Dordogne - Perigord
Archaeological history at Les Eyzies










Les Eyzies, a place inhabited by mankind since prehistoric times.

The History of the National Prehistory Museum
To say how long cliff dwellings have existed at Les Eyzies may be an obvious statement to make, but it is nevertheless necessary. The privileged position of its upper cliff terrace, overlooking a vast hunting ground and a main passing through place for reindeer, was, without a doubt, the first reason that Magdalenians chose this exact spot 12,000 years ago.Traces of their settlings can still be seen, lodged between the the castle?s two main buildings, where excavations were carried out at the beginning of the XXth century. But what happened in between these two eras? After a medieval intermediate period, of which little is known, even today,(the numerous scars in the rock:- sockets for posts and beams,chanelling for water and man-made cavities probably date from this period),the history of Les Eyzies? castle needs to be traced. Contrary to assertions in local litterature, this solid structure was built relatively recently and the private family history of the Lords of Beynac involved in its origin. The castle was mentioned for the first time in 1585, in Jeanne de Campnac?s act of donation to her youngest son Jean-Guy de Beynac. Several years before, on 11th December 1578, Jean-Guy was given the right to build a fortified house wherever it suited him. We owe Les Eyzies? castle, therefore, to this highly colourful character who appears to have come from a swashbuckling novel. Read more
 
The work of Denis Peyrony (1869-1954)
The archeological history of Les Eyzies began officially in 1863 when Lartet and Christy excavated the cave at Les Eyzies (or Richard?s cave). After only a few months, several sites were discovered and excavated as they searched for proof of antidiluvean man?s existence.The sites of Gorge d?Enfer, Laugerie Haute, Le Moustier and la Madeleine were thus revealed to the scientific world. Following these discoveries and their publication of The Reliquiae Aquitanicae in 1875, fortuitious finds and organised excavations became more and more numerous, (Cro-Magnon, Laugerie Basse etc), all attracting both collectors of fine objects and the first real prehistorians, such as E. Rivière, E.Cartailhac and L.Capitan. In 1891,Denis Peyrony, a true Périgourdin,born at Cussac in Dordogne 20 years earlier, was appointed school master at Les Eyzies. When he met Dr Capitan, 15 years his senior, in 1894, he was literally inoculated with the prehistory virus. Their first research and discoveries together were to multiply at a dizzy rate. With the young abbot Breuil, they discovered the caves at Combarelles and Font de Gaume on the 8th and 12th September 1901. These were the most famous of their discoveries and perhaps overshadowed many others,for in the field of cave art we owe him the discovery of Teyjat, Bernifal, La Calévie etc . This remarkable man of the work field never tired, and it would be almost impossible to give details of his excavations.
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