Located in the Vézère valley, less than 20km from the campsite La Fage in the Dordogne, the Font de Gaume cave and the Combarelles cave are prehistoric sites that cannot be ignored. The walls of the caves are among others a magnificent testimony of the artistic creativity of our ancestors since they preserve numerous vestiges of parietal art dating from the Paleolithic and the Magdalenian.
On September 12, 1901, Denis Peyrony, Louis Capitan and his student Henri Breuil discovered the cave’s cave paintings. The abbot Henri Breuil who will be, 40 years later, the first prehistorian to observe and describe the cave of Lascaux.
The Font de Gaume cave is one of the last major caves in France to present to the public its Magdalenian polychrome cave paintings dated from 12,000 to 17,000 years ago.
The cave is located on the outskirts of a limestone massif dating from the Cretaceous period, close to the Combarelles cave. It takes the form of a narrow corridor about 125 meters long.
The Font de Gaume excavations have uncovered more than 200 works, mostly paintings, some of them polychrome and sometimes combined with engravings. They represent a gallery of animals, aurochs, bisons, mammoths, horses but also predators such as wolves and lions, representations rather rare in the region. There are also geometric signs, tectiforms, quadrilaterals and other X signs. Finally, some anthropomorphic figures are present.
Many of the works were made using stamping and blowing methods.
The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
The works are in a stable state thanks to the measures put in place, as its curator explains: “we have defined this equilibrium threshold from which the rise in temperature does not add to that recorded the previous day – the cavity can ‘recover’ during the night”. In fact, since 2013 the number of daily visits is limited to 78.
To discover the virtual visit of Font de Gaume, follow the link below:
http://font-de-gaume.monuments-nationaux.fr/fr/?intro the cave
The number of places being very limited, it is strongly advised to arrive very early on site.
Tickets are available at the entrance of the cave, the price is 10€ for adults, free for minors. The site is open every day except Saturday and holidays.
Although the porch of this cave of Dordogne was excavated in 1892 by Émile Rivière, a 19th century prehistorian, the 600 to 800 parietal figurations were discovered by the same team as the Font de Gaume paintings, 4 days earlier, on September 8th 1901.
Contrary to its neighbor located at 1600 meters of distance, Combarelles is essentially decorated with engravings dated at -13000 years, it is composed of two divergent galleries. Only the most important one, about 240 meters long, is open to the public.
The prehistoric artworks represent mainly the fauna of the quaternary period, including mammoths, reindeer, horses, ibex, rhinoceros, bears and felines. They are finely engraved in the rock. We also note about fifty anthropomorphic schematic figures and some geometric figures. The interpretation of the latter always remains very enigmatic…
As for the Font-de-Gaume cave, the conservation of this prehistoric treasure implies particular conservation measures, so the number of visits is limited to 6 per day in groups of 7 people.
You are curious and want to know more about the Cro Magnon man? The visit of this archaeological site is a real leap in prehistory as testified by the customer reviews: “Magnificent cave. We had our eyes full of it. Visit in small committee very appreciable. Super guide!!!”
As for visiting a famous historical monument, it is advisable to arrive early to get seats. Tickets can be picked up at the Font-de-Gaume cave located less than 2km from Les Eyzies de Taillac. The prices and opening dates are the same for both caves (10€).