A must-see in the Vézère valley, the National Museum of Prehistory hangs on the cliffside in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, the world capital of prehistory for the exceptional density of prehistoric and archaeological sites in its territory. 20 km from the Dordogne La Fage campsite, it offers a fascinating dive into the time of the first humans, to discover the remains of our ancestors.
The National Museum of Prehistory is at the same time a place of conservation of important collections, a place of transmission of knowledge and a research center. It was built in the ruins of the old castle of Les Eyzies, which is mostly troglodyte. The architectural ensemble of the museum blends into the setting of the luminous cliff that dominates the village on the Vézère. 1500 m2 are to be visited, which house collections of fossils, friezes, reconstructions, educational panels, playful spaces for interactive learning, and temporary exhibitions. The museum opens with a monumental anthropological frieze that lays the foundations of the different stages of hominization, and continues with an exploration of the different stratigraphic layers that preserve the trace of human activities from 1.8 million years ago to 14,000 years before our era. The lower gallery presents an important collection of flints and tools made by the human hand during the different periods of the Paleolithic. A playful area offers early learning games for 3 to 6 year olds, and many educational modules to handle for children over 7 years old. The upper gallery is devoted to the daily life of humans of the Upper Paleolithic. Finally, the terraces offer an unobstructed view of the valley, alongside the statue “L’Homme Primitif” by Paul Dardé, emblematic of the museum since 1931.
Wondering what to do in the Dordogne if the weather is bad during your vacations? Visiting the Eyzies museum is a great idea! Extraordinarily rich, the collections of the National Museum of Prehistory include pieces of movable art, that is to say decorated objects, utilitarian or not; tools made from materials of mineral, vegetable or animal origin; ornaments dating from the Upper Paleolithic; burials revealing the appearance and evolution of funeral rites; representations and fossils of prehistoric fauna; traces of occupation from Cro Magnon to Neanderthal, objects and fossils revealing the daily life, the food habits, the organization of the human home during different prehistoric periods. The museum’s collections have been built up thanks to the research carried out by archaeologists and paleontologists on sites in the Lot and Périgord. While 12,000 objects are on display in the various exhibition rooms of the site, more than 6 million are kept in the museum’s reserves! Inaccessible to the public, these precious collections are of course used for research. They come from the excavations of the archaeological site of Les Eyzies, and from the caves decorated with engravings in the vicinity, of the same kind as the cave of Lascaux, famous for its parietal art and listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The National Museum of Prehistory is open every day from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm in July and August. It is closed on Tuesdays during the other months of the year. From October to May, it is also closed at lunchtime from 12:30 to 14:00. The entrance fee is 6 euros full price, and 4.50 euros reduced price. Admission is free for all on the first Sunday of each month. It is also free each day for students under 18, as well as for teachers of primary and secondary schools. It is possible to enjoy guided tours and workshops, at the price of 9 euros for a one-hour guided tour (free for children under 13), 11 euros for a one-and-a-half hour guided tour (also free for children under 13), and 6 euros for a fun tour or children’s workshops. The site also hosts numerous conferences, for which admission is free.