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Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley

France
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Micro-organisms
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Micro-organisms: outbreaks of mould and bacterial spores on the surface of the cave paintings of Lascaux

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**

2006: World Heritage Centre site visit; March 2009: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission 

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 27 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/85/documents, as requested by the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 37 COM 7B.74. This report provides information on the regular and rigorous monitoring carried out regarding the level of contamination on the surface of the cave by the microorganisms.

Very precise observations for each type of alteration (white mould, dark spots, vermiculations) display a slight evolution of the affected area and a slight variation of the contaminated zones; the most isolated zones of the cave remain in a very good state of conservation.

This relative stability of the affected area can be attributed to a very strict control and policy concerning access (344 man/hours in the decorated part in 2014 for 454 man/hours in 2013), the benefit of automated measuring instruments, and very rigorous modelling and intervention planning.

The slight evolution of contamination has enabled the abandon of biocide treatments since 2008.

But this relative stability must not mask the fragility of the property in a context where the understanding of the cause these phenomena still remains to be further studied.

This is the subject of an important applied research programme for conservation that the Scientific Council wished to undertake. As an extension of earlier research work, the programme for the coming years is as follows:

  • The continuation of research relating to microbe ecology of the Lascaux Cave, aimed at better understanding the action and interactions of the micro-organisms responsible for contamination, with the aim to better anticipate biological imbalances;
  • An analysis of vermiculation phenomena, very scantily documented scientifically at present;
  • The completion of a thesis begun in 2013 to better understand the transfers of water and carbon matter in the karst zone of the Hill.

The State Party report also indicates that communication actions were conducted concerning the research work and the new 3-D record of the cave.

Finally, it summarizes the actions and projects aimed at sanctifying the Hill: access forbidden to automobiles, vegetation management plan, construction off site of the future Lascaux IV Centre.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

The strong commitment of the State Party in the comprehension and resolution of conservation issues of the cave should be noted. The implementation of recommendations based on early scientific research and the very strict limitation of access have resulted in the relative stability of contamination in an ecosystem that however remains very fragile.

The quality of the very regular and precise monitoring carried out on the conservation of the property should also be noted, each time and when possible preferring the use of automated measuring and recording devices, thus contributing to the limiting of access.

The research programme that continues under the auspices of the Scientific Council has enabled considerable progress in the comprehension of the phenomena of the spreading of the micro-organisms, the hydro-climatic conditions of the cave and the exchanges and interactions between the cave and the overall hill site. The results of this research undertaken for two or three years to come should provide further progress, with as goal the ability to anticipate the imbalances likely to favour an outbreak. The involvement of the Scientific Council in the diffusion of the results of this research, useful to all the parietal art sites, is very satisfactory.

Progress accomplished regarding the sanctifying of the entire Hill includes the construction of a ring road enabling the closure of roads and automobile access and the establishment of a vegetation management plan of the hill, based on research conducted on exchanges between the cave and its environment, are also positive developments.

Finally, note is taken of the commitment to the project for the future International Centre for Parietal Art, Lascaux IV. Its vocation, in addition to the presentation of a facsimile of the integrality of the cave, is to inform and understand the diffusion of Paleolithic parietal art in different sites throughout the world. The establishment of this Centre, the opening of which is foreseen for spring 2016, should also contribute to sanctifying the hill by enabling alternative uses of the Lascaux II facsimile site, located too close to the cave.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.77
Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley (France) (C 85)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.74, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes with satisfaction the relative stability, over several years, of the state of conservation of the property, due to the implementation of recommendations of early scientific studies and the very rigorous limitation of access;
  4. Congratulates the State Party for the high quality of the scientific research programme developed under the auspices of the Scientific Council, which will enable, in the future, the anticipation of risks of imbalance that favour the spread of contaminants;
  5. Notes the pursuit of communication efforts through the dissemination of research results as well as exhibitions for the general public based on the new facsimile of the cave;
  6. Welcomes the progress accomplished in sanctifying the hill and the management of the hill area;
  7. Requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed of the state of conservation of the property, in particular the Lascaux II site, and of any evolution that might have an important impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.77

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.74, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes with satisfaction the relative stability, over several years, of the state of conservation of the property, due to the implementation of recommendations of early scientific studies and the very rigorous limitation of access;
  4. Congratulates the State Party for the high quality of the scientific research programme developed under the auspices of the Scientific Council, which will enable, in the future, the anticipation of risks of imbalance that favour the spread of contaminants;
  5. Notes the pursuit of communication efforts through the dissemination of research results as well as exhibitions for the general public based on the new facsimile of the cave;
  6. Welcomes the progress accomplished in sanctifying the hill and the management of the hill area;
  7. Requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed of the state of conservation of the property, in particular the Lascaux II site, and of any evolution that might have an important impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Report year: 2015
France
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iii)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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