Situated below one of the highest plateaus in “Dark Perigord”, the Rouffignac Cave has been the home of bears and people since the Late Magdalenian about 13000 years ago.
The first thing that you see is a large cavern mouth which was originally explored in 1575 by Francois de Belleforest, it was known by the local people has “cluzeau”.
The cave grows larger when you pass through the entrance so there is no need to duck. One tip is to wear warm clothes on your visit, it is chilly inside.
It was not until 1956 when most of the drawings and bear scratch marks were discovered and recorded by L.R. Robert and L. Plassord. They found drawings of rhinoceros, horses, ibex, bison and mammoth as well as bear scratch marks on the walls leading to the “Great Ceiling” where they found the most detailed drawings of the above forenamed animals.
Inside the cave entrance there are two exhibitions, one displaying scenes from the cave walls and the other recordings of finding the art work in 1956. You can not take photographs inside the cave but you can buy reproductions, books, place mats etc. at the gift shop.
This is the only cave in France which has mammoth drawings, on their own, in herds, some just quick sketches and some in detail, there are so many I lost count,
A short legged horse with feathering effect for the mane and tail.
Bison with the artist signature of hands.
The visit is on board a small electric train, the journey gives you the feeling that you are descending back in time through the centuries past the “Bears dens” which are large hallows in the ground made by the bears going around and around in circles until they wore a depression comfortable enough to hibernate for the Winter months. Notice the stretch and scratch on the walls.
I must point out that bears lived in the cave centuries before humans, therefore they never met. Well, in this cave at least. It was several thousands of years later humans arrived in the caves. With only tallow lamps they explored the caves creating over two miles of art work in narrow constricted conditions. Using drawings or engravings the artists were able to use the caves to create outstanding artwork in such detail that you can see the animal features and fur. At the Great Ceiling the train stops allowing you to alight and investigate the artwork close up.
A sketch of “the Great Ceiling” that was drawn in 1982 by Claude Barrierre. It seems in a few places that the drawings were not up to the artists liking, so the artist drew over them, just like any artist would today.
The visit lasts approximately an hour, after the cold of the cave the sunshine was most welcome and a hot meal and drink in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac was great.
This is the famous statue by the museum of prehistory at Les Eyzies.