SCIENTISTS are quietly confident that they have solved the problem of the black marks that have disfigured and damaged the paleolithic paintings in the Grotte de Lascaux.
Professor Yves Coppens, the leader of the team appointed by culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand to save the cave art, is expected to announce this month that they have stabilised the caves and halted any further damage by the black mould and lichen.
The 17,000-year-old paintings were being eaten away by the fungus, which is thought to be the result of the moisture from the breath of the thousands of visitors who flocked to the cave in the Dordogne, near Montignac, when it was open to the public in the 1950s and 1960s. It was closed in 1963.
After years of conservation efforts, the scientific team feels that the paintings are in a stable condition, while the mould is not growing and may, in some cases, even be reducing in size.
Alain Rieu, the directions régionales des affaires culturelles official in Aquitaine, would only say that the cave was still in a very fragile condition.