Périgord is the capital of the Palaeolithic. It is as though every early human passed through these deep gorges cloaked by ample woodland, guarded by picture-postcard castles. The centre-piece of this landscape, of course, is the River Dordogne, a passage as wide as the Thames, which appears listless and benign but judging from those kayaking, has a deceptive current. Blissful is the word that comes most commonly to mind. But, to be candid, neither of the two great archaeological centres – Les Elyzies-de-Tayac and Lascaux – match up to to the sublime majesty of the surrounding countryside. Les Eyzies is the capital because clinging to the rockface in this narrow defile is the Musée National de Préhistoire – a starting-point (though closed on Tuesdays) for any adventure in this region. With the river Vézère on one side and a towering massif on the other, the road and ribbon-like town are squeezed into an impossible series of terraces, with the National museum discreetly occupying an earlier castle on the uppermost terrace. Here I came to meet Dr Alain Turq, Deputy Director of the Museum, and a veteran excavator of numerous caves in the region.
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 39. Click here to subscribe