Friday, September 25, 2015

Cave Painting

After visiting Domme, we headed to Les Eyzies to see cave paintings. And met with the greatest disappointment of the trip. In the guide, I'd missed the fact that you have to book ahead and when we got there we were told they were booked up two months(!) in advance. Wow. Crushed. We made the best of it by visiting their wonderful museum on prehistoric man's activities in the area, but both of us were feeling a off and we really didn't do it justice. This was to have been one of the highlights of the trip.

We were rather deflated as we left the B&B the next morning. However, a short distance down the road, I saw a sign announcing Cugnac, caves with prehistoric paintings, at 300 m. off the road. We headed off with extremely low expectations, only to be greeted by a lovely young woman who said we could visit that very day, and in fact a tour was leaving that exact minute with just one other couple. We'd heard tales of people feeling very rushed through these caves, as the carbon dioxide breathed out by a large group can damage the paintings and so they can't stay long in one place. In our case, with a well-ventilated cave and just 4 of us, we could linger as long as we wanted. What a happy couple we were! How lucky we were for the screw-up in Les Eyzies, as we lucked into a better experience.

We visited a first cave with some spectacular rock formations, including this unusual shower of stalactities. Neither of us had seen anything like this, even in a book.

Then on to the piece de resistance, a second cave with the paintings. We walked more 500 metres and then our guide shone a flashlight on some incredible artwork. We were not allowed to take photos, so once again I took pictures of postcards. This animal was quite realistic and instantly recognizable as an ibex.

We had seen a resonstruction of a prehistoric animal called a megosaurus at the Les Eyzies museum and so we instantly recognized these unusual antlers.

The most remarkable thing occurred when the guide shown her flashlight so as to show us how the artist had used the natural contour of the rock to give a three dimensional effect to the animal's back. I was gobsmacked.

These drawing was produced with a different technique than the others.

What is so puzzling about these paintings is that between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, someone walked a half kilometre through this cave - in the dark - to find rock smooth enough to draw on and then produced these pieces of art, working by torchlight. Amazing.

Even our misadventures have turned out well on this trip.

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