The caves of Lascaux, in France, contain some of the earliest known representational art, dating to between 17,000 and 15,000 years before the present.
These Paleolithic cave paintings consist mostly of realistic images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. The other common theme of the paintings is outlines of the human hand.
The cave was discovered in 1940 by a dog named Robot, and public access was made easier after World War II. By 1955, the carbon dioxide produced by 1200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963, in order to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state, and are now monitored on a daily basis.
A replica of two of the cave halls — the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery — was opened in 1983. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.
The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département.