There is evidence across the region of the prehistoric activity, most clearly seen in the numerous cave paintings.

The caves at Lascaux are perhaps the finest example anywhere, and date from approximately 15,000 years ago. But man had lived in the area for perhaps 400-500,000 years prior to this high point. Initially as Homo erectus, but he gave way later (100,000 years ago) to Neanderthal man, who was more capable at making tools.

Lascaux Caves

The caves of the area provided 'quality accommodation' to these individuals trying to escape the cold of the last ice age, and also enabled them to hunt for reindeer and mammoths. It is likely that when the ice age ended, and the reindeer moved north, this first early period of semi-civilisation came to an end.

It was about 35,000 years ago that humans 'as we know them' arrived - homo-sapiens, as Cro-Magnon man. They co-existed with Neanderthal man for about 5,000 years. It was Cro-magnon man who brought hunting and painting skills to the region. This period, which lasted until approximately 10,000 years ago, was the period in which the paintings of Lascaux caves etc were created.

From that period, until 2500 years ago there were fundamental changes in lifestyle. Hunting gave way in part to raising cattle for food, and food-gathering gave way to agriculture and the planting of crops. Decorative pottery was made, and towards the end of this period copper implements were also made.

La Roque Saint Christophe

To learn more about the prehistoric times then a trip to the National Museum of Prehistory at Les Eyzies is a great starting point. Some of the most important caves for prehistoric paintings in the region include Lascaux and Font de Gaume and the Grotte de Rouffignac is full of engravings of mammoths.

The cave shelter of La Roque Saint Christophe was used in prehistoric times and onwards right up until Renaissance times.

Continue to Celts and Roman invasions or return to History of the Dordogne