As you might already know, if you have read the previous posts, we only have Saturdays as a kind of weekend because it is the only day we don’t work. However, our dear coordinators decided to give us a three-day weekend, which included this Friday, Saturday and today (Sunday). It actually feels really good to have, after four weeks, a true Sunday without any kind of work to be done. This has a been a really relaxing and wonderful three-day weekend but it also symbolizes one sad thing: people are starting going home and the excavation season is almost over, even tough I still have another two weeks.
Yesterday (Saturday) we didn’t do anything special and today we won’t do it either; and this is why I’ll only write about the trip we did on Friday. It turned out to be an amazing trip, after all the stress we went through just to prepare this day. Our main problem was finding a rental car company that had good prices and automatic cars available, since the only drivers we have (which have to be older than 25) don’t know how to drive manually. Fortunately, we managed to solve all the problems and on Friday morning we had already our cars ready to be picked. As you can see by the title of this post, during this day we went to see a couple of things in four villages/towns (whatever you want to call it): Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Domme. It’s funny how many town/village names are composed of two or more words.
When we planned this trip… well, actually we didn’t plan it at all. The only thing we knew for sure is that we wanted to go to the Grotte de Rouffignac. So, the first thing we did was going to the cave where we got tickets for the 14h40 tour. Since it was still 10h30, we decided to go to the village of Les Eyzies. It’s a really small village that almost only has a street but that every day has lots and lots of tourist wandering around. We only know this because we pass through Les Eyzies every time we go to the site, to excavate. Since this is a small village it only took us a couple of minutes to see it. It’s a good place to have lunch or dinner or to eat ice-creams but what we were interested in seeing was the “Musée National de Préhistoire”. One of the best things that happened on this day was the fact that we got to see the museum free of charge…
The exhibitions were made and organized by two French archaeologists, one of them – Alain Turq – who is one of the directors of the project I’m participating on. This museum displays an astonishing collection of 18.000 prehistoric artifacts. This has to be one of the perfectest museums that I’ve ever seen. Actually, now that I think about it, the best museums I’ve ever seen were either in France or the United Kingdom. Even though its title clearly says “national”, this museum only offers an overview of the prehistoric past of this region of France. I could consider this a really negative aspect about it, if it wasn’t for the fact that this is one of the main regions in France which yielded more information on Prehistory. This museum is a perfect introduction to the study of Prehistory, especially for the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods. The exhibition has collections from the Middle Paleolithic to the Bronze Age; however, it focus more on the Paleolithic periods. Not only we can see different lithic and bone collections that were made in the 1900’s by the archaeologists of then, but we can also learn some important stuff about all the lithic industries that existed in Prehistoric times. The only thing that I think could be improved is the lack of English translations. It’s true that there is some cards in English but the main information is only in French.
After we finished seeing the museum at Les Eyzies, we drove back to the Grotte de Rouffignac where we had lunch. There’s no need to reserve tickets because they don’t allow it; we have to buy the tickets at the site on the day we want to see the cave. If you really want to see it early in the morning, you should be at the site at 9am; if you don’t mind at what time you’ll get tickets for, it doesn’t really matter at what time you get there. However, there’s a limited number of tickets available for each day (around 550). For example, on the day we went, around 3pm there were no more tickets available.
The Grotte de Rouffignac is an Upper Paleolithic cave with more than 250 engravings and cave paintings. This cave is also known as Cave of the hundred mammoths and as Miremont cave, Cro des Cluzeau or Cro de Granville. This cave was already known by French people since the 16th century but it was only in 1956 that two French archaeologists – aaa and aaa – rediscovered the cave and confirmed the existence of cave paintings. In 1979, the Grotte de Rouffignac was made a world heritage site by the UNESCO.
I admit that I liked this cave better than Lascaux II (you can see here the post I made about it), but nothing has yet lived up to the Niaux Cave. The tours in the Grotte de Rouffignac are done inside a little train and are all guided. I’m pretty sure there’s no guided tours in other languages than French but you can always get a video-guide. Here we don’t see paintings like the ones at Lascaux but this cave have some seriously beautiful engravings of mammoths – the most represented animal. Just like at Lascaux II, we are not allowed to take photographs or record any type of film, so the photos I’m showing were taken from the internet. Other than that, all the other photos in this post were taken by me.
On our way back home, we decided to explore the French countryside. Ever since we started working here that everyone has been talking about the Château de Castelnaud, so we decided to go and see it. However, because it was already late in the afternoon, we only ended up by seeing the château from the outside and the small village. This château is a medieval fortress, erected to face its rival – the Château de Beynac. According to documents, it is believed that this monument dates back to the 13th century. Nowadays, this château is a private property open to the public. It houses a museum of medieval warfare, featuring reconstructions of siege engines, mangonneaux, and trebuchets. I didn’t know this about the château, so now I’m quite sad for not having being able to see it; but, oh well, we couldn’t see all in 24h. I really enjoyed seeing this little village. I mean, I don’t think there’s something I dislike about the French countryside because it is absolutely beautiful. Paris will always have a special place in my heart but I have to say that I prefer the countryside; big cities are just big cities.
Finally, we drove to Domme, sometimes known as “Akropolis des Périgord”. This town is considered to be one of the “plus beaux villages de France” (“most beautiful villages of France”). I can assure you guys that this is really a beautiful village. Since it was already dinner time and we only decided to come here to have dinner, we only ended up by seeing the streets and a book shop (which is shown in one of the photos). In this town there is a kind of “miradouro” (viewpoint) in which we can see the landscape surrounding Domme. It’s so so beautiful.
Once again, as I’ve already said in the previous posts, I didn’t use the photoshop in any of the photos I took. Also, as I’ve said in this post, the photos of the Grotte de Rouffignac were taken from the internet.
Has anyone been to the Dordogne department? What do you guys think of the photos?