September 12: Lascaux Discovered

LascauxSometimes, fate is funny and important discoveries are made in unusual ways. Take for instance, the case of a Frenchman named Marcel Ravidat.  On a late summer day in 1940, 18-year old Ravidat was hanging out in the woods near Lascaux with some friends. According to some accounts, some time that afternoon Ravidat’s dog went chasing after a rabbit, forcing Ravidat to follow the dog inside a cave. Inside, Ravidat found a vast cave network (and hIs dog), but couldn’t see much and promptly left.

A few days later, on September 12, 1940, Ravidat and his friends returned to the caves with a bit of illumination and discovered that there were images painted onto the side of the caves walls. Ravidat and his friends found that the cave paintings covered multiple walls in several “rooms” in the cave. The boys became enchanted by the images of bulls, horses, stags, birds, humans and abstract shapes. For a week, the boys kept their discovery a secret until they informed a teacher known for his familiarity with prehistoric art.

The caves were heralded as a great discovery by art historians. Despite being roughly 17,300 years old, the cave’s nearly 2,000 pieces of art were amazing well preserved, primarily because of a thick layer of chalk that made it water tight. In fact, the only reason Ravidat and his friends were able to access the caves was because a tree had recently been uprooted, tearing away several feet of ground that was covering an entrance to the cave. During World War II the caves were used by French resistance as a secret storage place for weapons. In 1948, the caves were opened to the public and became quite popular. Fittingly, Ravidat would serve as one of the cave’s guardians and guides. However, the presence of nearly 1,200 visitors a day began to take its toll on the paintings, and the once vibrant colors began to fade. So, in 1963 the caves were closed to everyone except researchers. Sadly, today the caves are seriously threatened by mold and fungal growth and only a small group of scientists dedicated to preserving the caves can enjoy the art.

Considering the many animals featured in the Lascaux caves, I thought a Horse’s Neck would be an appropriate cocktail choice for today. This little mix of brandy and ginger ale is a classic drink that dates back to the early 1910s. James Bond creator Ian Fleming loved a good Horse’s Neck and described them as “the drunkard’s drink” in his novel Octopussy. The drink’s name comes from the long lemon spiral that hangs over the edge of the glass, like a horse’s neck.

Horse’s Neck

  • 1 ounce Brandy
  • 3 ounces ginger ale
  • dash of bitters (optional)

Pour brandy and ginger ale into an old fashioned glass with ice. Stir briefly and garnish with a long lemon spiral. If you wish, add a dash of bitters.

Tomorrow: Thank you reader, but our cocktail is in another castle!

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