Grotte de Bara Bahau, a cave with prehistoric carvings in the Dordogne

Photo of Grotte de Bara Bahau

Visit Grotte de Bara Bahau

The Bara Bahau cave contains a collection of collection of engravings made by pre-historic man.

The cave is more than a 100 meters in length and about 25meters wide. The walls are 'stripy' showing clearly the different layers of limestone and clay that make up the rock. In the middle are huge slabs of rock that have sheared off from the ceiling. Early discoverers of the cave reflected on the 'badaboum' noise this must have made when the rocks crashed to the earth and led to the naming of the caves.

The cave was once used for hibernating cave bears and when they woke up from many months of glacial winter their claws were long and useless. The ceilings of the Gouffre de Bara Bahau were used as a kind of giant nail file and at the far end of the cave where the bears sheltered the ceiling is a mass of claw marks. In time another rock fall blocked this cave off to cave bears but prehistoric man found a narrow passage through and into the now deserted bears cave.

Prehistoric man then used the contours of the walls and some of the bear scratches and developed these into a series of engravings. There are engravings of aurochs, bear, reindeer and horses. There is also an engraving of a human hand and a phallus. The phallus engraving is very rare as it was usually female genitalia which was drawn. These date to the Magdalenien period.

As in Lascaux caves there is a strange grid engraved into the walls. We still don't know what this represents. There are other symbols that we are unclear about too.

On one of the walls of the cave there are some 'eccentric stalagtites'.

As well as the carvings there is a small collection of bear teeth and marine fossils on display in the cave.

The caves are interesting but not spectacular more suited to pre-history enthusiasts than a more general interest. Having said that these caves are cheaper than many of the others in the area.

Outside of the caves is a picnic area and an excellent view over the Vezere valley and Le Bugue which lies just below.

Bara Bahau cave opening hours and practical information

Address: Grotte de Bara-Bahau, 24260 Le Bugue, tel:05 53 07 44 58

February to June: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.30

July and August: 09.30-19.00

September to December: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00

Prices: 6.90 € Adults and 4.90€ children

See also:

Map of Grotte de Bara Bahau and places nearby

Grotte de Bara Bahau places to visit