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Périgord - Dordogne - Visit

Périgord, a prehistoric region at the heart of the Dordogne region.

Le symbole du Musée de préhistoire des Eyzies Périgord is a region which concentrates the highest number of paleolithic sites.
More than 50 caves and rock shelters, traces of settlement, burial places have been discovered in the region.
It is a real cradle of European civilization.
The place has benefited from exceptional geological conditions, as much for the number of caves and natural shelters as for calcareous formations which provided the artistic expression of prehistoric men with an ideal medium.
The most ancient traces of human settlement are reckoned to be 400,000 years old.

Dossier Périgord,
les nouvelles pages

- Musée de Préhistoire au Eyzies-de-Tayac page II

- Musée de Périgueux II

- Périgord, Photos de la région

Les Eyzies-de-Tayac : A crossroads of Les Eyzies, point de départ de votre voyage !prehistory.
An ideal starting point for your journey, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, on the Dordogne River, is at the heart of an incredible number of prehistoric sites. Within a few miles radius, you can visit places whose names make prehistory lovers dream of : Les Combarelles, Lascaux, Le Moustier, La Micoque, La Madeleine... A real mine ( in all meanings of the word ! ). You must allow more than two weeks to go round it, and this, mind you, if you're well organized !

And remember to book in advance to get your tickets for some sites. Access to Les Combarelles, for instance, is limited to fifty visitors or so a day.

Rock shelters.
Geological characteristics, the rock shelters have allowed the preservation of prehistorical remains up to the present day. They made it possible for the earliest men to take shelter, to make fires without beeing smoked out and to create real workshops to make tools... All thes remains have been covered up due to the successive collapses of the calcareous cliffs.

How rock shelters were formed.

Formation d'un abri sous roche

1 – The birth of a shelter.
The calcareous cliff is composed of several more or less soft strata... an overdeepening forms at the level of the soft stratum.

2- Hollowing out.
Under the effects of frost and thaw, the rock breaks up and the shelter gets hollower and hollower... Then men can take advantage of this natural shelter and set up a camp.

3 – The collapse.
The rock forming the roof of the shelter collapses under its own weight... thus the sedimentary deposits and traces of human presence are naturally protected

A selection of rock shelters to visit :
The area around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is rich in rock shelters. From an educational point of view, all the sites are not equally accessible.
For a family outing, Hominides.com recommends L'Abri Pataud, easily accessible, well-documented and explained, and with a small museum which brings out the various remains found on the site.
In the same category, but less « explicit », Laugerie Basse will, however, allow the younger to enter an « open-air » cave and take an interest in prehistory.
Reserved for informed prehistory lovers, the visit of Laugerie Haute with a lecturer is a fascinating experience which makes it possible to visualize the stratigraphy from -24,000 down to -16.000 years.
In the Cap Blanc shelter, open again to the public, you will discover a sculpture, more than 30 ft long, composed of horses and bisons.
Abri Pataud Laugerie Basse Laugerie Haute

Decorated caves.
How the caves were formed.
Rich in limestone, the subsoil of Périgord has also permitted many caves to form.
Limestone, naturally fissured, is run through by streams that, flowing down, excavate the rock thus forming galleries. Water, streaming down, deposits calcite progressively down the walls of the cave ( sometimes forming stalactites and stalagmites). 2016 News : Lascaux 4

« Holy » caves.
Contrary to popular belief, caves have never been used as dwellings by prehistoric men.
At best, they used the « porches » of the caves as sheltered camps.
For unknown reasons, the first men ventured to the farthest ends of the caves to decorate them with various representations.

A selection of decorated caves to visit.
Of course, Lascaux comes first ! Just think of it : to visit Périgord and not Lascaux ! And for a very simple reason : Lascaux is the cave showing the greatest number of explicit representations.
Even if what you visit is only a facsimile, you'll be deeply moved just as well !
In less known Font-de-Gaume you'll also see multicololoured representations, sometimes contoured with carved lines. Bisons, horses and mammoths are among the most frequently represented.
In a different style, the Combarelles cave presents an impressive set of carvings stretching for almost 1,000 ft. Thus, every time you'll visit it, you'll discover new hidden representations !

Lascaux II Fond-de-Gaume Les Combarelles

Visite du Périgord
A voir Grottes Abris sous roche
Visite du Périgord Grotte de Lascaux Abri Pataud
Musée de Préhistoire des Eyzies Grotte de Font-de-Gaume Abri de La Ferrassie
Musée de Préhistoire des Eyzies 2 Grotte des Combarelles Abri du Poisson
Musée Art et Archéologie Périgueux Grotte de Villars Laugerie Haute
Musée Art et Archéologie Périgueux 2 Grotte de Saint-Cirq / Sorcier Laugerie Basse
Le Thot Grotte de Bara-Bahau Abri de Cap Blanc
Pôle International de Préhistoire Grotte du Pech Merle Abri Cro-Magnon
  Grotte de Bernifal Castel Merle
  Site de Regourdou Le Moustier
  Grotte de Rouffignac  
  La Roque St-Christophe  
  La Baume Bonne  
  Lascaux 4  

Suggested reading.

Vous souhaitez visiter le Périgord et ses trésors préhistoriques ?

La France Préhistorique

Chemin de la Préhistoire en Périgord
Vous trouverez sur le site de l'Office du tourisme de Sarlat une sélection de lieux d'hébergements et des idées de visites...
Préparez votre visite, en surfant sur le site " Sarlat et le Périgord noir " et réservez directement votre hébergement sur Sarlat .

Lavishly illustrated, a real guide to prepare your visit to Périgord, but all over France as well. Recently reprinted, the guide supplies the reader with a survey of our knowledge of prehistory.
Dealing with the prehistoric sites in Périgord, this book will bring you all the necessary information, site after site. Shelters, caves, museums, anything you want to visit is explained, and well-documented.
In English    
Lascaux and Preservation issues in Subterranean Environment
Noël Coye - Collectif
Discovering Périgord Prehistory
Brigitte and Gilles Delluc
Cave Art - A guide to the Decorated Ice Age caves of Europe - Paul G. Bahn
Lascaux et la conservation en milieu souterrain
Discovering Perigord prehistory
Cave art, a guide to the decorated Ice Age caves of Europe
Organized through the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Communi-cation, the symposium "Lascaux and Preservation Issues in Subter-ranean Environments" was held in Paris on February 26 and 27, 2009 under the chairmanship of Jean Clottes. It brought together nearly three hundred participants from seventeen countries with the goal of confronting research and interventions conducted in Lascaux Cave since 2001 with the experiences gained in other countries in the domain of preservation in subterranean environments. Twelve presentations addressed questions related to disciplines such as hydrogeology, climatology and microbiology in relation to the protection and valorization of decorated caves. The talks were followed by debates allowing the experts and all other participants to freely express themselves. This volume, which constitutes the proceedings of this symposium, is composed of the studies presented during the sessions and full trans-criptions of the debates. It provides both a synthesis of the conservation activities realized at Lascaux between 2001 and 2009 and the state of research and the conditions of the cave as of 2009.
Seventy-four specialists of fields as varied at biology, biochemistry, botany, hydrology, climatology, geology, fluid mechanics, archaeology, anthropology, restoration and conservation, from numerous countries (France, United States, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Australia, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand...) contributed to the realization of this exceptional publication.
This book describes the most significant and unusual aspects of prehistoric times in Périgord. Man has been living here for 500 000 years. Of course, the appearance of the earliest humans in Africa is five times older but it was in Périgord that Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon Man developed in the most spectacular way. It was also in Périgord that the first archaeological digs were carried out. For the past two centuries, the research has continued and there have been a number of exceptional discoveries, especially in the mysterious caves. With hundreds of settlement sites, more than fifty decorated caves and rock-shelters and dozens of dolmens, the region is now internationally famous. In fact, Unesco has included the caves in the Vézère Valley in its World Heritage list. The decorated Ice Age caves are some of mankind's greatest artistic achievements, and there is no substitute for seeing the caves themselves. There you can see the art – paintings, engravings, bas-reliefs or drawings – in its original, natural setting, and stand where the artists did 30,000–10,000 years ago.
For speleologists and holidaymakers alike – indeed anyone who wants to add a visit to a cave to their itinerary – here is an essential handbook. The first guide to all the decorated Ice Age caves in Europe that are open to the public, Cave Art covers more than 50 caves in England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well as relevant museums and centres.
This second edition has been fully revised and includes three additional caves and four new facsimiles.

Crédits Photos : Kroko - Mise à jour le 06/01/12