Before arriving the "World capital of Prehistory", Les-Eyzies de Tayac, we drive further along the Vezere on the D 706. Soon we enter ST.LEON SUR VEZERE. 10 from Montignac, a charming, sleepy backwater off the road, with a pretty forthright Romanesque church. A typical example of Périgordian Romanesque, the building has the conventional arrangement of apses and is constructed of a rich, yellow limestone. The nave of this church is older and built over the ruins of a Gallo-Roman villa. The large stones of this earlier building are visible at the very bottom of the west wall. Inside, we find that the nave is actually wider than the crossing and central tower. After all, building such a large tower and dome would have been very difficult. Instead, passages on either side lead into the transepts.
Continue on the D 706. There where the Vezere and the Beune rivers meet, the first known bones of "Homo Sapiens" were discovered just above a train station at a place called CRO- MAGNON.
LES EYZIES DE TAYAC is swamped with summer visitors, I warn you. Notoriously frustrating. Excursion buses fill the streets like whales in a goldfish pond. Market day is on Monday.
If you have the possibility go there in May or June or September. It has a prehistoric museum and sites in every direction, so many that you can affirm that no place on earth has so many sites to show, grottos or ornamented stone cavers-ns. It's here that the prehistoric science was born and the study is still going on today. All watched over by a lumpish creature representing Cro-Magnon man, sculpted in 1930 by Paul Dradé and a grave insult to the painters of Lascaux.
The site in itself is picturesque with the village nestled against the cliff.
Of course, the main site to visit is the MUSEE NATIONAL DE PREHISTOIRE,dominating Les Eyzies, It is in fact a chateau des Eyzies (end 16th century) castle belonging to the barons de Beynac.
This museum assembles today the most important paleothilic collection of France, (luthic and bones, first world ensemble of paleothilic art on engraved or sculpted stone blocks). The collections are really unique, brought from all over the Vezere valley and is still in full works. Next step will be the extension works that will increase the superficies with more than 4,700 square meters to give it the world rank it deserves.
Les permanent collections of the museum are staged on four levels, chronologically, graved and sculpted blocks, furnishing art, the Breuil gallery, the tombs and prehistorical fauna. Notice that level III has a collection of casts of "art mobilier" found for the most part along the Vezere in the 19th century, including a case of those first subjects of prehistoric sculptors. Level IV contains casts of Neanderthal and Cro- Magnon skulls, animal bones, several sepulchers and rare seashells. Note especially the Magdalenian tomb from St.Germain la Rivière in the Gironde, where a young woman was laid out in a foetal position under what looks like a dolmen, surrounded with funerary gifts.
The museum is open daily in July and August 9.30-7.00, March to June and Sept to mid-Nov 9.30-12.00 2.00-5.00. Téléphone: (+33)(0) 5 53 06 45 45 Fax: (+33)(0) 5 53 06 45 55
A taste of Perigord (mars 1994), from Helen Raimes-Pèlerinages en Périgord, by Pierre Fanlac-Le Périgord (1997) by Marcel Clévenot and Eric Jung-Aimer Les Eyzies-de-Tayac by Jean-Jacques Cleyet-Merle
Survivants de la préhistoire (28 août 1989) by J.Merlot
Province prehistorique des Eyzies (1995)by Cleyet-Merle