Abri Pataud (Pataud shelter)
Cro-Magnon has left some fine remains! You can explore them in the heart of the Dordogne, just a stone’s throw from the Lascaux caves. The Abri Pataud rock shelter is one of the only prehistoric sites in the region to show an excavation site and display the archeologists’ techniques.
Suspended in time
The Abri Pataud has belonged to the Muséum since 1957 and has two areas for visitors to visit. The prehistoric site has been specially arranged for the public. Thanks to the different archeological layers, visitors can find their way around the timeline of civilisations which have succeeded each other under the Les Eyzies cliffs. They also reveal the changes in the landscapes over the millenia. Just a few steps away from the site is a Muséum built into the cliff face.
What was the woman’s life like, whose skeleton can be seen here? Who carved the ibex on the cave ceiling? Lots of questions pop into visitors’ heads. Occupied during the first half of the Upper Paleolithic era, the Abri Pataud still retains traces of 15,000 years of prehistory, from the Aurignacian (-35,000 years) to the Solutrean (-20,000 years). An age marked by the presence and activities of the first Homo sapiens sapiens, called Cro-Magnon man. Great users of a highly sophisticated stone tool, they also invented figurative art in their caves, shelters and settlements. For the visitor, it is a great opportunity to follow the advances made in the use of rock and bone and to see the birth of an artistic expression which blossomed in the Magdalenian period.
Almost 35,000 years ago, the first occupants of the Abri Pataud, the Aurignacians, found a shallow refuge for their short stays. They were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Around 28,000 years ago, the Gravettians settled for longer periods in this shelter which had become larger through erosion. At the end of the Gravettian civilisation (-22,000 years), the roof collapsed and all that was left was a narrow passageway along the rock face. It was then used as a burial place: 6 individuals were buried there.
Art and burial places
One of the first things unearthed in the archeological digs was the grave of a young woman accompanied by a newborn baby. There then followed a silhouette of a woman, the Venus of Pataud, carved into a block of limestone, and many personal works of art - in particular an engraving of a fish on an antler, adornments, perforated shells and decorated pebbles. Look out for the perforated human tooth, no doubt worn as a pendant.
Muséum in the rock face
The 75 m² Abri Pataud Muséum is accessible to everyone and displays the most significant items from among the two million found on the site. Here you can see all the fieldwork performed by prehistorian archeologists as well as the results of their excavations. When you visit, don’t miss the reconstruction of prehistoric man’s environment, settlement and lifestyle. So, tempted to go back to your roots?