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The Battle to Save the Cave
The Battle to Save the Cave , as featured in TIME magazine, tells the story of the destruction of ancient cave art in the city of Lascaux in France. Most directly the art, from the Upper Paleolithic age and among the oldest yet discovered, is being damaged (some say irreversibly so) by a fungus known as Fusarium solani, which is attacking the cave containing the art. There are several cultures warring with each other over how to solve the fungus problem and how to preserve the art work that is within the cave. The cultures discussed in the article are the art heritage of Lascaux, the fungus itself and the “Arcane and insular culture” (according the Time) of the French Bureaucracy, and they each have very different objectives and desired outcomes.
Let's start with the fungus. The fungus has the simplest, most clear cut objective. Obviously, fungus is a living organism, but it is non-sentient and does not have a conscious will. It is, according to some mentioned in the article, destroying the cave paintings in Lascaux cave. It has only fairly recently arrive on the scene and its sudden appearance can almost assuredly be blamed on man's introduction into the cave most likely due to the introduction of a $28,000 active climate control system placed into the cave (which has since been removed). The fungus, Fusarium solani, has only one desired outcome: to survive at all costs.
The other culture to consider in this saga-- a culture which does not want to see the fungus survive-- is the art culture and heritage of Lascaux. The artwork in this cave is considered to be very important and invaluable to understanding early man and early art (according to TIME, this art is often called the Sistine Chapel of Pre-history). It may not be possible to save all of the art in these caves, but this culture would like to see it most, if not all of it, preserved somehow and it is willing to do whatever needs to be done to meet this objective.
The third cultural consideration-- and , perhaps, the ultimate power holders in this situation-- is the French bureaucracy, which has, perhaps, the ultimate say on the outcome and fate of the cave and the cave drawings. Will this culture view this cave as a treasure for the french people to enjoy or will it consider the wants and desires of the rest of the world-- lovers of history and lovers of history especially? Will they view it as worth saving at all?
As with most large governments and bureaucracies, their role in situations like this often complicates things. It's not that the governments are malicious, it's that they are often out of touch with the people and with each other. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. In this case, it's especially complicated. No one in the government, to this point, has been willing to accept the blame for the fungus outbreak (rightly or otherwise) and has not proposed any viable solutions to solve this problem. The research on what has caused the fungus outbreak has been fuzzy (some blame the air conditioning system while others, such as France's Research Laboratory for Historical Monuments blame the absence of formaldehyde which, according to the LRMH, killed off other organisms preventing the growth of Fusarium solani) at best, and, the first step to solving the problem is to find out the actual cause of the outbreak. The French bureaucracy continues to pass the blame on to others and the problem will never be solved if the parties involved are more concerned with passing blame then coming up with pragmatic solutions. It's time to work past the blame game and focus on the crux of the issue: saving the Lascaux Cave art work. Someone needs to step forward and propose a viable solution. Whether that means preserving the art by banning tourists from caves, preserving the art through photographs and select excavations, or not preserving the art and collecting revenue that can be earned from allowing tourism into the caves for as long as the art survives.
I question the wisdom and necessity for even installing an active climate control system when the passive system that was installed previously seemed to work very well. On top of this, no one wants to accept the blame as architect for this active system, although it was ultimately signed off on by a conservation group.
At this point, I propose that those involved do what they can to learn from the cave drawings, preserve what they can and then figure things out. It may end up being private citizens who come up with the best solution to overcome this debacle. After all, it was private citizens, the La Rochefoucauld family, who owned the property and allowed work to be done on the caves to open them to the public in the first place. Maybe the private citizens need to take it back and restrict access to save the cave art. With this solution, who then would benefit from the preservation of the art? It's a real conundrum and I don't even know what the right decision is. I just know that something must be done and done soon.
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A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.
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To read more on this debate, follow this link:
- The Battle to Save the Cave - TIME
Mold, mistreatment and an insular bureaucracy threaten France's most famous and beautiful cave art. A rare inside look at how the rot set in