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Photo of The Abri Cro Magnon

Visit The Abri Cro Magnon

The Abri Cro-Magnon at Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac is the place where the first anatomically modern human remains were found. These early ancestors are known as the Cro-Magnon. The Cro-Magnon shelter has been opened to the public along with a visitor centre with information about the Cro-Magnon, our ancestors, and their way of life.

Explore the Abri Cro-Magnon

The first part of the visit is through the visitor centre which offers a mix of replicas of skeletons and art works, reconstructions and information panels, interactive displays and films to give a thorough introduction to our Cro-Magnon ancestors and their way of life.

In 1868 workmen found animal bones, human skulls, and primitive tools here and called the French geologist Louis Lartet. He carried out a thorough excavation of the site and found four partial adult skeletons and an infant skeleton all dating from prehistoric times.

Abri Cro-Magnon

These skeletons turned out to be the first discovery of our anatomically modern human ancestors and were described as 'Cro-Magnon men'. Lartet proposed the subspecies of Homo Sapiens fossilis.

Discoveries from this period are now referred to as Cro-Magnon but the term is generally used to describe European early modern humans.

In the visitors centre replicas of the skeletons of these early humans are on display as well as reconstructions of how they would have looked and dressed. It is clear looking at these figures that they have the finer features and more upright skeleton of  modern humans as opposed to the Neanderthal remains that were also discovered in the area.

For more information and exhibits of the Neanderthals visit the Musée National de Préhistoire in Les-Eyzies.

A copy of one of the skulls found at the site is on display, the original is on display at the Musée de l'homme in Paris. This skull shows evidence of a genetic disease called Neurofibromatosis type 1 and which would have resulted in lesions on the face of the man.

Analysis of the skeletons found at the site show evidence of a physically difficult life with physical injuries and the fusing of vertebrae. These injuries would be difficult to survive even today and suggest a society which looked after its injured and sick.

We do know from the study of fossils from this age that our early ancestors were pretty healthy. There have been no signs of cancers, osteoporosis, tuberculosis or dental cavities found. These all appear to be modern ailments!

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The discovery of these human remains were made in the second half of the 19th century and one of the exhibits at the Abri Cro-Magnon is of an office decorated in the way an archaeologist of the time might have decorated his office.

Other exhibits show copies of the art works that have been found at various sites. The sculpted female forms known as the 'Paleolithic Venus' are particularly beautiful.

Once you have explored the exhibits of the visitor site you can go outside and see the actual shelter and the position where the four skeletons were found. There is then a hunting trail to follow up the hillside.

The hunting trail winds up to a lovely viewpoint over the Vezere Valley. On the way there are information boards showing the kind of animals those early hunters would have confronted. As well as the pictures and information the sounds of the animals rings through the forest - quite startling when you are not expecting it and great if you are exploring with children.

The Abri Cro-Magnon is open April to September. In July and August from 10.00 to 19.30 and the other months from 10.00 to 18.30. The price is 7.50 euros for adults and 4.00 for 5-16 year olds.

Cro-Magnon shelter at Les-Eyzes

Places to visit nearby

Les-Eyzies is an attractive village and as well as being home to the Abri Cro-Magnon there is also home to the Musée National de Préhistoire, the Pole International de la Préhistoire and the Abri Pataud.

The prehistoric shelter of Laugerie Basse is nearby and two venus figures were discovered here. One of these is the so-called 'immodest venus'. The Grotte du Grand Roc is next to Laugerie Basse and has an impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites.

Any prehistory fans will want to visit the Font de Gaume caves which is one of the last caves still open where you can see the original cave paintings.  The Lascaux caves are a replica but so well done you absolutely would never know and the paintings are absolutely stunning.

See also: 

Photos of The Abri Cro Magnon

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • bureau
  • horse
  • hunting-trail
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  • hyene
  • les-venus
  • sepulture
  • shelter
  • shelter1
  • skeletons
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Map of The Abri Cro Magnon and places to visit

 
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The Abri Cro Magnon places to visit

Les Eyzies caves

Les Eyzies caves

Overview of the caves near to Les Eyzies.

Les Eyzies caves guide
The International Centre of Prehistory

The International Centre of Prehistory

The International Centre of Prehistory has exhibitions about prehistoric man.

The International Centre of Prehistory guide
Musee National de Prehistoire

Musee National de Prehistoire

The Musee National de Prehistoire in Les Eyzies contains a wealth of information and exhibits relating to the French paleolithic period.

Musee National de Prehistoire guide
Grotte du Grand Roc

Grotte du Grand Roc

A wonderful natural cave full of a rare form of tiny twisting stalactites.

Grotte du Grand Roc guide
Chateau de Commarque

Chateau de Commarque

The Chateau de Commarque is a partially renovated 12th century castle.

Chateau de Commarque guide
Font de Gaume

Font de Gaume

One of the rare caves containing prehistoric paintings still open to the public.

Font de Gaume guide
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