Dordogne | Cave Art
Famed for its caves, the Dordogne Valley has some of the earliest and finest examples of prehistoric cave art. That’s not all, on this trip to rural France you’ll discover picturesque villages, sensational cuisine and a wealth of history.
Vividly brought to life in ochre and charcoal are wild animals and human figures up to 30,000 years old. Dr. Paul Bahn (April) and Dr. Iain Morley (July & September) tell the story of the art, its discovery and what is known of the people who created it. We will see some of the worldfamous rock art sites – taking you as close as it is possible to get to the lives of our most remote Ice Age ancestors.
- Enjoy tours led by experts in rock art and the archaeology of the last Ice Age – Dr Paul Bahn
- Visit a range of stunning prehistoric cave sites
- See the UNESCO cave system at Grotte de Rouffignac
- Admire beautiful French landscapes on this tour
- Rock Art
- Special Access
- Small Group
- All Inclusive
We depart and fly to France. Once we land we head for 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.
We depart from London and fly to Bordeaux. Upon arrival, we journey to Angles-sur-Anglin to view the Roc-aux-Sorciers facsimile, the greatest sculpted frieze from the Ice Age. Aptly named, this rock shelter was on the pagan radar long before the cave art was discovered, whether its mystical powers are a result of the art is unknown, however wall sculptures extend for over 50 metres here. Then we head to our hotel in Poitiers.
We start our day at the Museum of Prehistory La Sabline in Lussac and then make our way to Les Eyzies. En route, we stop at a rock shelter, with sculpted cave art from the Solutrean period. Our next visit is to La Chaire à Calvin, 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 drive to the fascinating site of Laugerie Haute, with remains of occupation dating from the Upper Palaeolithic. Objects made from bone, two human skeletons and countless tools helped to confirm this. 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.
Returning to Les Eyzies we visit the excavations at Abri Pataud where archaeologists have been attempting to trace artistic progress through the millennia. 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.
This morning will be dedicated to the newly established Lascaux IV centre. Lascaux 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.
In the afternoon we drive to the park at Le Thot, where animals which would have been extant in the Ice Age are bred and kept. Our final visit today will be to Lascaux II.
We travel by electric train into the cave system of Rouffignac, more than five miles long. Known as the Cave of the Hundred Mammoths, about one-third of all mammoth depictions known are found in this cave. In this cave there is also evidence of not only human existence, but scratch marks from cave bears too. We take a short drive to Font de Gaume, the only decorated cave in France with multicoloured paintings which remains open to the public. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to over 200 representations of animals.
Our first visit is to Cougnac, two caves are found here which contain the claw-marks of cave bears and fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations. 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 outlines of aurochs, mammoth, spotted-horses, geometric shapes and handprints. This cave reveals a full repertoire of cave art techniques and material - it is truly thought-provoking and an unforgettable experience.
This morning, we say our goodbyes and fly to London.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach & trains
- Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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