Debate Over Lascaux's Moldy Cave Art Is a Tale of Human Missteps

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The regal black bull painted by a Stone Age artist on a cave wall in southwestern France 17,000 years ago has survived millennia of war and pestilence just a few yards above its subterranean gallery.

Today the prehistoric bovine could face annihilation by an army of encroaching black mold spots, the latest in a series of threats unwittingly brought in over the years by tourists, scientists and bureaucrats.

"Each time we try to resolve one problem, we create another," said Marie-Anne Sire, the cave administrator who coordinates the scientific teams trying to save the endangered reindeer, potbellied ponies and woolly rhinos of the Lascaux cave, which contains one of the world's most famous collections of prehistoric art.

The extraordinary creatures -- hundreds of exquisite beasts etched and painted across the undulating walls and ceilings of large underground cavities -- have become part of an international struggle to rescue prehistoric artifacts from the missteps of modern man.

Lascaux is the focus of a growing, Internet-driven global debate: Should heritage sites become laboratories reserved, in the interests of preservation, for study exclusively by scientists? Or are they such an important part of the patrimony of humanity that they should be open to the public, despite the inherent risks of damage?

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Randll Reese Besch - 7/4/2008

Scientific study of and also allow people to see it without contaminating it. Could also have access for viewers to realistic copies carefully reproduced with the latest technology. It can be done or else why be so Aristotelian?