The Vezere Valley and Pre-History

The Vezere valley is home to the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe. There are traces of mankind dating back 400,000 years.

The Vezere valley is home to the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe. There are traces of mankind dating back 400,000 years.

Today this region is famous throughout the world and referred to as ‘the cradle of mankind’. The valley contains 147 prehistoric sites and 25 decorated caves, some of which can still be visited. Fifteen of these sites are so important they have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites; including the famous Lascaux cave at Montignac.

Less than 10 minutes drive from ‘Le Jardin des Amis ‘ is the village of Les Eyzie-de-Tayac, positioned between the Vezere river and dramatic overhanging cliffs. Here you will find, amongst others, the famous Font-de-Gaume cave, the National Museum of Prehistory and the abri where Cro-Magnon man was discovered.

Caves

The caves in the area can be roughly be divided into 3 categories

  • prehistory containing cave paintings or sculpture e.g Grotte de Font de Gaume, Abri Cap Blanc
  • troglodytic e.g Roque St. Christophe, Roc de Cazelle, some were inhabited until the 20th C      
  • geological, including the Grand Roc at Les Eyzies and at Le Bugue, Gouffre de Proumeyssac

The density and variety of the crystallisations which decorate the walls of these caverns are spectacular.

Lascaux

The caves of Lascaux  near Montignac (30k) are among the most famous pre-historic sites of early man. The cro-magnon people lived and hunted here, as long as thirty thousand years ago.

Although the original cave paintings are protected from the harmful effects of changes in the temperature and humidity, a centimetre perfect duplicate of the caves has been created for people to visit and marvel at.

Rocamadour

Rocamadour is one of the most visited sites in France and has been an important centre for Christianity ever since the Middle Ages. It can be very busy in summer but makes an interesting day out.

The holy city clings to the steep rocky cliffs, displaying layer upon layer of houses and chapels. Down from the castle which crowns this construction, there is a sheer drop of some 150 metres. The basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt of Saint-Amadour are both featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The jewel of the sanctuary is kept in the Chapel of Miracles, one of eight chapels built against the rocks. It is the Black Madonna, which has been worshipped here for over a thousand years.