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The Abri Cro Magnon visitor guide

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The Abri Cro-Magnon (Cro-Magnon shelter) at Les Eyzies is a fairly new site at a historic location. At this shelter the most famous prehistoric man was found, the first Cro-Magnon man.

The Abri Cro-Magnon is located in the village of Les Eyzies de Tayac in the Vezere Valley in the Dordogne department. The Vezere Valley here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its concentration of prehistoric discoveries, caves and shelters.

Explore the Abri Cro-Magnon

France This Way review: This site is of important historic interest and the visitor centre contains lots of information about the Cro-Magnon period. Children in particular will enjoy the nature trail embellished with the sounds of prehistoric animals!

The Abri Cro-Magnon is the place where the first anatomically modern human remains were found and is thus an historic site. It has recently been opened as a visitor site with information about our ancestors - the Cro Mangnons.

Abri Cro Magnon at Les Eyzies

The site contains a mix of reproductions of skeletons and art works from the Cro-Magnon period and information boards and films to illustrate the discoveries of the Cro-Magnon period and what we have learnt about life in those times.

At the start of the visit exhibits show copies of the skeletons of Cro-Magnon man and recreations showing what he/she would have looked like and worn. These do very much illlustrate our connection to these early modern humans.

The features are quite different to the heavier bone structure of Neanderthals whose remains have also been found in the area and some are exhibited in the Musée National de Préhistoire, also in Les-Ezies.

In 1868 workmen found animal bones, human skulls and flint tools at the shelter. A French geologist Louis Lartet was called and on further excavation he discovered the skeletons of four adults and one child. These were buried around 28000 years ago.

These Cro-Magnon men were found to be anatomically distinct from the Neanderthals who had been first discovered in Germany in 1856. In 1869 Lartet proposed the sub species Homo sapiens fossilis. The term Cro-Magnon is now used to describe our earliest ancestors and generally refers to European early modern humans.

Outside under the rock shelter you can see the exact site where the skeletons were found. Inside there is the copy of one of the skulls, the original of which is on display in the Musée de l'homme in Paris.

The skull shows evidence of a genetic disease called Neurofibromatosis type 1 and would have large cysts on his face which show up as depressions on the skull.

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All of the adult skeletons show signs of a difficult physical life with fused vertebrae highlighting injury and one of the females has a fractured skull. Despite these at least two had lived to an advanced age. Their injuries would have been difficult to live with even today which suggests a culture where the weak and injured where cared for by others in the community.

Interestingly bone analysis shows that humans of this period generally lived in good health. There is no indication of cancer, tuberculosis, osteoporosis or dental cavities. These all appear to be maladies caused by the modern age and diet!

Beautifully engraved female forms known as the Venuses have been fournd at various shelters from the Cro-Magnon period (22000 - 28000 BC). Copies of these are displayed in one of the cases with the details of where they were found.

The discoveries of the burial site at Les Eyzies was made in the latter half of the 19th century and one of the display areas at the Abri Cro-Magnon has been decorated to resemble the office of an archaeologist of the time.

There is also a film showing the changes through time that took place at the shelter.

Once outside you can see the actual shelter and the position where the skeletons were discovered. A shelter has been built under the natural protection of the overhanging rock to show the way the Cro-Magnons would have lived.

The final part of the visit is a nature trail through the woods above the rock shelter. Along the walk there are information boards with information about the animals that would have lived there.

Even better there are recordings playing through the trees to sound like the animals of that information board are out there with you!  We werent expecting this and at the first rustings and gruntings were somewhat taken aback! Your children will love it!

Enjoy great view over the Vezere Valley as you wind your way up to the top of the cliff.

Abri Cro Magnon at Les Eyzies

Attractions nearby

Les Eyzies is an attractive village and is home to the National Museum of Prehistory, the second biggest in France, there is also the Pole International de la Préhistoire. Both of these will add to your knowledge of the prehistoric period.

The nearby Grotte de Font de Gaume is one of the last caves still open with prehistoric paintings inside.

In the other direction the Grotte du Grande Roc has an impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites and next to it are the prehistoric shelters of Laugerie Haute et Basse.

You can find more travel ideas in the Dordogne guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

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Visit near The Abri Cro Magnon with France This Way reviews

Les Eyzies

Les Eyzies

Les Eyzies is a small traditional town, within easy reach of many of the most important prehistoric monuments of the Vezere Valley

Les Eyzies guide
Musee National de Prehistoire

Musee National de Prehistoire

The Musee National de Prehistoire in Les Eyzies contains one of the most complete collections relating to prehistory in France.

Musee National de Prehistoire guide
The Grotte du Grand Roc

The Grotte du Grand Roc

The Grotte du Grand Roc is a beautiful natural cave system in the Dordogne.

The Grotte du Grand Roc guide
Laugerie-Basse

Laugerie-Basse

Laugerie Basse is a prehistoric shelter in the Vezere Valley in the Dordogne

Laugerie-Basse guide
Font-de-Gaume

Font-de-Gaume

The caves at Font-de-Gaume are one of the last caves in France where the public can still see original cave paintings

Font-de-Gaume guide
Campagne

Campagne

Campagne is a pretty village with a splendid castle in the centre and lovely grounds with an attractive garden walk.

Campagne guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Dordogne

The French version of this page is at The Abri Cro Magnon (Francais)

 
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