A Day in Tokyo: A 1968 Film Captures a City Reborn 23 Years After Its Destruction

Dur­ing World War II, Tokyo sus­tained heavy dam­age, espe­cial­ly with the bomb­ings con­duct­ed by the U.S. mil­i­tary in March 1945. Known as Oper­a­tion Meet­ing­house, US air raids destroyed 16 square miles in cen­tral Tokyo, leav­ing 100,000 civil­ians dead and one mil­lion home­less. Tokyo did­n’t recov­er quick­ly. It took until the 1950s for recon­struc­tion to real­ly gain momen­tum. But gain momen­tum it did. By 1964, Tokyo found itself large­ly rebuilt, mod­ern­ized, and ready to host the Olympics. That brings us to the 1968 film above, A Day in Tokyo, cre­at­ed by the Japan Nation­al Tourism Orga­ni­za­tion (JNTO) to pro­mote tourism in the rebuilt city.

The web­site Japan­ese Nos­tal­gic Car sets the scene:

The year 1968 was a spe­cial time for Japan. It was emerg­ing as a mod­ern coun­try. The Tokyo Olympics had just been held a few years pri­or. Bul­let trains, high-speed express­ways, and col­or tele­vi­sion broad­casts were spread­ing through­out the land. The year before saw the Toy­ota 2000GT and Maz­da Cos­mo Sport, Japan’s con­tem­po­rary sports cars, debut. It must have been incred­i­bly excit­ing.

In the 23-minute film above, you can revis­it this moment of trans­for­ma­tion and renew­al, when Tokyo—as the film’s nar­ra­tor put it—combined the best of new and old. Here, in the “con­stant meta­bol­ic cycle of destruc­tion and cre­ation, Tokyo pro­gress­es at a dizzy­ing pace.” And it’s a sight to behold. Enjoy.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch Life on the Streets of Tokyo in Footage Record­ed in 1913: Caught Between the Tra­di­tion­al and the Mod­ern

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Japan­ese Mas­ter­piece, the Impe­r­i­al Hotel in Tokyo

Behold the Unique Beau­ty of Japan’s Artis­tic Man­hole Cov­ers

A Cultural Tour of Istanbul, Where the Art and History of Three Great Empires Come Together

Imag­ine a grand tour of Euro­pean muse­ums, and a fair few des­ti­na­tions come right to mind: the Rijksmu­se­um, the Pra­do, the Uffizi Gallery, the Lou­vre. These insti­tu­tions alone could take years to expe­ri­ence ful­ly, but it would be an incom­plete jour­ney that did­n’t ven­ture far­ther east — much far­ther east, in the view of Great Art Explained cre­ator James Payne. In his lat­est Great Art Cities video, he makes the case for Istan­bul, adduc­ing such both artis­ti­cal­ly and his­tor­i­cal­ly rich sites as the İst­anb­ul Archae­o­log­i­cal Muse­um, the Basil­i­ca Cis­tern, the Zeyrek Çinili Hamam, Istan­bul Mod­ern, and of course — as pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — the unig­nor­able Hagia Sophia.

Payne intro­duces Istan­bul as hav­ing been “the cap­i­tal of three great empires, Roman, Byzan­tine, and Ottoman.” In the con­ti­nent-strad­dling metrop­o­lis as it is today, “both ancient and mod­ern art blend ele­ments from Europe, Asia, and the Mid­dle East, reflect­ing its geo­graph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal posi­tion­ing as a bridge between the East and the West.”

The works on dis­play in the city con­sti­tute “a visu­al embod­i­ment of its com­plex his­to­ry,” from the Hel­lenis­tic to the Roman to the Islam­ic to the styles and media of the twen­ti­eth and twen­ty-first cen­turies, with all of which “mod­ern-day Turkey is now cre­at­ing its own artis­tic lega­cy.”

That lega­cy is also deeply root­ed in the past. Vis­it the Archae­o­log­i­cal Muse­um and you can see the Alexan­der Sar­coph­a­gus from the fourth cen­tu­ry BC, whose aston­ish­ing­ly detailed carv­ings include “the only exist­ing depic­tion of Alexan­der the Great cre­at­ed dur­ing his life­time.” The under­ground Basil­i­ca Cis­tern, built in the sixth cen­tu­ry, counts as much as a large-scale work of Byzan­tine art as it does a large-scale work of Byzan­tine engi­neer­ing. From there, it’s a short tram ride on the Gala­ta Bridge across the Gold­en Horn to the brand-new, Ren­zo Piano-designed Istan­bul Mod­ern, which has paint­ings by Cihat Burak, Fahrel­nis­sa Zeid, Bedri Baykam. You may not know those names now, but if you view their work in the unique cul­tur­al con­text of Istan­bul — in which so many eras and civ­i­liza­tions are man­i­fest — you’ll nev­er for­get them.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Ancient World Comes to Life in an Ani­ma­tion Fea­tur­ing Istanbul’s Islam­ic, Ottoman, Greek & Byzan­tine Art

Istan­bul Cap­tured in Beau­ti­ful Col­or Images from 1890: The Hagia Sophia, Top­ka­ki Palace’s Impe­r­i­al Gate & More

Watch Dig­i­tal Dancers Elec­tri­fy the Streets of Istan­bul

An Intro­duc­tion to Hagia Sophia: After 85 Years as a Muse­um, It’s Set to Become a Mosque Again

How Lon­dini­um Became Lon­don, Lute­tia Became Paris, and Oth­er Roman Cities Got Their Mod­ern Names

Great Art Cities: Vis­it the Fas­ci­nat­ing, Less­er-Known Muse­ums of Lon­don & Paris

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Cardboard Bernini: An Artist Spends 4 Years Building a Giant Cardboard Fountain Inspired by the Baroque Sculptor Bernini, Only to Let It Dissolve in the Rain

From the Tri­ton Foun­tain in the Piaz­za Bar­beri­ni to the Foun­tain of the Four Rivers in Piaz­za Navona, sculp­tor Gian Loren­zo Berni­ni’s glo­ri­ous pub­lic foun­tains have impressed vis­i­tors to Rome for cen­turies.

Berni­ni angled for immoral­i­ty when carv­ing his Baroque mas­ter­pieces from mar­ble.

Image by Trdinfl, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Eter­ni­ty occu­pied artist James Grashow’s mind, too, through­out four years of toil on his Cor­ru­gat­ed Foun­tain, a mas­ter­piece of planned obso­les­cence.

“All artists talk about process”, he rumi­nates in an out­take from Olympia Stone’s doc­u­men­tary, The Card­board Berni­ni, “but the process that they talk about is always from begin­ning to fin­ish:

Nobody real­ly talks about full term process to the end, to the destruc­tion, to the dis­so­lu­tion of a piece. Every­thing dis­solves in an eter­ni­ty. I’d like to speak to that.

He picked the right medi­um for such a med­i­ta­tion — cor­ru­gat­ed card­board, sourced from the Dan­bury Square Box Com­pa­ny. (The founders chose its name in 1906 to alert the local hat­ting indus­try that they did not traf­fic in round hat box­es.)

Grashow chal­lenged him­self to make some­thing with card­board and hot glue that would “out­shine” Berni­ni before it was sac­ri­ficed to the ele­ments:

Water and card­board can­not exist togeth­er.  The idea of a paper foun­tain is impos­si­ble, an oxy­moron that speaks to the human dilem­ma. I want­ed to make some­thing hero­ic in its con­cept and exe­cu­tion with full aware­ness of its poet­ic absur­di­ty. I want­ed to try to make some­thing eter­nal out of card­board… the Foun­tain was an irre­sistible project for me.

The doc­u­men­tary catch­es a mix of emo­tions as his metic­u­lous­ly con­struct­ed Baroque fig­ures — nymphs, hors­es, dol­phins, Posei­don — are posi­tioned for destruc­tion on the grounds of the Aldrich Con­tem­po­rary Art Muse­um.

A young boy at the exhibition’s open­ing is untrou­bled by the sculpture’s impend­ing fate:

I think it’s cool, coz it’s made out of trees and it’s return­ing to mush…or what­ev­er you want to call it.

His bud­dy finds it hard to share his enthu­si­asm, ges­tur­ing help­less­ly toward the mon­u­men­tal work, his voice trail­ing off as he remarks, “I don’t see why you would want that to…”

An adult vis­i­tor unashamed­ly reveals that she had been active­ly root­ing for rain.

When a storm does reduce the sculp­ture to an Ozy­man­di­an tableau a short while lat­er, Grashow sus­pects the project was ulti­mate­ly a self por­trait, “full of blus­ter and brava­do, hol­low and melan­choly at its core, doomed from the start, and search­ing for beau­ty in all of the sad­ness.”

Then he and a helper cart what’s left off to a wait­ing dump­ster.

His daugh­ter, Rab­bi Zoë Klein, likens the Cor­ru­gat­ed Fountain’s imper­ma­nence to the sand man­dalas Tibetan monks spend months cre­at­ing, then sweep away with lit­tle fan­fare:

…the art is about just the gift of cre­ation, that we have this abil­i­ty to cre­ate, that we cel­e­brate that, not that we can con­quer time, but rather we can make the most of the time we have by mak­ing it beau­ti­ful and mean­ing­ful, liv­ing up to our poten­tial..

Grashow speaks ten­der­ly of the ephemer­al mate­r­i­al he uses fre­quent­ly in his work:

It’s so grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to become some­thing, because it knows it’s going to be trash.

Watch The Card­board Berni­ni here.

See more of James Grashow’s card­board works here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Design­er Cre­ates Origa­mi Card­board Tents to Shel­ter the Home­less from the Win­ter Cold

Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” Per­formed by Ger­man 1st Graders in Cute Card­board Robot Cos­tumes

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Ten Magnificent Historical Libraries (That You Can Still Visit Today)

When we first trav­el some­where, we see noth­ing quite so clear­ly as the usu­al cat­e­gories of tourist des­ti­na­tion: the mon­u­ments, the muse­ums, the restau­rants. Take one step deep­er, and we find our­selves in places like cafés and book­stores, the lat­ter espe­cial­ly hav­ing explod­ed in touris­tic appeal over the past few years. Take Por­to’s grand Livraria Lel­lo, which bills itself as “the most beau­ti­ful book­store in the world” — and has arguably done so too suc­cess­ful­ly, hav­ing drawn crowds large enough to neces­si­tate a cov­er charge. Per­haps we’d have a rich­er expe­ri­ence if we spent less time in the livrarias and more in the bib­liote­cas.

That, in any case, is the impres­sion giv­en by the Kings and Things video above, which presents “Ten Mag­nif­i­cent His­tor­i­cal Libraries,” two of them locat­ed in Por­tu­gal. Stand­ing on a hill­top over­look­ing Coim­bra, the Bib­liote­ca Joan­i­na “is sump­tu­ous­ly dec­o­rat­ed in Baroque fash­ion,” and “con­tains intri­cate­ly carved fur­ni­ture and book­shelves made of exot­ic woods as well as ivory, and is embell­ished with cold and chi­nois­erie motif.” As for the cen­turies-old vol­umes on those shelves, they remain in excel­lent con­di­tion thanks to the Bib­liote­ca Joan­i­na’s being one of only two libraries equipped with “a colony of bats to pro­tect the books from insects.”

The oth­er is in Lis­bon’s, Mafra Palace, which “con­tains what is arguably one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful libraries.” Com­plet­ed in 1755, it’s decked out with book­shelves “dec­o­rat­ed in the Roco­co style.” The stretch of the aes­thet­ic spec­trum between Baroque and Roco­co dom­i­nates this video, all of its libraries hav­ing been built in the eigh­teenth and nine­teenth cen­turies. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, most of them are in the Old World, from the Saint Gall Abbey in Switzer­land to the Library of Trin­i­ty Col­lege Dublin to the Nation­al Library of France (the Riche­lieu site in the thir­teenth arrondisse­ment, not the mod­ern François-Mit­ter­rand Site decried in W. G. Sebald’s Auster­litz).

Instra­gram­ma­ble though they may have become in this day and age, these ven­er­a­ble libraries all — unlike many tourist-spot book­stores, where you can’t hear your­self think for all the Eng­lish con­ver­sa­tions going on around you — encour­age the spend­ing of not mon­ey but time. They wel­come the trav­el­er look­ing not sim­ply to hit twen­ty cap­i­tals in a dozen days, but to build a long-term rela­tion­ship with a place. And not just the trav­el­er in Europe: the video also includes a des­ti­na­tion in the Unit­ed States, the “cathe­dral of books” that is Bal­ti­more’s George Peabody Library. The true con­nois­seur will, of course, fol­low a vis­it to that august insti­tu­tion by tak­ing the Sil­ver Line north to hit up Nor­mals Books & Records.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Rise and Fall of the Great Library of Alexan­dria: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Behold 3,000 Dig­i­tized Man­u­scripts from the Bib­lio­the­ca Palati­na: The Moth­er of All Medieval Libraries Is Get­ting Recon­struct­ed Online

How to Read Many More Books in a Year: Watch a Short Doc­u­men­tary Fea­tur­ing Some of the World’s Most Beau­ti­ful Book­stores

What Was Actu­al­ly Lost When the Library of Alexan­dria Burned?

The Last Book­store: A Short Doc­u­men­tary on Per­se­ver­ance & the Love of Books

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

My Neighbor Totoro Inspires a Line of Traditional Japanese Handicrafts

We sup­pose it’s con­ceiv­able that a gift of a wood­en Totoro fig­urine, hand-carved from a sin­gle block using 50 dif­fer­ent kinds of chis­els, might spark a rev­er­ence for tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese craft and nature in the next gen­er­a­tion…

Or, they may be left wish­ing you’d giv­en them a vast­ly more hug­gable machine-made plushie ver­sion, espe­cial­ly if you can’t help suck­ing in your breath every time they start fum­bling with that exquis­ite­ly craft­ed ¥330,000 yen heir­loom-to-be. (That’s $2341.81 in US dol­lars.)

Of course, direc­tor Hayao Miyaza­ki’s 1988 ani­mat­ed fea­ture My Neigh­bor Totoro has legions of fans of all ages, and some will con­sid­er them­selves quite lucky if they win the lot­tery that grants them the abil­i­ty to pur­chase such a trea­sure.

They’re not only carved by skilled arti­sans in Ina­mi, the city of wood­carv­ing, but the wood is also that of a cam­phor tree — the nat­ur­al habi­tat of the mys­te­ri­ous, mag­i­cal Totoro! (It’s also con­sid­ered holy by prac­ti­tion­ers of the Shin­to reli­gion.)

Still, if it’s unclear that the recip­i­ent will tru­ly appre­ci­ate such thought­ful­ness, you’re prob­a­bly bet­ter off going with anoth­er offer­ing from Stu­dio Ghibli’s Totoro-themed col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nak­a­gawa Masashichi Shoten, a pur­vey­or of tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese crafts.

Per­haps a¥4180 bud vase fired in Ure­shi­no City’s Edo-peri­od Yozan Kiln, fea­tur­ing Totoro or a clus­ter of susuwatari, the pom pom-like soot sprites infest­ing the Kusak­abe fam­i­ly’s new home, who also play a part in Spir­it­ed Away.

Maybe a tiny Totoro bell amulet, mold­ed by crafts­men in Odawara, cel­e­brat­ed for the qual­i­ty of their met­al­work since the ear­ly 1500s, when they out­fit­ted samu­rai with weapons, armor and hel­mets?

What about a Totoro-embla­zoned trea­sure box from Yat­suo, made of sten­cil-dyed hand­made washi paper? There’s noth­ing inher­ent­ly wrong with stash­ing your acorn col­lec­tion in an old Altoid’s tin, but this ves­sel comes with his­toric pedi­gree:

As one of the lead­ing towns along the trunk road, Yatu­so flour­ished through … pro­duc­tion of wrap­ping paper for the nation-wide famous “Toya­ma Med­i­cine”. At its gold­en age, from the Edo Era to the begin­ning of the Mei­ji Era in the 19th cen­tu­ry, many peo­ple were engaged in paper­mak­ing by hand­work in their homes. Yat­suo Japan­ese paper was expect­ed to be unbreak­able because it was used as pack­age for expen­sive med­i­cine and at the same time it should look bril­liant. It had to be thick and stout so that it could be imper­vi­ous to water and the label print­ed on the sur­face would not be smeared.

The list of Totoro-inspired tra­di­tion­al crafts is impres­sive. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling:

Chusen-dyed tenugui hand­ker­chiefs and t‑shirts…

Dish­tow­els made from five lay­ers of Kayaori fab­ric that “was intro­duced to Japan dur­ing the Nara peri­od and is said to allow wind to pass through but keep mos­qui­toes out”…

Tiny Ari­ta ware acorn plates that reward mem­bers of the clean plate club with a view of the Cat­bus 

View the col­lec­tion and learn more about February’s lot­tery for a chance to pur­chase a Cam­phor wood Totoro here.

Hands-on fans may pre­fer to cul­ti­vate an appre­ci­a­tion for tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese hand­i­crafts by attempt­ing a DIY Totoro.

Via Spoon & Tam­a­go/Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Stream Hun­dreds of Hours of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Movie Music That Will Help You Study, Work, or Sim­ply Relax: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & More

A Tour of Stu­dio Ghibli’s Brand New Theme Park in Japan, Which Re-Cre­ates the Worlds of Spir­it­ed Away, My Neigh­bor Totoro, and Oth­er Clas­sics

Build Your Own Minia­ture Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Kiki’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice & More

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

A Visit to Tianducheng, China’s Eerily Empty $1 Billion Copy of Paris

Not quite a cen­tu­ry ago, Shang­hai was known as “the Paris of the East.” (Or it became one of the cities to enjoy that rep­u­ta­tion, at any rate.) Today, you can catch a high-speed train in Shang­hai and, just an hour lat­er, arrive in a place that has made a much more lit­er­al bid for that title: Tian­ducheng, a dis­trict mod­eled direct­ly on the French cap­i­tal, com­plete with not entire­ly uncon­vinc­ing faux-Hauss­mannian apart­ment build­ings and boule­vards. Strug­gling to attract res­i­dents in the years after its con­struc­tion on farm­land at the out­skirts of Hangzhou in 2007, Tian­ducheng soon came to be regard­ed as one of Chi­na’s over-ambi­tious ghost towns.

Bizarre as it may seem to those unfa­mil­iar with recent trends in Chi­nese city-build­ing, Tian­ducheng actu­al­ly belongs to a kind of imi­ta­tive tra­di­tion. “On the out­skirts of Bei­jing, a repli­ca of Jack­son Hole, Wyoming, is out­fit­ted with cow­boys and a Route 66,” writes Nation­al Geo­graph­ic’s Gul­naz Khan.

“Red tele­phone booths, pubs, and stat­ues of Win­ston Churchill pep­per the cor­ri­dors of Shanghai’s Thames Town. The city of Fuzhou is con­struct­ing a repli­ca of Strat­ford-upon-Avon in trib­ute to Shake­speare.” To get a sense of how Tian­ducheng fares today, have a look at “I Explored Chi­na’s Failed $1 Bil­lion Copy of Paris,” the new video from Youtube trav­el chan­nel Yes The­o­ry.

The group of friends mak­ing this trip includes one French­man, who admits to a cer­tain sense of famil­iar­i­ty in the built envi­ron­ment of Tian­ducheng, and even seems gen­uine­ly stunned by his first glimpse of its one-third-scale ver­sion of the Eif­fel Tow­er. (It sure­ly pleas­es vis­it­ing Parisians to see that the devel­op­ers haven’t also built their own Tour Mont­par­nasse.) But apart from Chi­nese cou­ples in search of a wed­ding-pho­to spot, this ersatz Eif­fel Tow­er does­n’t seem to draw many vis­i­tors, or at least not dur­ing the day. As Yes The­o­ry’s trav­el­ers dis­cov­er, the neigh­bor­hood does­n’t come alive until the evening, when such locals as have set­tled in Tian­ducheng come out and enjoy their unusu­al cityscape. The street life of this Champs-Élysées is a far cry indeed from the real one — but in its way, it also looks like a lot more fun.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A 5‑Hour Walk­ing Tour of Paris and Its Famous Streets, Mon­u­ments & Parks

A 3D Ani­ma­tion Reveals What Paris Looked Like When It Was a Roman Town

Japan­ese Guid­ed Tours of the Lou­vre, Ver­sailles, the Marais & Oth­er Famous French Places (Eng­lish Sub­ti­tles Includ­ed)

A Chi­nese Painter Spe­cial­iz­ing in Copy­ing Van Gogh Paint­ings Trav­els to Ams­ter­dam & Sees Van Gogh’s Mas­ter­pieces for the First Time

The Sights & Sounds of 18th Cen­tu­ry Paris Get Recre­at­ed with 3D Audio and Ani­ma­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Lascaux Cave Paintings

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

The Las­caux Caves enjoyed a qui­et exis­tence for some 17,000 years.

Then came the sum­mer of 1940, when four teens inves­ti­gat­ed what seemed to be a fox’s den on a hill near Mon­ti­gnac, hop­ing it might lead to an under­ground pas­sage­way of local leg­end.

Once inside, they dis­cov­ered the paint­ings that have intrigued us ever since, expand­ing our under­stand­ing of pre­his­toric art and human ori­gins, and caus­ing us to spec­u­late on things we’ll nev­er have an answer to.

The boys’ teacher reached out to sev­er­al pre­his­to­ri­ans, who authen­ti­cat­ed the fig­ures, arranged for them to be pho­tographed and sketched, and col­lect­ed a num­ber of bone and flint arti­facts from the caves’ floors.

By 1948, exca­va­tions and arti­fi­cial lights ren­dered the caves acces­si­ble to vis­i­tors, who arrived in droves — as many as 1,800 in a sin­gle day.

Less than 20 years lat­er, The Collector’s Rosie Lesso writes, the caves were in cri­sis, and per­ma­nent­ly closed to tourism:


…the heat, humid­i­ty and car­bon diox­ide of all those peo­ple crammed into the dark and air­less cave was caus­ing an imbal­ance in the cave’s nat­ur­al ecosys­tem, lead­ing to the over­growth of molds and fun­gus­es that threat­ened to oblit­er­ate the 
pre­his­toric paint­ings.

The lights that had helped vis­i­tors get an eye­ful of the paint­ings caused fad­ing and dis­col­oration that threat­ened their very exis­tence.

Declar­ing this major attrac­tion off lim­its was the right move, and those who make the jour­ney to the area won’t leave entire­ly dis­ap­point­ed. Las­caux IV, a painstak­ing repli­ca that opened to the pub­lic in 2016, offers even more verisimil­i­tude than the pre­vi­ous mod­el, 1983’s Las­caux II.

A hand­ful of researchers and main­te­nance work­ers are still per­mit­ted inside the actu­al caves, now a UNESCO World Her­itage site, but human pres­ence is lim­it­ed to an annu­al total of 800 hours, and every­one must be prop­er­ly out­fit­ted with ster­ile white over­alls, plas­tic head cov­er­ings, latex gloves, dou­ble shoe cov­ers, and LED fore­head lamps with which to view the paint­ings.

The rest of us rab­ble can get a healthy vir­tu­al taste of these vis­i­tors’ expe­ri­ence thanks to the dig­i­tal Las­caux col­lec­tion that the Nation­al Arche­ol­o­gy Muse­um cre­at­ed for the Min­istry of Cul­ture.

An inter­ac­tive tour offers close-up views of the famous paint­ings, with titles to ori­ent the view­er as to the par­tic­u­lars of what and where  — for exam­ple “red cow fol­lowed by her calf” in the Hall of the Bulls.

Click the but­ton in the low­er left for a more in-depth expert descrip­tion of the ele­ment being depict­ed:

The flat red col­or used for the sil­hou­ette is of a uni­for­mi­ty that is sel­dom attained, which implies a repeat­ed ges­ture start­ing from the same point, with com­ple­men­tary angles of pro­jec­tion of pig­ments. The out­lines have been cre­at­ed with a sten­cil, and only the hindquar­ters, horns and the line of the back have been laid down with a brush…The fact that the artist used the same pig­ment for both fig­ures with­out any pic­to­r­i­al tran­si­tion between them indi­cates that the fusion of the two sil­hou­ettes was inten­tion­al, indica­tive of the con­nec­tion between the calf and its moth­er. This duo was born of the same ges­ture, and the image of the off­spring is mere­ly the graph­ic exten­sion of that of its moth­er.

The inter­ac­tive vir­tu­al tour is fur­ther com­pli­ment­ed by a trove of his­toric pho­tographs and inter­views, geo­log­i­cal con­text, con­ser­va­tion updates and anthro­po­log­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions sug­gest­ing the paint­ings had a func­tion well beyond visu­al art.

Begin your vir­tu­al inter­ac­tive vis­it to the Las­caux Cave here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Archae­ol­o­gists May Have Dis­cov­ered a Secret Lan­guage in Las­caux & Chau­vet Cave Paint­ings, Per­haps Reveal­ing a 20,000-Year-Old “Pro­to-Writ­ing” Sys­tem

Was a 32,000-Year-Old Cave Paint­ing the Ear­li­est Form of Cin­e­ma?

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

40,000-Year-Old Sym­bols Found in Caves World­wide May Be the Ear­li­est Writ­ten Lan­guage

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Discover the Regions in Italy Where the People Descended from the Medieval or Ancient Greeks, and Still Speak Greek

All of us, across the world, know that Italy is shaped like a boot. But almost none of us know that, in the regions of Apu­lia and Cal­abria at the coun­try’s “heel” and “toe,” live small com­mu­ni­ties who, among them­selves, still speak not Ital­ian but Greek. The word “still” applies because these peo­ples, known as Griko (or Gre­cani­ci), are thought to have descend­ed from the much larg­er medieval or even ancient Greek com­mu­ni­ties that once exist­ed there. Of course, it would­n’t have been at all unusu­al back then for inhab­i­tants of one part of what we now call Italy to speak a quite dif­fer­ent lan­guage from the inhab­i­tants of anoth­er.

John Kaza­k­lis at Isto­ria writes that “the Ital­ian lan­guage did not become the sta­ple lan­guage until well into the end of the 19th Cen­tu­ry dur­ing the process of Ital­ian uni­fi­ca­tion, or the Risorg­i­men­to,” which turned the Tus­can dialect into the nation­al lan­guage. Yet “there exists today a tiny enclave of Greek-speak­ing peo­ple in the Aspromonte Moun­tain region of Reg­gio Cal­abria that seem to have sur­vived mil­len­nia.”

Are they “descen­dants of the Ancient Greeks who col­o­nized South­ern Italy? Are they rem­nants of the Byzan­tine pres­ence in South­ern Italy? Did their ances­tors come in the 15th-16th Cen­turies from the Greek com­mu­ni­ties in the Aegean flee­ing Ottoman inva­sion?” Every­one who con­sid­ers the ori­gins of the Griko/Grecanici peo­ple (or their Griko/Gri­co/Greko lan­guages) seems to come to a slight­ly dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion.

“I sus­pect they speak a dialect more close­ly relat­ed to the Koine Greek spo­ken at the time of the 11th cen­tu­ry Byzan­tine Empire, the last and final time South­ern Italy was still part of the Greek-speak­ing world,” writes Gre­coph­o­ne Youtu­ber Tom_Traveler, who vis­its the Griko-speak­ing vil­lages of Gal­li­cianò and Bova in the video above. “Or per­haps it was influ­enced by Greek refugees flee­ing Con­stan­tino­ple upon its fall to the Turks in 1453.” How­ev­er it devel­oped, it’s long been a lan­guage on the decline: “the clear­est esti­mate of remain­ing Greko speak­ers seems to be between 200–300,” Kaza­k­lis wrote in 2017, “and num­bers con­tin­ue to decrease.” In the inter­est of pre­serv­ing the lan­guage and the his­to­ry reflect­ed with­in it, now would be a good time for a few of those speak­ers to start up Youtube chan­nels of their own.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed con­tent:

How the Byzan­tine Empire Rose, Fell, and Cre­at­ed the Glo­ri­ous Hagia Sophia: A His­to­ry in Ten Ani­mat­ed Min­utes

Map­ping the Sounds of Greek Byzan­tine Church­es: How Researchers Are Cre­at­ing “Muse­ums of Lost Sound”

Learn Ancient Greek in 64 Free Lessons: A Free Online Course from Bran­deis & Har­vard

Can Mod­ern-Day Ital­ians Under­stand Latin? A Youtu­ber Puts It to the Test on the Streets of Rome

Meet the Amer­i­cans Who Speak with Eliz­a­bethan Eng­lish Accents: An Intro­duc­tion to the “Hoi Toi­ders” from Ocra­coke, North Car­oli­na

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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