Rock Art of the French Alps
Our rock art tour takes us to a beautiful area of the French Alps, where the flat, ice-scoured rocks provided a durable canvas on which people hammered out images of the life they knew. Lying in remote valleys, the art encompasses every facet of prehistoric life, from ploughs and oxen, to abstract signs and symbols whose meanings can only be guessed at.
Expert Dr. Tertia Barnett returns to explore the sites hidden above the Cote d’Azur. Enjoy some lovely walks through beautiful alpine scenery, which has remained little-changed for thousands of years. This tour offers an unusual view of the history of southern France.
- Surround yourself with beautiful alpine scenery
- Visit the Medieval village of La Brigue
- A full day to explore Vallée des Merveilles
- View archaeological finds at intriguing museums
- Marvel at the intricate rock art at Balzi Rossi
- Rock Art
- Low Single Supplement
- Just One Hotel
- All Inclusive
We fly to Nice and transfer to our hotel in Tende. This spot on the Mediterranean coast is the last French town before Italy. This is a hidden gem on the Côte d’Azur, with pastel-coloured houses, a picturesque old harbour and an excellent array of local cuisine. In summary, a quintessentially French hide-away.
On the first day, we begin with an introductory orientation session with our guide lecturer to learn about the region in general and the context of the prehistoric art we shall be seeing. Soon after, we head out to the first site of Fontanalba, taking a cross-country route in 4x4 vehicles. The site here is home to over twenty-thousand engravings depicting both animals and humans. It is claimed that the huge concentration of art here is
due to the site originally being a sacred mountain or sanctuary, where pilgrims left their marks on the wall in worship. The sandstone rock has been polished by glacier waters and makes the perfect surface to create these astonishing figures. After lunch, there is the option of taking a scenic walk back across the beautiful French countryside.
Today we visit Tende, a picturesque Medieval village, nestled into the mountainous foothills. Once part of Italy, this town has a rich heritage, fascinating architecture and a wealth of historic relics, well beyond what one would think of a town this size. Here we see the Museum of Merveilles, where rock art and archaeological finds from across the region are on display. In the afternoon, we visit the Notre Dame de Fontaines Sanctuary before driving out to the village of La Brigue to the south of Tende, which also became a part of France after World War II. Our day concludes with a visit to the Museum of Patrimonie to learn about the history of the region.
This morning, we drive out to the Vallé des Merveilles to visit the Refuge des Merveilles. We will spend the day exploring the area by foot. Aptly named, this valley holds many marvels we seek to discover in our visit. We find the largest number of open air Bronze Age rock engravings in Europe. The images contain animal representations, but also spirals, suns, stars and other more mysterious images, as well as an array of weapons. The engravings were first identified in 1881, by British amateur archaeologist and naturalist Clarence Bicknell, they were then more extensively catalogued in the 1960s by French archaeologist Henry de Lumley. Dr. Barnett will recount the latest theories and findings. The cave art isn’t the only wonder the valley holds as the natural landscape here is just as spectacular as the man-made ones.
On our final day we check out of our hotel, but before we leave, there is time for one last visit to this wonderful part of the world. This morning is spent on a visit to the Menton Museum of Regional Prehistory. We explore these fascinating finds that showcase the million-year history of the area. Displayed here are female figurines and decorated artefacts dating back over 25,000 years from the Balzi Rossi caves. After lunch, we drive to the airport for our flights 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
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