Cave Paintings in the Vézère Valley (World Heritage)

No other place in the world has such a density of fascinating archaeological sites from the Old and New Stone Age. The cave pictures illustrate the high cultural status of the people of that time and give an insight into their living environment. Presumably the caves served cultic purposes. The highlight of the 40 km long section of the valley is the Lascaux cave with its colorful and realistic images of animals.

Cave paintings in the Vézère Valley: facts

Official title: Cave paintings in the Vézère valley
Cultural monument: 147 prehistoric sites and 23 caves with rock paintings; Grotte de Lascaux with 600 rock paintings and 1,500 incised drawings, including drawings of almost five meter tall bulls, Grotte de Font de Gaume with over 300 depictions of animals, Grotte de Combarelles with 500 incised drawings, among others. Woolly rhinos, an ibex and a lioness, the 14 m long frieze of Abri du Cap Blanc with life-size horses and the Grotte de Rouffignac with 150 mammoth carved images
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Périgord
Location: Vézère valley with the Lascaux cave (2 km from Montignac) and those around Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac
Appointment: 1979
Meaning: essential traces of prehistoric paintings from the Paleolithic

Cave paintings in the Vézère Valley: history

around 15000-10000 BC Chr. Lascaux rock paintings (early Paleolithic)
around 9000 BC Chr. Lascaux cave abandoned
1868 Skeleton finds from Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac
1940 Discovery of the Grotte de Lascaux (Lascaux I)
1963 Closure of Lascaux I
1983 Construction of Lascaux II

The stone age picassos of Lascaux

It would certainly be an exaggeration to say that one has to go to the Vézère Valley to get to know the cradle of mankind; But if you want to take a look at the »dawn of civilization«, you cannot avoid a detour to south-west France. According to areacodesexplorer, the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne, lies in the heart of the Périgord Noir, a graceful landscape whose nickname is derived from the dark foliage of the “evergreen” oaks and which has long been known among gourmets for exquisite dining. The valley itself is a veritable labyrinth, filled with places of worship and evidence of early human history.

In addition to the numerous prehistoric settlement remains, such as the striking limestone cliffs of Le Moustier, whose sheltered niches and caves were continuously inhabited in the Stone Age for over 50,000 years, five skeletons of one so far were found in the 19th century near the hamlet of Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac unknown, tall human type found who differed significantly from the Neanderthals. The site, called »Crô Magnon«, was the inspiration behind the naming of this hunter and fruit collector, who is considered to be the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens. First and foremost, the Vézère valley is world-famous for its caves, which can truly be praised as a “Florence of the younger Paleolithic”. Decorated with paintings, but also with incised drawings, reliefs and sculptures, The caves are impressive evidence of the talent as well as the high level of cultural development of the unknown artists. The »Stone Age Picassos« cleverly used the irregularities of the cave walls to give their works, which were executed with ocher, iron oxides and manganese earth, more plasticity; Hatching and colored gradations underlined this effect.

On the cave walls there are numerous depictions of animals: aurochs, bison, deer, bison, ibex, mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bears and, again and again, horses. But fantasy creatures such as the famous “Unicorn of Lascaux” can also be admired; With its sagging belly, large-spotted fur, short, flat snout and stubby tail, the “unicorn” has stubbornly defied all attempts at classification and identification by scientists for decades.

Much has been speculated about the significance of the paintings made thousands of years ago in the light of small, fat-fed light bulbs – a juniper branch served as a wick. What is certain is that the caves were never inhabited. The most likely assumption is that they served as a kind of place of worship, as the symbolic language of this mythologically inspired art seems to revolve around the themes of fertility and hunting.

There are more than two dozen caves with rock paintings in the Vézère valley. Particularly worth seeing are the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume, the Grotte des Combarelles and the Grotte de Bara-Bahau – but they are all behind the Grotte de Lascaux, whose rock paintings have an incomparable expressiveness. This “Sistine Chapel of Early History” was discovered by accident. When children playing looked for their dog in a deep hole that had been torn by an uprooted tree, they discovered the most sensational finds in art history in the glow of their flashlights. Opened to the public three years after the end of the war, the Grotte de Lascaux had to be closed in 1963 because the rock carvings were seriously damaged by the onslaught of visitors: lime chips formed, algae and fungi spread.

Cave Paintings in the Vézère Valley