The conservation of cave paintings concerns artistic manifestations dating back to the prehistoric era (stone engravings, paintings and sculptures), produced on a natural rock support. This art, some of which has been preserved for millennia, can deteriorate very quickly under the effect of natural phenomena from the moment it is discovered. Various factors, such as the combined influence of atmospheric temperature and humidity variations (condensation and evaporation mechanisms), exposure to circulating air, water infiltration and circulation, appearance of cave formations and the development of microorganisms can trigger this degradation. Human factors are not without significance; the effects of pollution, urbanization, the development of archeological sites and acts of vandalism represent an additional risk and must therefore be taken duly into account.
Rock paintings have become a fossil art. It is therefore necessary to preserve these prehistoric works of art that have been passed on to us in their current form and shape. This requires research on developing preventive and curative measures, which is best achieved within a multidisciplinary framework involving archaeologists, prehistorians, restorers and scientists collaborating with researchers from the LRMH and other organizations. The risk assessment project carried out with the Bordeaux 1 University regarding the creation of an artificial entrance into the Cosquer cavern – a cavity on the edge of the Mediterranean that was partially invaded by the sea when the water level rose at the end of the ice age – is an example of this type of collaborative effort.
- Stéphanie Touron | Ingénieur de recherche