Site: Rock Art
The cave of Bédeilhac has an enormous entrance – 17 metres at its highest point. Unfortunately the size of the cave’s mouth meant that it was an ideal natural hangar for aircraft. The French military occupied the cave from 1938, and they were followed by the German military during their occupation of France during World War II. The Germans army levelled the cave floor and laid a concrete base on which aircraft were stored and buildings constructed. In the process they destroyed much of the archaeological deposits of the first 350 metres of the cave. The military activities with heavy machinery and engines also did not do much for the painted and engraved imagery in some of the side galleries.
This destructive activity aside, Bédeilhac still has a great diversity of parietal and portal art. There are some truly exquisite examples of carved bone artefacts. The parietal art includes both paintings and engravings – paintings in black and red – and even the use of wet clay as a pigment. The clay on the floor of the cave hardened to form small portable ‘plaquettes’ on which artists engraved individual images of animals. Some of the side galleries are closed to the public, but the main gallery is accessible by with guided tour, during which visitors get to see a number of interesting examples of Palaeolithic art in the cave.
Facilities & Visiting Bédeilhac:
The guided tour takes about 90 minutes. There is a regular programme of tours between April and September, but tours can be arranged throughout the year.
Where is Bédeilhac?
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Objects & Artefacts in Museum Collections Elsewhere:
Some of the carved bone and antler artefacts can be seen on display in the Palaeolithic exhibits at the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside of Paris). Many of the small clay plaquettes with engraved figures on them are now in the collections of the Field Museum in Chicago.
- Check the official website for contact details, up-to-date information on prices and opening hours