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Famed French cave paintings on exhibit in Chicago

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Stunning reproductions of the famed cave paintings of Lascaux are being displayed for the first time outside of France at an exhibit in Chicago opening Wednesday.

Meticulously copied to the millimeter, the full-sized replicas include images that have not been shown since the cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the ancient masterpieces.

The dimly lit gallery allows visitors to imagine they are walking through the cave as they stand beneath rugged panels and marvel at how cave dwellers used the contours of the stone walls to add perspective and depth to the images.

"With a global treasure like Lascaux you can't egotistically keep it to yourself," said Senator Bernard Cazeau, president of the Conseil General of Dordogne, which organized the travelling exhibit.

The museum in Lascaux currently only displays about half of sprawling cave's nearly 2,000 paintings, but it is working on expanding to a full reproduction, to open in 2016.

Discovered in 1940 by four boys exploring a deep depression caused by a falling tree near Montignac, the Lascaux caves have been described as the Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art.

More than a million people flocked to southwestern France to explore Lascaux before it was closed to the public and 10 million have visited the reproduction which opened in 1983.

The paintings are believed to be more than 17,000 years old and their meaning and purpose remain a mystery despite 70 years of study.

Scenes from the Stone Age features five panels: the Great Cow, Swimming Stags Frieze, Crossed Bison, and Shaft Scene.

It also includes rare stone-age artifacts from the Field Museum's collections and videos which offer a remarkable virtual tour of the cave and explanations of how Paleolithic people lived.

The exhibit will run at the Field Museum through September 8. The next stops on the tour are Houston, Texas and Montreal, Canada.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130319/famed-french-cave-paintings-exhibit-chicago