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Prehistory in the Dordogne

ART ACROSS TIME

The dark, dense forests of the Dordogne hold secrets of who we are and where we come from. In 1940, four schoolboys in Montignac discovered this truth firsthand, when they stumbled upon a network of underground caves that held nearly 6,000 animals, humans, and abstract figures. The cave became known as Lascaux, and the Dordogne as “The Cradle of Man.”

The Dordogne holds the highest concentration of Prehistoric caves, art, and artifacts in Western Europe. The citizens and scientists of the region are thoughtful about the preservation of this history. Although Lascaux has been closed to the public since 1963, after the effects of visitors began to erode the original paintings, an exact replica, named Lascaux II, was built and opened to the public in 1983. Now, visitors can explore the International Center for Cave Art in Montignac, opened in 2016, which includes not only a more precise replica of Lascaux, but a 3D theater, interactive art activities, and a museum tour designed to recreate the emotional experience of the four French boys in 1940.

In Les Eyzies, we visit the Musée National de Préhistoire, a beautifully designed, austere museum devoted to the region’s Prehistoric man. We see Prehistoric man’s first tools, and the long-extinct mammals he used to hunt, like the Megaloceros giganteus, the largest deer that ever lived. We see Prehistoric man’s first clothing, including a decorative vest and a cap adorned in shells.

But most impressive are the cave paintings—figures of women, animals, and abstract designs—the very first stirrings of human art, proof of the deep-seated urge in all human beings to not merely survive, but to create art, or to observe and, with a focused attention, apply patterns on our seemingly chaotic world. This is the same reason we make art today. We live in the same seemingly chaotic world in which Prehistoric man lived.

We are, after all, the first truly artistic animal. And it is no wonder the AIMEE LACALLE DORDOGNE collection derives such inspiration from this magical, significant region.