Peche Merle Cavern: The Cradle of Civilisation

Grotte de Peche Merle in the Cabarets area is home to some of the finest prehistoric cave paintings in South West France. The area is incredibly rich in history and has been called “the cradle of civilisation”. Remains of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon people have been found in the region, a civilisation dating back between 16 and 20 thousand years ago.

Peche means “hill” and the region of Peche Blackbird is home to the most famous caves. The caves were discovered by two teenagers in 1922 and have been open to the public since 1926.

Peche Merle is a vast cavern, more than 2 kilometres in length. Its geology is a fascinating Aladdin’s cave of discovery, with stalagtites, stalagmites, gours, columns, discs and naturally formed calcite pearls created by millions of years in formation.

The cave at Lascaux in Dordogne contain some of the greatest stone age artwork and is often called the “Sistine Chapel” of pre-history. Staircases have been carved in the rock to allow visitors to walk through the cave. Art work on display includes illustrations of bison, stag, horses, mammoths, aurochs and even prehistoric teenagers. Large stags seemed to awaken from a multi millenium sleep when the cave was first discovered. The illustrations may be over 10,000 years old.

In 1955, the cave showed signs of deterioration, caused by excessive carbon dioxide from so many visitors breath! The cave was closed 8 years later. The local authorities set up a recreation of the Palaeolithic santuary and during the 1980’s reproduced the Great Hall of the Pools and the Painted Gallery. The original uneven surface of the caves were created before the art work was re-painted according to its original style. The cave is known as Lascaux II and is still a major visitor attraction.

More Information

Grotte de Peche Merle
Do not miss you on this magical cave system filled with stalignites and cave paintings from times gone past. It is truly spectacular but call ahead as only a certain number of people can enter every day due to human breath potentially causing damage to the works of art.

Tel: 0033 – 565 312 705

Website:www.quercy.net/pechmerle/index.html

The Discovery of the Cave
The re-creation and closure of the Lasaux cave in words and pictures.

 By Susi O’Neill

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