaux in virtual reality : a journey into the heart of history
At hand. The paintings of Lascaux are there before our eyes. We can almost touch them. But our fingers then cross the wall : we are in a simulation. 400 kilometers separate the explorer from the real works of the multi-millennial cave. Because it is actually in the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine in Paris. With the help of a pair of glasses and an electronic backpack, it is now possible to dive into the heart of the Lascaux cave. More than 2000 representations adorn the walls of this digital simulation. Bulls, felines, deer intertwine in the form of paintings and engravings about 20,000 years old.
A new access for the public…
This experience was born thanks to the collaboration between the teams of Dassault Systèmes and the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. This project aims to offer an unprecedented access to this cave closed to the public since 1963. Discovered in 1940, it has seen a huge influx of visitors since its opening eight years later. These associations profoundly disturbed the balance of the cave and alterations appeared on the walls, such as algae and fungi. Lascaux then had to be closed for its preservation. Since then, three reproductions of the cave have been created to allow visitors to admire this exceptional set of Paleolithic art. A virtual tour is even available on the official website of the cave. Virtual reality reproduction offers a new way to discover it, or rediscover it.
The report of Samantha Dizier at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine in Paris.
… and a new tool for research
But, it is also a boon for researchers. This representation of the galleries allows them to observe the works from a multitude point of view and as close as possible to the walls. Muriel Mauriac, curator of the cave, is delighted : “This will be a really complementary tool for future research programs”. Especially since at present, only 200 hours of visits in total per year are allowed for specialists. Future projects are already under consideration to enrich the experience. “We plan to place objects found in the cave within virtual reality, so that the visitor can manipulate them directly in their context,” explains Muriel Mauriac. A test has already been carried out with a small sandstone lamp. The audience then manipulates an object of the lamp format in reality, and it appears in the simulation as the lamp itself. This experiment is open to over 12 years old, from July 8 until the end of the month, in the trial phase. It will then be reopened definitively in September. The opportunity to come – almost-to touch the vestiges of our past.