Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

At the heart of the Vézère valley, with its prehistoric
painted caves and rock-shelters, sits the village of Les
Eyzies. Known as “the capital of prehistory”, it stretches
out along the foot of ochre-coloured cliffs that bear
traces of some of the earliest human settlements. The
exhibits in the recently enlarged museum cover most
of what is known about early man, and would make
an ideal preliminary to any visit to the nearby painted
caves. A 12th-century, fortified church in Tayac, the
hamlet beside Les Eyzies, is also worth a visit.

Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Musée National
de la Préhistoire
Tel (05) 53 06 45 45. # daily.
¢ Sep–Jun: Tue. 8 &
The museum’s collections,
which consist mostly of finds
from the Vézère valley,
include stone tools, burial
artifacts, bones of
prehistoric animals,
ornaments, small
sculptures and
engravings. The
terrace commands
impressive views of
the valley.

 

Abri Pataud
Tel (05) 53 05 65 60.
# Feb–Dec: call in
advance for opening
times. 8 &
The walls of this
engraved rockshelter
contain
traces of around
40 encampments
dating from 35,000
to 20,000 BC, covering the
Aurignacian, Gravettian and
Solutrean periods. Just below
this is another rock-shelter, its
ceiling decorated with a
splendid relief of an oryx
(Solutrean, 17,000 BC). The
museum displays finds from
the site and gives details of
the archaeological
excavations that have been
carried out here to date.

 

Abri du Cap Blanc
Marquay. Tel (05) 53 06 86 00.
¢ Sat & public hols. 8 &
More than 15,000 years ago,
prehistoric people carved
representations of horses,
bisons and reindeer on the
wall of this rock-shelter. A
small display sheds light
on daily life during the
Magdalenian period, as well
as the art that typifies it.

Le Moustier, La Micoque
and La Ferrassie
Tel (05) 53 06 86 00. # summer;
prior booking essential. 8 &
The rock-shelter at Le Moustier,
where a Neanderthal skeleton
was discovered, gave its
name to the Mousterian
culture (80,000–30,000
BC). La Micoque, the
oldest site in the
Dordogne, was
inhabited from
300, 000 BC. The
rock-shelter of La
Ferrassie, inhabited
from 40,000 to
25,000 BC, contained
Neanderthal burials.
Excavations here also
uncovered engraved
stone slabs from the
Aurignacian period.
These are the earliestknown
examples of
prehistoric art in the
Vézère valley.

 

Abri de Laugerie Haute
Tel (05) 53 06 86 00. ¢ Sat & public
hols. 8 prior booking essential. &
This huge rock-shelter was
inhabited from 22,000 to
12,000 BC. It was abandoned
when the ceiling fell in. Flint
and bone tools, as well as a
large number of harpoons,
were discovered here.

 

Abri du Poisson
Tel (05) 53 06 86 00. ¢ Sat & public
hols. 8 prior booking essential. &
This small rock-shelter in the
valley of the Gorge d’Enfer is
named after the relief of a fish
that was discovered here. It is
of a salmon, 1m (3ft) long,
carved in about 25,000 BC.

 

Grotte des Combarelles
Tel (05) 53 06 86 00. ¢ Sat & public
hols. 8 prior booking essential. &
This cave, used during the
Magdalenian period (around
15,000 BC), has some 600
engravings and drawings of
horses, reindeer, mammoths
and woolly rhinoceros, as well
as anthropomorphic figures.

 

Grotte de Font-de-Gaume
Tel (05) 53 06 86 00. ¢ Sat &
public hols. 8 prior booking
essential. &
The walls of this cave are
covered with magnificent
multicoloured paintings
dating from the Magdalenian
period. It also has drawings
and engravings of almost 200
animals, including 82 bisons.

 

Grotte de Bernifal
Meyrals. Tel (05) 53 29 66 39.
# Jul–Sep: daily. 8 &
This small cave is reached by
walking up through an atmospheric
woodland. By torchlight,
visitors can see about 100
representations of mammoths
and human figures, and signs
and symbols, dating from the
Magdalenian period.

 

Abri de Laugerie Basse
Tel (05) 53 06 92 70; (05) 53 05 65
65 (call ahead for opening times). ¢
Jan. 8 & special price ticket when
combined with a visit to Grand Roc.
This rock-shelter, from the
Magdalenian period, contains
displays on the life of Cro-
Magnon people, covering the
the tools they made, what they
ate, their hunting methods and
their artistic skills. Some pieces
are replicas because the
originals have been taken to
other museums around the
world. The earliest female
figure to be discovered in
France, known as the Venus
Impudique (Shameless Venus),
was found here in 1864 by
Marquis Paul de Vibraye.

Grotte du Grand Roc
Tel (05) 53 06 92 70; (05) 53 05 65
65 (call ahead for opening times).
¢ Jan. 8 & special price ticket
when combined with a visit to Abri
de Laugerie Basse.
Lit to reveal its wonders, this
cave contains fantastic
mineral formations, including stalagmites, stalactites and an
assortment of rather weird
shapes, some of which are
hollow. One of the most
amazing forms a cross.