A Postcard from Pech Merle

When I think cave drawings, the first place that springs to mind is… Pech Merle!

Just kidding!!! It is the caves of Lascaux that have a world-wide reputation for the best examples of paleolithic art known in the world… and those caves are right in the vicinity we are looking at for our tour: so of course, I wanted to visit them and it seemed like a no-brainer that we’d include them on our tour. But, no.

What I didn’t know (and I suspect I’m not alone) is that you can’t actually visit the real caves and see the actual cave paintings at Lascaux. Nope. You visit a facsimile: they have fastidiously reproduced the artwork in another cave to protect the real ones. So when you go to Lascaux, you are only seeing reproductions that were done in the last few decades!! What a disappointment. Fortunately, Francis knew this.

That is why we went to check-out Pech Merle. A lesser known cave which is one of the few spots left in France where you can really see prehistoric cave images with your own eyes.

I’m not going to lie to you, I was only moderately excited about this trip.

What a surprise it was for me when we descended underground and I found myself face-to-face with the first images. I hadn’t anticipated how amazed I would be to be looking at images created 27,000 years ago. Trust me, when you see pictures of these simple depictions done in black charcoal and red minerals they aren’t nearly as stunning as when you see them in the context of the cave with all it’s contours and when you imagine someone working by flickering firelight in the frighteningly dark depths of the earth where you are standing. To see the rich thickness of some of the lines, to see the clever use of the rock’s natural shape… I was flabbergasted.

The number of visitors here is highly restricted because the heat of our bodies and carbon dioxide in our breath threaten the existence of the images. I couldn’t take pictures in the cave either –so these are just pictures of postcards that I took there. (I loved the pearl-like rock formations made by a long-dried up underground waterfall).

I vote for this cave to join our itinerary!

-Lisa Gustavson (Sojourner Tours Owner)

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