Pre-Historic Caves and Grottes the Dordogne
Caves and Grottes of the Dordogne
The prehistoric caverns and grottes scattered throughout the region of Dordogne hold a major significance in both the region’s history and the narrative of Cro-Magnon man, who were the early modern humans existing between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. It was in Les Eyzies-de-Taynac, commonly referred to as simply Les Eyzies, located in the heart of Dordogne, that evidence of the first Cro-Magnon man came to light.
The Dordogne region boasts hundreds of these historic caves and grottoes, with some being more notable than others. In fact, the Les Eyzies area alone contains an overwhelming number of such archaeological sites—a feature that has earned it a section of its own in our compilation.
While immersing yourself in the vast prehistoric world of the caves and grottoes of Les Eyzies, it is recommended to set aside some time to visit the National Museum of Prehistory. Host to an intriguing array of exhibits, this museum provides a fascinating insight into mankind’s distant past. Remember, a journey through these historic sites isn’t merely a visit—it’s an exploration of our own origins.
Main Caves and Grottes In The Dordogne Region
Lascaux II | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
The Lascaux Caves, located in southwestern France near Montignac village, are renowned worldwide for their Upper Paleolithic paintings. The caves were inhabited during the Ice Age by early humans, around 17,000 to 15,000 years ago, a time famously referred to as the Magdalenian period. The remarkable artistry found inside is not limited to animal figures, but also extends to human figures and abstract symbols, with over 600 parietal wall paintings which collectively form the Lascaux Panel.
The discovery of the caves happened by chance in September 1940 when four local boys found a hole that led to this spectacular prehistoric site. The entrance was subsequently enlarged, which eventually allowed the first researchers to make their historic entrance into the stunning cave complex in 1948.
Despite their closure to the public in 1963, research and study of the caves continued. The damage caused by visitors was severe, leading to the growth of lichens and crystals, and changes in the cave’s climate. This has prompted extensive preservation efforts. In the 2000s, fungal and microbial issues forced the caves to be almost entirely closed off even to scientists and preservationists.
Lascaux II, the replica of the original, was created with microscopic accuracy using the same materials and techniques as the original artists. The project was headed by Monique Peytral, who took 11 years to complete it. Authenticity was key, and therefore, the original pigments and materials were used in this process. The result is a stunning replica that lets us appreciate the prehistoric art without causing further damage to the originals.
Visiting Lascaux 4 today, you will embark on a journey into the prehistoric world of our ancestors. Through the utilization of cutting-edge technology and precise replicas, this modern museum and interpretive centre brings alive the ancient art from the original Lascaux cave. As you step into the immersive experience, the life-sized, high-quality reproductions give you an authentic feel of the original artwork. The exact replicas of the cave walls further transport you into the mysterious past.
The interactive exhibits established within the facility allow you a deeper connection to the historical legacy. While preserving the delicate original artwork, Lascaux 4 provides you broad access to this ancient prehistoric heritage. This exceptional experience, enriched with valuable information, unveils the fascinating realm of prehistoric art.
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La Roque Saint Christophe | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
Situated midway between Le Bugue and Montignac, you’ll find the prehistoric troglodyte settlement known as La Roque Saint Christophe, majestically perched 90 meters above the River Vezere. This ancient habitation was more than just a shelter; it was a home for an entire community that once bustled with life in prehistoric times. As you explore the area, you will notice remnants that bear testimony to a thriving community. You will come across vestiges of a forge, a church, and a host of other structures that together made up the village in this unique pre-historic setting. The echoes of a bygone era resonate in these historical imprints, providing a peek into the lives of our distant ancestors.
Gouffre de Padirac | Caves and Grottes
The Gouffre de Padirac is a sought-after prehistoric cave and grotto located in the Dordogne area, attracting many enthusiasts. Entrance to this prominent cave is made even more thrilling as it is accessed by boat. It’s an exceptional choice especially for children who find it adventurous and entertaining.
Grotte de Villars | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
The dance of light and water that illuminates these caves and grottoes brings them to life, effectively showcasing the diverse rock structures at their finest. The caves are also home to some notable prehistoric paintings. One unique feature is a prehistoric painting of a human being, which deviates from the usual prehistoric tradition of predominantly painting animals. The entire scenario is a breathtaking epitome of natural beauty fused with intriguing historical artifacts.
Gouffre de Proumeyssac | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
In the vicinity of Le Bugue, the prehistoric caves and grottes at Proumeyssac hold a distinguished reputation. The most prominent attraction is the magnificent “cathedral of crystal” – a vast, brilliantly illuminated cavern. Visitors have the option to pay an additional fee to enter the caves using the same method as the initial explorers – a motorized suspended basket, which was originally lowered by a horse. The cave and grotto interiors are skillfully illuminated to showcase the awe-inspiring rock formations. Additionally, the site offers a picnic area, a bookshop, a bar, a forest trail, and a geological section.
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Grotte de Cougnac | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
There is a natural cave adorned with exquisite stalactites on its ceiling and another cave containing ancient paintings, both located 18 kilometers from Sarlat. These captivating features can be found within the Grotte de Domme in the Dordogne region. Conveniently, these caves are situated beneath the picturesque village of Domme, allowing visitors to explore both the caves and one of France’s most stunning villages during the same trip.
Troglodyte houses at Belves Dordogne
The troglodyte village in Belves is a unique archaeological site located beneath the town’s central square in the Grottes area. This subterranean village offers an extraordinary glimpse into the prehistoric period when early humans, known as troglodytes, utilized caves and natural rock formations as their dwellings.
The troglodytes of Belves were likely hunter-gatherers, adept at utilizing the resources of their environment for survival. These communities are known for their ingenuity in creating efficient living spaces within a challenging landscape, signifying remarkable adaptability and resourcefulness in early human civilization.
What truly sets the Belves troglodyte village apart is the well-preserved state of the caves, allowing visitors to explore and study in detail the living quarters, storage facilities, and communal areas used by these early settlers. A visit to this prehistoric site transports you back in time, providing an authentic and immersive experience into a unique phase of human history. However, it’s not just the archaeological value that’s fascinating. The troglodyte village also showcases the harmonious coexistence of early humans with their natural surroundings, a reminder of humanity’s deep and enduring connection with the earth.
Apart from its archaeological and historical appeal, the troglodyte village in Belves is situated in a region known for its stunning natural beauty and peaceful ambiance. Combined with the charm and allure of Belves, considered one of France’s most beautiful villages, a visit to this troglodyte site makes for a truly enriching experience.
Troglodyte Fort at La Roque Gageac | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
Rather than being subterranean caves, these are dwellings situated on a cliffside, which can be traced back to the 12th century. They are positioned 40 metres up on the cliffs of La Roque-Gageac, along the Dordogne River. Despite their precarious location on the cliff, they have stood the test of time, serving as a vivid testament to the past. Their presence on the cliff face, high above the ground, has intrigued and captivated onlookers for centuries.
Grotte de Rouffignac | Dordogne Caves and Grottes
An electrified locomotive transports you into an antiquated cavern, a relic from prehistoric times. As you venture deeper into this cave of ancient allure, you will discover carvings depicting mammoths and rhinoceros, horses and bison. These monumental creatures, frozen in time on the cavern walls, provide a unique glimpse into a world that existed long before ours. Each engraved animal unveils a tale of bygone epochs; a silent narrative etched into stone, waiting to be understood and appreciated.
Grotte des Merveilles at Rocamadour | Caves and Grottes
Within this cavern, you will find both ancient artwork and awe-inspiring formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Additionally, its proximity to the esteemed historic town of Rocamadour makes it a significant location in France.
Grotte de Lacave | Caves and Grottes
To access this extraordinary natural cave, you’ll board a compact electric train that leads you to an expansive chamber, where you’ll be captivated by an incredible showcase of stalactites and stalagmites. Found in close proximity to the towns of Martel and Souillac, the Lacave cave is truly a sight to behold.