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Prehistoric Pyrenees

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The following are a selection of the best prehistoric sights in the Pyrenees:

Grotte de Niaux 22km south of Foix. A huge cave complex under an enormous rock overhang 2km north of the hamlet of Niaux. There are 4km of galleries in all, with paintings of the Magdalenian period scattered throughout, although tours see just a fraction of the complex. No colour is used to render the subjects – horses, ibex, stags and bison – just a dark outline and shading to give body to the drawings, executed with a “crayon” made of bison fat and manganese oxide.

Grotte de la Vache Alliat, 2km across the valley west from Niaux (wgrotte-de-la-vache.org). A relatively rare example of an inhabited cave where you can observe hearths, embossed bones, tools and other remnants in situ that date back 14,000 years.

Grotte de Bédeilhac Above Bédeilhac village; take the D618 from Tarascon towards Saurat; after 5km, the cave entrance yawns in the Soudour ridge  (wgrotte-de-bedeilhac.org). Inside are examples of every known technique of Paleolithic art; while not as immediately powerful as at Niaux, its diversity – including modelled stalagmites and mud reliefs of beasts – compensates.

Parc de la Prehistoire 2km west of Tarascon on the D23. This museum presents a circuit of discovery that shows the life and art of people from the Magdalenian period who lived in this area 14,000 years ago. Outdoor exhibits here feature engaging workshop demonstrations on archeology, prehistoric hunting, fire-making and art techniques; as well as a recreated encampment.

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