Sunday, March 01, 2009

LASCAUX CLOSED -- BUT SCIENTISTS PONDER SOLUTIONS TO FUNGUS

Geologists, biologists and other scientists convened in Paris to discuss how to stop the spread of fungus stains - aggravated by global warming - that threaten France's prehistoric Lascaux cave drawings. Black stains have spread across the cave's prehistoric murals of bulls, felines and other images, and scientists have been hard-pressed to halt the fungal creep.

For the moment, the cave is completely sealed in hopes that "it will heal itself." experts said. Two possible solutions to be examined at the conference include the installation of a system to regulate the cave's temperature and the use of biocides, which kill the bacteria and have been used in the cave before, with mixed results.

In 1963, Lascaux, a top tourist destination, was closed to the public after the appearance of green algae and other damage scientists linked to the visitors. A replica of the main Lascaux cavern was built nearby and has become a big tourist draw. Carbon-dating suggests the murals were created between 15,000 and 17,500 years ago. Discovered in 1940, the cavern is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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