Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley

Communes of Les Eyzies de Tayac, Tursac, Montignac-sur-Vézère, Saint-Leon-sur-Vézère, Marquay, Manaurie-Rouffignac and Saint-Cirq-du Bugue, Department of the Dordogne, Region of Aquitaine
N45 3 27 E1 10 12
Date of Inscription: 1979
Criteria: (i)(iii)
Property : 105.733 ha
Ref: 85
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The Vézère valley contains 147 prehistoric sites dating from the Palaeolithic and 25 decorated caves. It is particularly interesting from an ethnological and anthropological, as well as an aesthetic point of view because of its cave paintings, especially those of the Lascaux Cave, whose discovery in 1940 was of great importance for the history of prehistoric art. The hunting scenes show some 100 animal figures, which are remarkable for their detail, rich colours and lifelike quality.

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Decorative paintings in Lascaux Cave (Francesco Bandarin/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO).

Located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in the Department of the Dordogne, the Vézère Valley is a priviliged prehistoric territory that contains more than 150 deposits dating back to Paleolithic times and about thirty decorated caves. This vast territory of roughly 30km by 40km is of outstanding interest from the ethnological, anthropological and aesthetic point of view with its cave paintings, in particular those of the Lascaux Cave, discovered in 1940. It also enabled the establishment of a chronological cadre for the prehistoric civilizations of the European quaternary period.

This property comprises 15 prehistoric sites that bear witness to a strong Paleolithic occupation: decorated caves, funerary places, workshops, exploitation areas for raw materials, habitats, hunting scenes. Furthermore, its potential as an archaeological reserve is considerable, as demonstrated by the discoveries carried out as preventive excavations since inscription on the World Heritage List.

Criterion (i): Some of the figurative ensembles found in the caves of the Vézère Valley are universally recognized as masterpieces of prehistoric art: The Venus de Laussel (Marquay), the chevaline frieze in high relief of Cap-Blanc, and especially the wall paintings of the Lascaux Cave (Montignac), of which the discovery, in 1940, marks an important date in the history of prehistoric art: hunting scenes  skillfully composed present close to one hundred animal figures, surprising in the precision of their observation, the richness of their colour, and the vivacity of their rendering.

Criterion (iii): The objects and the works of art found in the Vézère Valley are extremely rare witnesses of long extinct civilizations, which are very difficult to understand. This material, invaluable to the knowledge of the most distant periods of the history of humankind, dates back to the Paleolithic period and is of exceptional interest from an historic, ethnological, anthropological and aesthetic point of view.

Suggested Bases:

Brive-la-Gaillarde is the largest town in the department of Corrèze in Limousin, France. Direct trains to Brive from Paris can be caught at Gare d’Austerlitz. There are also direct trains from Toulouse. Brive Vallée de la Dordogne (BVE) (Brive Souillac) airport opened in June 2010. CityJet flies to Brive from Dublin, Dundee, Edinburgh and London City. Jet2 flies to Manchester in the UK. Air France flies to London City. Airlinair flies to Paris Orly and Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. There are Flixbus connections from Toulouse, Lyon, Bordeaux and Paris. Buses leave you a little bit far from the centre. Musee Labenche is Brive’s museum of history and art. It is in the town centre [read more].

Limoges is a city in the Limousin region of France. Limoges International Airport. Served by Ryanair from East Midlands, London-Stansted, Manchester year-round. Ryanair is served from Bristol and Leeds/Bradford seasonally. See Bridges of Saint Martial and St-Etienne; Botanical gardens including Jardin botanique de l’Evêché and Jardin botanique alpin “Daniella”; Gothic Cathedral; Chateau de La Borie is home to the Centre Culturel de Recontre de la Borie et l’Ensemble Baroque de Limoges; Crypt of Saint Martial; Church of St-Michel-des-Lions houses the relics of relics of St. Martial and has stain glassed windows. It also has the most striking feature including the 65 m high tower with a spire surmounted by a big bronze ball; The Castle with 12-metre-high walls; and the railway station, Gare de Limoges Bénédictins, inaugurated in 1929 and built in Byzantine style [read more].

Toulouse is a city in southwestern France, and capital of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrenees region. It stands just north of the Pyrenees on the River Garonne, halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon. It’s known for its rugby, its aerospace industry and for violets, which are used to make bonbons and liqueurs here. The city was a Roman settlement, “Tolosa”, and the smaller inner streets still follow the ancient layout. In the Middle Ages, Toulouse ruled an independent county, but it joined the Kingdom of France in 1271. In the fourteenth century, it was devastated by pogroms, the Black Death, famine, and war. Then, in the fifteenth century, it became wealthy from its monopoly on “pastel,” a blue pigment extracted from woad plants, only to slump again when the monopoly was broken by indigo imports from India. In 1750, after its recovery, the city was rebuilt in pink terracotta brick, giving rise to its nickname La ville rose [read more].

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