France | Pyrenees Rock Art
Created by our ancestors around 35,000 to 10,000 years ago, at a time when Europe lay in the grip of an Ice Age and creatures now long-extinct roamed the countryside, cave art provides one of the most direct connections with our distant past. The truly astonishing feature of rock art is that it remains precisely where the artist intended. And we, the modern visitors, may well view the art while standing upon the exact spot on which the artist stood.
Preserved by the constant temperature of their environment, these drawings and paintings have remained intact for millennia, deep in the caves of the Pyrenees. Dr Bahn has devoted his career to the study of rock art and is able to arrange superb access to the caves.
- Enjoy privileged access to cave sites usually closed to the public, in the company of an archaeologist and specialist on prehistoric rock art
- All the arrangements made for you to give the best possible access to the caves and rock shelters of this beautiful region
- Based in a single hotel - a comfortable former coaching inn in St Girons
- Rock Art
- Special Access
- Small Group
- Low Single Supplement
- Just One Hotel
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Toulouse, admired capital of the Occitane region, and journey south to our hotel in the gorgeous town of Saint-Girons, which is situated on the banks of the Salat. This is nothing short of a relaxing first day and we will be given some free time to explore the tranquil riverside streets before enjoying a delicious dinner with our group.
The day begins with a drive out to Grotte de Bedeilhac. Its massive cave mouth is large enough to land an aeroplane, as actually occurred back in 1972. Occupation here dates back at least 15,000 years, with a variety of intriguing pieces of cave art, drawings, engravings and even mouldings among the striking rock formations. Later, we visit the Parc de la Préhistorie. Primarily important for its facsimile of some of the decorated galleries at Niaux, it shows them as they would have originally looked. Here, we also find representations of parts of te cave that are not accesssible to the public.
This morning we drive out to the Grottes de Gargas, where we find cave art consisting of two different elements – both created in the Upper Palaeolithic period of approximately 25,000 BC. One is a collection of animal paintings comparable to those found at Lascaux in the Dordogne, including fine depictions of horses, ibex and mammoths. The other is a dazzling group of some two-hundred hands stencilled in black, red, brown, ochre and white. We enjoy an afternoon visit to the rich Roman site of Lugdunum Convenarum, at the foot of the medieval walled town of St. Bertrand de Comminges. While we're here, we also visit its wonderful cathedral and cloisters.
Today we visit the cave of La Vache, situated directly opposite from Niaux, but much lower in the valley. This cave served as a living area for prehistoric people over several centuries and, although undecorated, it shows living floors and hearths. Weapons and tools in bone, flint and antler were found with an astonishing array of animals portrayed on them. Images included wolves, lions, fish and - most unusually - humans.
Fully prepared with this new-found insight, we go on to view the famous Niaux Cave itself. Here we find one of the greatest and most powerful collections of Ice Age drawings that can still be visited, with extraordinary galleries of intricately rendered animals and human footprints, including the world-renowned Salon Noir or “Black Hall”. A sensational site, and one not to be missed.
Our explorations today begin in the east at the large cave site of Mas d'Azil. Characterised by colorfully decorated pebbles and finely carved bone harpoons, this cave has been used as a refuge for millennia. The earliest evidence of human occupation dates back to a phenomenal 30,000 years. The site's accompanying museum showcases a fine collection of portable art along with other materials that demonstrate the cave's rich levels of past occupation. This is a truly unique place to visit and we ensure that ample time is spent here in order to truly appreciate the finds. Our afternoon will be spent at leisure exploring this fascinating area.
Before the day draws to a close we enjoy a convivial farewell dinner with the group – the perfect way to celebrate our adventures.
We return to resplendent Toulouse after indulging in some free time in St. Girons, and then we depart for home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
6 nights in a comfortable hand-picked hotel in St Girons — the town is situated on the banks of the Salat, and a walk along the riverside is perfect for taking in palaces, parks, and points of interest
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