Nouvelle Aquitaine Section
Cro Magnon shelter - Eyzies-Tayac-Sireuil
Cro Magnon Shelter discovered in 1868
This enclave of the Périgord Noir has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Era.
Ancients people indeed found refuge in the natural shelters and galleries the river hollowed over the millennia.
Cro Magnon Shelter was discovered in 1868 during the construction of the Périgueux-Agen railway line.
The origins of the name are rooted in the Occitan language.
Cro indeed means cavity and Magnon was the name of the owner of the land where the shelter is located.
Cro Magnon men
Cro Magnon Shelter was a key discovery that changed our perception and understanding of human evolution.
It indeed contained three very well preserved human skeletons and partial remains of two other individuals.
However, what was unique about these skeletons was that they shared the same modern anatomical characteristics than us!
They indeed had a large cranium capacity, a high forehead and long and strong limbs that gave them a perfect straight stance.
Cro Magnon Men settled in Périgord about 27,500 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic.
They are therefore our first direct ancestor, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
One of the interesting facts is that one of the skeletons found in the Cro Magnon Shelter shows evidence of a rare bone degeneration.
This discovery therefore led the archaeologists to nickname him the Old Man!
Cro Magnon Shelter - the site
The various artifacts, flint and carved bones found around the skeletons date them from around 27,500BC.
Cro Magnon Shelter is undoubtedly one of the most important French prehistoric discoveries!
However, while open to the public, it was also left more or less unattended.
It was indeed hidden behind a couple of village houses and wedged in between derelict sheds, until an on site museum was eventually founded.
The Cro Magnon Museum opened to the public on April 26, 2014.
We are pleased to provide you below with the presentation and pictures the museum sent us.
Cro-Magnon Museum in situ
The Cro-Magnon site in Les Eyzies de Tayac is a very important place in the history of Mankind.
In 1868, a burial ground containing the remains of 5 individuals was found under the rock shelter of Cro-Magnon.
The thickness of the sediment layer that buried it and the nature of the objects uncovered left no doubt about the age of this find.
This discovery therefore played a major role, at the time, in the acceptance of the antiquity of Man.
This topic was still debated less than 10 years after Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.
The Cro-Magnon skeletons showed that people, anatomically similar to us, lived at the same time as extinct species such as the mammoth.
Myths and preconceived ideas about prehistoric men
It also showed they were sufficiently advanced in order to conduct ritual burials.
A few years later, the Cro-Magnon 'race' was created based on this discovery.
The name Cro-Magnon became worldwide famous.
Until recently, this major place in human history was rather neglected.
Today, the site has been cleared and refurbished with the addition of a site museum and a nature walk.
Interactive visit and nature walk
A fun and interactive site museum was created so that a wide audience could easily understand the archaeological significance of the place, the memory of its illustrious name, the latest advances in research and get an idea of the daily life of these famous ancestors.
A holographic film, touch pads and an immersive scenography provide an interactive experience.
The nature walk starts after the visit of Cro-Magnon rock shelter, the place of the discovery.
It then leads you to the viewpoint on the Vézère Valley at the top of the cliff where you'll be able to enjoy the beauty of the Dordogne woodlands.
Sound effects of prehistoric animals have been added, as well as information posters; this walk will help you imagine Cro-Magnon Men's natural environment.
The entire visit is available into English.
Department of Dordogne - Musée Cro-Magnon - Les Eyzies de Tayac Sireuil - 2 Chemin de Cro-Magnon
Coordinates: Lat 44.940488 - Long 1.009634
Credits: Cro Magnon Museum text and related pictures are courtesy of ©CroMagnonMuseum - Edited by and for TravelFranceOnline - Wikimedia Commons photo: skull