May 2006

Technology to the rescue

A pernicious white fungus has spread “like snow” in the caves of Lascaux in France, where the fabulous rock art has been described as the Sistine Chapel of prehistory. The fungus is believed to have been introduced after contractors began to install a new air-conditioning system that was meant to preserve the precious 17,000-year-old cave paintings from heat and humidity.
Irish Independent

It’s possible that the above link may require (free) registration to the Indo, so I’ll give you the jist of the story…

An artist, or group of artists, produced a series of paintings on the walls of a cave system in Lascaux, France. Seventeen thousand years later, authorities decided that the paintings needed to be protected from heat and humidity and installed an air conditioning system.

The air-conditioning system altered the environment of the caves – which had remained fairly stable for 17 millennia – and within weeks the ground was infested with a white fungus. The authorities who installed the air conditioning claimed that the fungus wouldn’t spread to the paintings. They claimed that it would remain on the ground.

It didn’t.

Now the fungus has begun to encroach upon the paintings and the authorities who installed the new technology are employing people to very carefully remove strands of the fungus from the paintings by hand in order to protect them from their first serious threat in 17,000 years.

A news story and a parable.

Posted in: Opinion