Dordogne | Cave Art
The caves of the Dordogne Valley are home to one of the earliest, and most extraordinary, displays of human creativity. Wild animals and human figures, some up to 30,000 years old, are vividly brought to life in - daubed in ochre and charcoal and etched on cave walls
Dr Paul Bahn (June) and Dr Iain Morley (September) tell the story of the art, its discovery and what is known of the people who created it — the first true ‘old masters’, caught in the extreme cold of the last Ice Age. We will visit some of the world-famous rock-art sites - taking you as close as is possible to the lives of our remotest Ice-Age ancestors.
- Small group tours led by experts in rock art and the archaeology of the last Ice Age - Dr Paul Bahn and Dr Iain Morley
- We have specially booked access to unique and increasingly difficult to see Paleolithic art
- Extended itinerary taking in both the verdant landscapes and limestone plateaux of the Dordogne and Poitiers
- Rock Art
- Special Access
- Small Group
- All Inclusive
Travel by Eurostar and TGV to Brive, and transfer to our hotel in Les Eyzies.
We begin our journey at Bernifal cave to see its wonderful depictions of mammoths. We continue to the rock shelter at Cap Blanc, a rare example of Ice Age sculpted bas-reliefs and the best still in situ which are open to the public. Travel by electric train into the cave system of Rouffignac, more than five miles long. About one-third of all mammoth depictions known from cave art come from this cave.
Our morning is spent viewing the complete facsimile of the world famous painted cave at Lascaux IV, long since closed to the public. This is the most famous and spectacular of all decorated caves, with hundreds of paintings and 1,500 engravings, best-known for its awe inspiring depictions of aurochs, horses and deer. Continue to the park at Le Thot, where animals which would have been extant in the Ice Age are bred and kept. We take a short drive to Font-de-Gaume, the only decorated cave in France with multi-coloured paintings which remains open to the public.
We drive to the fascinating site of Laugerie Haute, with remains of occupation dating from the Upper Palaeolithic. Onto the small rock shelter known as Abri du Poisson, famed for the bas-relief of a male salmon across the ceiling, more than 1m in length, and once painted red. We continue to Le Moustier, site of several Neanderthal burials. Returning to Les Eyzies we visit the excavations at Abri Pataud where archaeologists have been attempting to trace artistic progress through the millennia. End the day at the new Cro-Magnon Museum.
We travel south towards Gourdon to see two geologically beautiful caves decorated by both humans, and nature.
Our first visit is to Cougnac which contains the claw-marks of cave bears.
We also see paintings of mammoths, ibex, human type figures and three megaloceros, many of which take advantage of the natural shapes of the cave wall. Continue to Pech Merle, with painted black outline aurochs, mammoth, spotted-horses, geometric shapes and hand prints.
Visit La Chaire à Calvin, a rock shelter with frieze dating back around 15,000 years. Evidence of rhinoceros, red deer, auroch and many other animals has been found here, along with bone and stone tools. We move on to the Lussac Museum of Prehistory.
We spend our final day viewing the excellent facsimile at Angles sur-l’Anglin, one of the greatest sculpted friezes from the Ice Age, with several life-size ibex, and, very unusually, several human females, as well as bison, horses and cats. We end our programme of visits with an afternoon at the Museum at Pressigny.
If time allows we will visit Poitiers Museum before boarding our train to Paris and then home.
We travel by train to the historic city of Poitiers. After lunch, we drive to Angles-sur-l'Anglin and visit the impressive Upper Paleolithic facsimile at Roc-aux-Sorciers.
Our adventure begins in Lussac-les-Chateaux, where we visit the fantastic La Sabline Museum of Prehistory and its wealth of exhibits. From here, we tour the Roc-de-Sers and then move on to La Chaire a Calvin, which is a rock shelter that takes its name from a local legend and boasts a frieze dating back around 15,000 years. Evidence of rhinoceri and tools crafted from bone and stone have been discovered here over the years.
We begin at the fascinating site of Laugerie Haute, where remains of occupation date from the Upper Paleolithic period. Objects made from bone, two human skeletons and countless tools helped to confirm this. Returning to Les Eyzies, we visit Abri du Poisson and then the excavations at Abri Pataud, where archaeologists are tracing artistic progress through the millennia. Later, we visit Musee de l'Abri Cro-Magnon, where the first burial of modern man was discovered. Then, while in the area, we also take time to visit the rock shelter at Cap Blanc, which is a rare example of Ice Age-sculpted bas-reliefs and still the best in situ.
This morning, we will view the complete facsimile of the world-famous painted cave, which has long since closed to the public, at Lascaux IV in the company of our expert guide, who will illuminate the paintings further. This revered cave boasts hundreds of paintings and around 1,500 engravings, and is best known for its depictions of aurochs, horses and deer. Later, we tour the park at Le Thot, which is dedicated to the Cro-Magnon period of history. We will also explore the Le Moustier archaeological site before returning to our hotel.
Today we travel into the cave system at Grotte de Rouffignac, which is more than five miles in length and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1979. One third of all mammoth depictions known to have appeared in cave art come from this very location. After exploring this area, we drive to Font-de-Gaume, which is the only decorated cave in France with polychrome paintings that remains open to the public, and we end the day with a visit to the Musee de Prehistoire.
Our first visit of the day will be to the magnificent caves of Cougnac, which contain the claw marks of cave bears. The prehistoric images here depict human figures, including a wounded man, along with ibex and large cervids. From here, we continue on to Pech Merle, which has authentic cave paintings that date back over 20,000 years. We will be able to see significantly well-preserved examples of aurochs, mammoth, bison, stags' heads, spotted horses, geometric shapes and even handprints at this unique location. The Pech Merle cave was rightly listed as a historical monument back in 1952 and it has been open to the public since 1926.
Today we bid farewell to our group and make our way back to London.
- 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
June: 5 nights in a small 3* hotel in Les Eyzies, close to many of our sites
Sept: 5 nights in a charming traditional hotel with a swimming pool on the outskirts of Les Eyzies
2 nights in the historic centre of Poitiers, on the Clain river
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