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Dordogne, France

The Vézère Valley and Lascaux Caves of the Dordogne

Posted by Luci Ackers on Dec 21, 2016
The Vézère Valley and Lascaux Caves of the Dordogne

Image: Lascaux by Prof saxx via Wikimedia Commons

Just over an hour from Constant are the world-famous caves of Lascaux, located right in the heart of the Dordogne.

The Vézère Valley contains some of the Dordogne's most important archaeological sites, including 25 prehistoric decorated caves. The extraordinary hand painted Caves of Lascaux date from Palaeolithic times and are admired for the rich colour used in the drawings and the surprising detail with which a selection of 100 animal figures have been represented.

The Lascaux cave system was rediscovered in the 1940s and these paintings were to become of great importance for the history of prehistoric art. The caves were originally opened up for visitors but the change in environment down in the tunnels caused quite major degeneration and by the 1960s they had been closed off once more.

The Vézère Valley comprises 147 important prehistoric sites, and is now protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Aside from the paintings, there have also been skeletons, flints, utensils and other forms of art and objects discovered as well. These are now on display in the National Prehistory Museum which is located in the old castle of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, which is a commune roughly midway between Constant and Lascaux. 

Lascaux is the largest and one of the most famous of all the Vézère Valley caves. It is where the majority of the most recognisable artefacts were discovered. The walls are all painted, drawn and engraved ancient stone, beautifully preserved over time. Since the cave became off limits to the public, a replica cave opened for visitors to experience the area as much as possible. It has been known as Lascaux II. Over time work has taken place to build reconstructed areas and displays for visitors. The most recent project is known as Lascaux 4 and will prove to be a good imitation of the original Lascaux. It will resemble the cave system and aims to draw visitors in to an interactive visitor centre for a true historic experience.

Keep an eye on the website here to stay up to date with the progress of the site and find out when it'll be open for business.

Though the Lascaux caves are out of bounds, there are many sites in and around Eyzies-de-Tayac still open for visitors. The cave of Roc de Saint-Cirq is still open and there is a little museum to visit too. The paintings in the Font-de-Gaume date from around 14,000 BCE, but do bear in mind that a reduction in the amount of visitors permitted per day means the only way you'll be able to visit this particular cave is to buy a ticket on the day. Some of the stunning rock dwellings around this town range from as long ago as 40,000 years. You can find more information on all the attractions in Eyzies-de-Tayac on the tourist website here.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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