Of all the attractions that the Dordogne offers, I had been drawn to this unassuming village in the Vezere Valley. Why? Because Les Eyzies de Tayac is France's centre of pre-history.
Of all the attractions that the Dordogne offers, I had been drawn to this unassuming village in the Vezere Valley. Why? Because Les Eyzies de Tayac is France’s centre of pre-history, lying close to 147 prehistoric sites dating from the Palaeolithic and no fewer than 25 caves decorated with evocative wall paintings.
After a drive through enchanted pastoral scenes with snaking rivers and towering rock cliffs and chateaux, I arrived. In the modern world, gentle spring sunshine had coaxed mimosa and blossom into glorious bloom and soon the streets flowed with the brighter colours of youthful racing cyclists. The cafes and restaurants were full, the atmosphere convivial with joie de vivre. But I couldn’t wait to step quietly back in time as I entered the striking modern building of the National Museum of Pre-History.
Here was evidence that more than 10,000 years ago our ancestors were not primitive cavemen but creative and spiritual people following the rhythms of earth and the elements. Using stone, wood, skins, shells, plants and mineral pigments, they survived in peace and harmony with the natural world, reflecting her bounty in their art.
I was lucky enough to witness this art in the amazing nearby cave of Font de Gaume. In about 17000 BC, its walls were painted with multi-coloured bison, horse and mammoth, their bodies filled by the rounded relief of the rocks, their movement indicated by flickering naked flames. The way is steep, the entrance narrow but the experience is worth the climb.