Musee National de Prehistoire visitor guide

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The Musée National de Préhistoire or National Museum of Prehistory houses one of the most complete collections of prehistory in France. It is situated in the attractive village of Les Eyzies at the heart of the prehistoric sites of the Vezere Valley. These sites are so important that they are a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

National Museum of Prehistory

France This Way review: Les Eyzies is known as the capital of prehistory, such is the wealth of prehistoric sites in this part of the Dordogne. A visit to the National Prehistory Museum gives you useful information and background to supplement your visits to these caves and contains artefacts from these sites.

The National Prehistory Museum occupies a dramatic position underneath the steep cliff which overhangs the Dordogne village of Les Eyzies. Part of the museum is the castle built into the cliff along from which is the iconic statue of a neanderthal man that stands over the village.

Le Moustier skeleton

The museum was created in 1913 in the 16th century castle that is tucked in under the rocky outcrop. More recently the modern museum has been built below. It is a 3 storey building designed by Parisian architect Jean-Pierre Buffi and opened in 2004.

The entrance is on the ground floor as well a shop and a wall display of the timeline for the emergence of modern man.

On the lower gallery are exhibits relating to the cultures and environments of prehistoric man. Amongst the exhibits are a skeleton of a Neanderthal baby found at a nearby prehistoric shelter at Le-Moustier.

There is also a polished axe made from Jadeite from the Alps and whose size displays wealth and a hierarchy in the Neolithic cultures.

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The upper gallery has articles related to art and rites and has a skeleton of a child from the nearby shelter at La Madeleine near to Tursac. This grave included lots of ornaments made from pierced teeth and shells.

One of the items is a recreated 'parure' (ensemble made to be worn as a set) of shells sown onto a garment in the way studies of paleolithic finds show they were worn. It literally looks like something that would not be out of place at a modern day music festival!

There are many engravings showing the skill of prehistoric man. A bison licking its side carved into a reindeer antler is a major piece from the Upper Palaeolithic period and was also found at La Madeleine.

There is also a lamp found at the Lascaux caves, sculpted aurochs from the Fourneau-du-Diable rockface at Bourdeilles and ivory ornaments from the Abri Castanet at Sergeac as well as much more.

Having explored the exhibits in the Gallery it is possible to go outside onto the upper terrace where you can see the castle and the large rock shelter which was home to medieval settlements.

From here you have excellent views over the Vézère valley and Les Eyzies below and you can walk along to the large statue of primitive man sculpted in 1931 by Paul Dardé.

The museum is open every day except December 25 and January 1 and is closed Tuesdays except in July and August. It costs 6 euros for adults and is free for under 18s. The museum is free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month.

art of La Madeleine

Attractions nearby

Les Eyzies is a pleasant village and as well as the Musée National de Préhistoire it is home to the Pole International de la Préhistoire, the Abri Pataud and the Abri de Cro Magnon.

Nearby are the Grotte du Grand Roc with an impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites and Laugeries Haute and Basse which are prehistoric shelters.

Also nearby is the Chateau de Commarque and the historic Grotte de Font de Gaume, one of the few caves to remain open with the original prehistoric paintings on display.

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

See also: 

Photos of Musee National de Prehistoire

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  • art-de-la-madeleine
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Visit near Musee National de Prehistoire 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
The Abri Cro Magnon

The Abri Cro Magnon

The Abri Cro-Magnon is an information centre built at the site of the first discovery of Cro-Magnon man - our ancestors.

The Abri Cro Magnon 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
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
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 Musee National de Prehistoire (Francais)

 
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