France | Pyrenees Rock Art

 Parc de la Préhistorie
Parc de la Préhistorie
Toulouse
Toulouse
St. Etienne Cathedral, Toulouse
St. Etienne Cathedral, Toulouse
Pyrenees mountains
Pyrenees mountains
Painted bison in the cave at Niaux, with many other superimposed animals, including an aurochs, the horns and head of which interlock with the head of the bison
Painted bison in the cave at Niaux, with many other superimposed animals, including an aurochs, the horns and head of which interlock with the head of the bison
Part of a painted cave wall from Niaux, showing bison and ibex
Part of a painted cave wall from Niaux, showing bison and ibex
Beautiful old villages, orchards and vineyards on the lower slopes of the Pyreneen mountains
Beautiful old villages, orchards and vineyards on the lower slopes of the Pyreneen mountains
Intricately carved horse head baton
Intricately carved horse head baton

Created by our ancestors around 35-10,000 years ago, at a time when Europe lay in the grip of an Ice Age, cave art provides one of the most direct connections possible with our distant past. The truly astonishing feature of rock art is that, preserved by the constant temperature of their environment, these drawings and paintings have remained intact and in situ for millennia. Our tour takes you into these rugged mountain landscapes, where we delve into the artistic minds of our distant European ancestors. Dr Bahn has devoted his career to the study of rock art and will provide unique insights into this distant past. His PhD dissertation was on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees..

  • Visit the key sites of the area such as Niaux, Mas d’Azil and Gargas
  • Stand in the exact spot in which the artists stood who created these early masterpieces of art
  • See some relief figures modelled from clay at Grotte de Bedeilhac

Themes

  • Rock Art
  • Prehistory

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • Small Group
  • Low Single Supplement
  • Just One Hotel
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We fly from London and 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.

Hotel: Overnight in St Girons
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

The day begins with a drive out to the Parc de la Préhistoire. Primarily important for its facsimile of the main decorated chamber of Niaux, it shows the figures as they would have originally looked. Here, we also find representations of parts of the cave that are not accessible to the public. Later, we visit the Grotte de Bédeilhac. 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 clay mouldings among the striking rock formations.

Hotel: Overnight in St Girons
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

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 engravings and paintings, 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 the great church of St Bertrand, with its fine cloister and stunning woodwork, and the beautiful Basilique de St Just.

Hotel: Overnight in St Girons
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner included

Day 4

Today we visit the cave of La Vache, situated directly opposite that of 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, primarily the world-renowned Salon Noir or “Black Hall” with its astounding acoustics. A sensational site, and one not to be missed.

Hotel: Overnight in St Girons
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Our explorations today begin at the huge cave site of Mas d'Azil. Characterised by colourfully 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.

Hotel: Overnight in St Girons
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

After breakfast, we transfer to the hotel for our return flight to London.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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2020 Tour Details

Mon 19th October - Sat 24th October

Available

£1,995

inc.

sgl supp: £190

PYR20A

Led By: Dr Paul Bahn

Guide Lecturer

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