Grottes du Roc de Cazelle
The site Roc de Cazelle is a prehistoric park with rock shelters, dwellings and caves. When you follow the circuit, you will first see scenes from the live during the Stone Age and learn what they ate, how the hunted etc. Then in the cliff you will pass a tunnel and find some caves and terraces, and get information on the live during the Middle Ages. Afterwards, you leave the cliffs and walk through the forest. You will learn about the hunt in medieval times and can try to find all those animal replicas there. You pass a stone quarry and mammoth replicas and then end at the house with rooms cut into the rock, where people lived until 1966. You will find a large selection of tools from those times in front of the rocks and there are also animals like geese – real ones this time, no replicas.
It was interesting and I guess children will also enjoy it as there’s much to discover. There’s even a short part just for kids. I only found that background noise rather disturbing – you did hear animal voices, hammering etc, depending on the scene that you were watching. You already could hear some of the sounds from the car park.
Admission 2012: adults 7€, children 3,50€. Free car park on the other side of the road.
- Historical Travel
Grotte du Grand Roc
The Grotte du Grand Roc is a cave near Les Eyzies. It was discovered in 1924 and is found half-way up a cliff above the Vezère river. It’s not a large cave, but there are many dripstones and crystallizations which makes it worth a visit. You will find lots of different concretions, like triangles and eccentrics. I found it very interesting to see dripstone formations like a cross, pretty unusual!
The guided tour through the cave takes about 30 minutes. The tour was in French, with a few English explanations. They also have leaflets in various languages that you need to return afterwards, but this rather gave some general information on how dripstones develop, what type of dripstones there are etc.
Admission 2012: adults 7€, children 4,50€. There are combination tickets with Laugerie Basse which is just a few steps away.
Maison Forte de Reignac
The Maison Forte de Reignac is a fortified manor house which is built in the cliffs and dates from the 14th century. This cliff castle was larger than I thought and had many rooms that you could visit. We got some information about this place in German that we had to return and then could visit the castle at our own pace. It was nice to explore all the rooms which looked pretty authentic, at one of the fire places even a fire was burning. The only problem was that most of the rooms are not really large and there had been many visitors.
There’s also an exhibition with archaeological finds that show the everyday life during prehistoric time. On the top there’s a little grotto where you watch a short film (in French with English subtitles) about the sites of interest in that area. And you have a nice view on the valley from there. There also was a torture exhibition, from middle ages until now. They are displaying all kind of torture tools, pretty shocking, and absolutely nothing for kids!
Admission (2012): 7 € adults, 3,50€ children from 5 to 13, 6€ pupils/students. Free parking opposite the castle.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
La Roque Saint Christophe
La Roque Sainte Christophe is a cliff with huge cave dwellings. It’s pretty huge, the limestone cliff is 1 km long and there had been 5 levels. It’s like a town, really impressive. Already in prehistoric times, people had lived there, probably first the Neandertaler, then the Cro-Magnon. In medieval times, half-timbered walls were added and houses built. During your visit you will pass a such half-timbered wall as well as the barn, slaughterhouse, kitchen, forge, stone pit and church. You can’t visit all 5 levels but it’s very interesting to walk on these overhead terraces and discover how it used to be there. There also are several historical technical objects that were reconstructed, like a drum winch or a squirrel-cage to transport load up to the terrace.
You can visit the site without a guide and follow the tour as described in the leaflet. This leaflet is available in several languages.
Of course it’s interesting also to have a look at the cliff from below. Unfortunately there’s no car park directly in front of the cliff, just a space next to the street for one or two cars where you can shortly stop. The street there is also very nice, passing between rocks.
Admission2012: Adults 7,80€. Free car parking nearby.
- Historical Travel
Château de Commarque
The Château de Commarque is a ruined castle on a hill, overlooking the Beune valley. It was inhabited from the 12th to 17th century, but already in the Stone Age people had lived at that site. There’s a cave with a prehistoric painting which is not open to public. But there are some cave dwellings in the rock below the castle that you can visit. The castle itself with its chapel is all in ruins, and there had been lots of boulder so that I wonder what else they will find if they put it away. The keep is in a pretty well condition, though, and you even can climb it and enjoy the view. You can visit the ruins without a guided tour, and we got very detailed information about the ruins in German that we had to return after the visit.
On the opposite side of the valley you will see another castle, Château de Laussel, which is privately owned and cannot be visited. But to get a view on the Commarque Castle from the other side, you can drive to the “Abri du Cap Blanc” (prehistoric rock shelter with sculptures, also can be visited) which is about 10km away at the D48.
Admission 2012: 7€ adults, 5€ children. Free car parking about 10 minutes up the hill.
- Historical Travel
The National Museum of Prehistory - Part I
The NMP is one of the best museums devoted to prehistory on the planet, although it naturally concentrates on prehistory to be found on French soil with little else given much attention other than in a general setting. Nevertheless, the scale and detail of the interpretation is awesome, to the extent that it may just be too much detail for many casual visitors. The brochure claims that an unguided tour would last around one hour, but with 18,000 items on display (out of a total 6 million owned by the museum), it might be best to focus on a few small areas.
The museum has a bit of a feel of a more traditional museum than one designed and built only in 2005, with acres of glass display case with tiny display labels. To be honest, the quality of interpretation is poor and the lighting is exceptionally poor: it can be difficult to read many of the labels or even see many of the smallest exhibits. This is a ‘curator’s collection’ rather than a ‘visitor’s collection’. Most visitors will get a far better and easier understanding of the context of prehistoric cultures at the tiny, but superb, museum at the Abris de Pataud site just 200 metres away.
For the expert or those with an existing knowledge of prehistoric cultures, the museum can take all day long, as the quantity and quality of artefacts is excellent.
National Museum of Prehistory
Housed in the castle above the town and built into the rock, the Museum houses displays of finds from the area of prehistoric man.
Although well laid out the contents are rather sparse for the grandiose entrance and entrance fee!
I can't say that I learned too much.
Outside overlooking the town is a large statue of a prehistoric man, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Wayne Rooney the English soccer player!
Enter the Prehistory Museum
The first floor of the museum is devoted to the technics used by primitive man to make both artistic and utilitarian objects before metal instruments were devised. The second floor contains the objects by period and subject. The earliest fertility figures look crude but may be ritualistic exaggerations since other carvings show graceful female torsos and antelopes. The ability to engrave stone is striking because it is so much harder to work than wood with such tools as they had.
- Family Travel
Go to the National Museum of Prehistory
The Musee National de Prehistorie is in the old castle of Tayac which the Barons of Beynac built (11,12, &16 C) under an overhang on the side of a cliff looking down on Eyzies. Standing at the front door is a statue of Prehistoric Man (by Darde). Frm this platform one can see not only the town, but parts of the Vezere and Beune rivers. Looking up one sees fragments of the castle.
- Family Travel
Visit the Cave of Font-de-Game
It is like the other caves but is more accessible and close to town. It requires a reserved admission and you would be lucky indeed to be able take the next tour when you arrive. So be prepared as we were to reserve our visit later during the day. (We were at the office when it opened). (See our Introduction). After climbing a path for about 440 yards you are at the entrance. Photography is not permitted . (Our pictures are from a book we bought long ago). The first objects seen on entering the cave are disfigurements added by the first "sightseers"2 centuries ago. Some of the "paintings" are multicolored and are mostly from the Magdalenian period. Some are quite skillful.
- Family Travel
Canoe the Vezere River
Les Eyzies de Tayac –Cliffs/caves of Cro-Magnon man along the Vezere River.
Le Ferme de Tayac: This was our 2nd base B&B, which is an 1100 AD Abbey.
There are several buildings which are all restored and full of fun antiques. Giant lounge rooms for reading and music. Not a TV in the place. There is a large swimming pool, hammocks to nap in, and areas where we had several picnics. It was located about 3 blocks out of the town Les Eyzies. Run by Mike and Susanna, retired South Africans who were perfect hosts. The rooms have stone walls and decorated with vintage clothing items hanging on the wood beams. Our bathroom used an antique baby chair as the toilet paper holder. We did a second canoe trip from here along the Vezere River to La Roque St. Christophe, which was more peaceful trip, very tranquil and full of nature. We only saw a handful of other boaters during this 3-hour journey.
- Adventure Travel
Exhibition at the National Museum of Prehistory
During the summer of 2006 (14th June to 13th November) , there is an excellent temporary exhibition on the large fauna found in the south of France during Palaeolithic times, including lions, hyenas, sabre-toothed tigers, wolves, bears, rhinocerous, and mammoth.
Entry is included with the ticket price.
During the year, there are free themed talks, in French, given by specialists at the Museum and l’Abris Pataud. Phone them for details and reservations. There are about seven during the year, and start at 9.30pm. They are technical in nature.
The National Museum of Prehistory - Part III
The MNP arranges a lot of activities connected with prehistory in the region, and it is worth contacting the museum if these kinds of activities are interesting, as reservations are usually needed.
The activities include:
Explanation of prehistoric cultures – 1 hours 30 minutes every day (except Saturday) at 11am and 4pm in French and at 2pm in English.
A Prehistoric Laboratory Workshop with hands-on work on artefacts – 1 hours 30 minutes on Wednesdays at 2.30pm (10 years an up).
Special guided visit to Laugerie-Haute and L’Abris de Poisson – 2 hours at 10am on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Special guided visit to La Micoque and La Ferrassie – 2 hours at 2.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Special guided visit to Le Moustier – 1 hour at 10am on Thursdays.
Special guided visit of the Grotte de la Mairie a Teyjat – every Saturday between 10am and 5pm.
Introduction to Archaeology Workshop at La Chaumiere – 2 hours hands-on on Wednesdays at 10am (8 years and up)
Introduction to Prehistoric Art – 2 hours hand-on on Thursdays at 10am (6 years and up)
Introduction to Palaeolithic Sculpture – 2 hours hands-on on Thursdays at 2.30pm (10 years and up)
Introduction to “l’art mobilier” – 2 hours hands-on on Mondays at 2.30pm (8 years and up)
Note that the MNP itself and all special guided visits are wheelchair-accessible, except for the sites at L’Abris de Poisson and Le Moustier.
The costs of the activities vary but are generally E6.30 for the explanation of prehistoric culture and E9.50 for the laboratory workshop. The Introduction workshops are E10.50.
The special guided visits are E6 for the visit plus E3 per site.
Each activity has a different price and the reductions (children, elderly, students, etc) vary; the prices shown above demonstrate that it’s not going to break the bank. Go to their website or phone up for full details.
Opening times: July-August 09.30 to 18.30 daily
June and September 09.30 to 18.00 daily except Tues
October to May 09.30 to 12.30 and 14.30 to 17.30 daily except Tues
The National Museum of Prehistory - Part II
Much use is made of short videos to demonstrate and explain different aspects of both the prehistoric cultures and the archaeological methodologies used to discover and interpret these cultures. These videos and the display panels are all in French, but in each section there are English language sheets that can be borrowed and read while you go around.
The first floor has the famous “threads of time” timeline of prehistory, starting with the Lower Palaeolithic and ending with the Mesolithic. The origins of each group of artefacts in this timeline are indicated so that visitors can head off to see the site (if it is open, and many still are).The second floor covers the development of industries and themes. Some people find it easier to look at everything by theme rather than by timeline; it would be easier to start the museum on the second floor at the far end and then do the first floor.
For the casual visitor, the MNP may be just too much, in which case the visitor centre at Le Thot or the museum at L’Abris de Pataud are recommended as easier alternatives.
L'Abris Pataud - Part II
This is a fascinating site if you already have a good understanding of both prehistory and archaeological methods, but if not, it may be possible to slip into the museum only which is definitely worth a visit. The shelter itself is fascinating but very ‘scientific’: if you want the romance of a prehistoric site, walk 350 metres north towards the railway station where you will find the now isolated and quiet spendour of l’Abris Cro-Magnon; if you want the art, there are other sites all around.`
L'Abris Pataud can be visited on a combined pass (for E13) together with Lascaux II and Le Thot, both just outside Montignac, 20 km from Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac. I am not sure of the combined ticket is sold at L'Abris Pataud and Le Thot or just at the ticket office for Lascaux II in Montignac.
The interpretation is excellent, with the guide helping to improve visitor understanding of the whole site.
The site is open from the beginning of July to the beginning of September (check with the office for exact dates at the beginning and end of the season), with guided tours every day at 10.00, 10.30, 11.00, 11.30, 12.00, 13.30, 14.00, 14.30, 15.00, 15.30, 16.00, 17.30 and 18.00. There is one English tour at 15.30, Mondays to Fridays only.
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