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Laugerie Haute

The Ninth Cave in Jean Auel's series of novels on Paleolithic life, culminating with "The Land of Painted Caves"

Map of Les Eyzies area

Map of Les Eyzies area, including Laugerie Haute.

Photo: Le Pôle International de la Préhistoire, brochure,

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Laugerie Haute Ouest near the entrance gate, taken from across the road.
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

The two massive stone blocks on either side of the gate were once attached to the cliff above, at the large rough scars still visible today, and the overhang must have originally looked like gigantic eyebrows over the cliff below.

Some 14 000 years ago, there was a massive fall of volcanic ash in the area. The Puy de Dôme area is only 150 km away from the Les Eyzies area. See the Vernet et al. article below for some possibilities for the source of the volcanic ash.

This fall of ash built up many metres thick on top of the overhang above Laugerie Haute, and when the ash was soaked by rain (and runoff from the cliff), the whole thing gave way and crashed to the ground below. The sound must have been staggering, and woe betide anyone beneath. I can imagine someone sitting at the rear of the shelter, untouched by the catastrophic fall, and thanking their gods or good luck that they had escaped.

The stones appear to have rotated through ninety degrees as they fell, landing vertically on their rounded, previously outside, edges, and out a little from the cliff.

The text below is from: Quaternary International, vol 47/48, 139-146 - Vernet et al., manuscrit, p.1 - Tephrostratigraphy of the last 160 ka in Western Limagne (France)

Late-Glacial and Holocene Tephra

For the period between 15 and 7 ka (Older Dryas to Atlantic), numerous volcanoes were active in the Chaîne des Puys and neighbouring areas. Strombolian phases built numerous cones and poured out long lava flows which disorganized the drainage pattern.

Trachytic and trachyandesitic maar eruptions occured (Kilian, Nugère, Pariou, Pavin). Plinian eruptions were followed by trachytic plugs and dome erection (Puy-de-Dôme, Sarcouy, Chopine...). Tephra columns and plumes reached 20 km into the atmosphere and spread over wide areas aided by wind (GOER DE HERVE et al, 1991). Some volcanoes have been directly TL dated :

- Puy de Côme, 15900 ± 1500 and11600 ± 830 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Lassolas, 15700 ± 1700 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Tartaret, 13700 ± 1600 (PILLEYRE et al., 1992).
- Puy de Gorce, 13200 ± 1300 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Barme, 11900 ± 1200 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de la Nugère lava flow, 10900 ± 1200 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de Dôme, 10800 ± 1100, 9300 ± 1100 (FAIN et al. , 1986, 1991).
- Puy de Pariou lava flow, 8180 ± 810 (GUERIN, 1983).
- Puy de la Vache, 8100 ± 800 (HUXTABLE et al., 1978), 9150 ± 550 et 8820 ± 870 (GUERIN, 1983), 9130 ± 720 (MONTRET et al., 1992).
- Puy de Montchal,7560 ± 770 BP (GUERIN, 1983).

Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute

Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute
Peering through the gate, one can see the rear wall of the abri, with holes dug in the limestone for beams for a house, possibly in mediaeval times.

The site is only open to the public by appointment, often only once a week, by purchasing tickets from the Font de Gaume ticket office. I was lucky enough to get on a tour, but sadly no photographs were allowed inside the gate.

I find this policy difficult to understand. There is no rhyme or reason to the photograph / no photograph rule. In the case of Laugerie Basse, photographs are certainly allowed. Why yes at one site and no at a similar site next door, is beyond my comprehension. There was a very old sign from the 1940s on the wall forbidding photographs.

Perhaps because the Laugerie Basse site is extremely well patronised by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tourists each day, it was difficult to police a no photographs rule, so it was abandoned.

Another possibility is because of privacy. There is a house close by the dig which uses the gate as their front gate, (the slope beside the cliff wall is a driveway) so perhaps that is the reason for the no photography rule.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Laugerie Haute
Here is a good photo of the inside, shot through the bars on the gate. My thanks to Marieke.

We can see clearly here the back of the shelter, the sloping driveway to a house on the right, and the viewing area of the other wall, in the right foreground. The other wall, a treasure trove of flint and other material, faces the back of the shelter shown here.

Photo: Marieke 2009

Laugerie Haute
The sign reads:

Abri Préhistorique de Laugerie Haute

Ce site fondamental, l'un des abris les plus vastes de la région, fouillé entre autres par Lartet, Hauser, Peyrony et Bordes a accueilli des millénaires d'occupation humaine du Périgordien final au Magdalénien moyen (24 000 - 14 000 BP) à laquelle la chute de plusieurs énormes blocs d'effondrement formant la limite naturelle actuelle, a mis fin.

Les niveaux archéologiques révèlent un outillage lithique très abondant, une industrie osseuse de belle qualité ainsi que des objets d'art mobilier ou sur blocs gravés principalement dans la couche supérieure.

This fundamental site, one of the largest rock shelters in the area, was excavated by, among others, Lartet, Hauser, Peyrony and Bordes. It bears witness to thousands of years of human occupation spanning from the late Perigordian to the Middle Magdalenian (24 000 - 14 000 BP). Occupation of the site was ended by the collapse of the shelter roof, with several enormous blocks now sealing the archeological levels beneath and creating their present day limits.

These archeological levels reveal an abundance of stone tools, a bone and antler industry of impressive quality, as well as artefacts and engraved blocks most of which were found in the uppermost level.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Vezere Map

Map of sites in the Vézère Valley of France, including Laugerie Haute.

If you click on the map you will see a larger map with the ability to click on the marked sites and get further information.

Photo: Don Hitchcock

Laugerie Haute

The little Renault TwinGo I hired in front of the (hidden) entrance to Laugerie Haute Ouest. The information sign for Laugerie Haute is visible.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

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Laugerie Haute

The junction between the two fallen rocks, and showing the scar on the cliff above at Laugerie Haute Ouest.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

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Laugerie Haute
This is Laugerie Haute Est, starting at Laugerie Haute Ouest, from the block on which the house in the middle of Laugerie Haute sits, to where the next house is situated at the end, heading to the east. It is not open to the public, but the fences and small concrete bridges and remaining access paths show that it was at one time a scene of great activity during the excavations there.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

musk oxmusk oxmusk ox

musk ox
Sculpture of a Musk Ox from Laugerie Haute, discovered by Peyrony in 1925.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2014
Source: Original, Musée d'Archeologie Nationale et Domaine, St-Germain-en-Laye

pierced pebbles

Pierced stone pebbles from Laugerie Basse and Laugerie Haute, presumably used as jewellery.

Age: Solutrean and Magdalenian.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Catalog: 61.3.651, 61.3.838, and 61.3.894
Source: Original, Musée d'Aquitaine à Bordeaux

pierced pebbles

Pierced stone pebbles from Laugerie Basse and Laugerie Haute, presumably used as jewellery.

Age: Solutrean and Magdalenian.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: Original, Musée d'Aquitaine à Bordeaux

bone water bottle stopper

Ivory stopper, or bouchon d'outre, for a leather water bottle, from Laugerie Haute Est

This version has a rounded helix.

Photo and origin: Bordes (1959), Bordes (1978)

Bouchons d'outre, or waterskin stoppers, are a fascinating tool with an ancient history, though short in the time they were used, as though they were a fashion which died out. A number of different examples have been added.

Laugerie Haute

Plan of the site

1 - entrée du site Laugerie-Haute Ouest
2 - couche proto-chalcolithique
3 - la stratigraphie accessible (en noir)
Le "Château" Chapoulie (en rouge)
L'abri du squelette (en jaune)

1 - entry to Laugerie Haute Ouest
2 - proto-chalcolithic (early copper age) bed
3 - the accessible stratigraphy (in black)
The "Château" Chapoulie is shown in red
The abri of the skeleton is shown in yellow


Laugerie Haute coupe

Stratigraphie de Laugerie-Haute Est, selon D. & E. Peyrony.

F (image)
H'. Niveau solutréen des pointes à face plane. (image)
H''. Niveau solutréen des grandes feuilles de laurier.
H'''. Niveau solutréen des pointes à cran.
I'. Niveau magdalénien à éclats de silex à retouches abruptes. (image)
I''. Niveau magdalénien des triangles scalènes. (image)
I'''. Niveau magdalénien des pointes de sagaie à incisions, à cannelures, à pans coupés. (image)

Stratigraphy of Laugerie-Haute Est, according to D. & E. Peyrony.

F (image)
H'. Solutrean level of points with a flat face. (image)
H''. Solutrean level of large laurel leaf points.
H'''. Solutrean level of notched blades.
I'. Magdalenian level of abruptly retouched flint flakes. (image)
I''. Magdalenian level of scalene triangles. (image)
I'''. Magdalenian level spear points with incisions, fluted, and with cut sides. (image)

Photo and text: Peyrony (1938), in Groenen (1994)

Laugerie Haute ouest coupe

Stratigraphie de Laugerie-Haute Ouest, selon D. & E. Peyrony.

B. Périgordien III. (image) (Note that this image is of tools from level B', the lowest B layer using Peyrony's normal naming conventions, not distinguished as such on the diagram above - Don)
C. Couche stérile.
D. Aurignacien V. (image) (Note in particular the clear quartz tool between the numbers 6 and 7 at the top of the display - Don)
E. Terre grise et éléments calcaires, couche à peu près stérile.
G. Proto-solutréen.
H'. Solutréen à pointes à face plane.
H''. Solutréen à feuilles de laurier. (image)
H'''. Solutréen à pointes à cran. (image)
I. Magdalénien sans harpon.

Laugerie-Haute West stratigraphy, according to D. & E. Peyrony.

B. Perigordian III. (image) (Note that this image is of tools from level B', the lowest B layer using Peyrony's normal naming conventions, not distinguished as such on the diagram above - Don)
C. Sterile layer.
D. Aurignacian V. (image) (Note in particular the clear quartz tool between the numbers 6 and 7 at the top of the display - Don)
E. Grey earth and limestone rocks, more or less sterile.
G. Proto-Solutrean.
H'. Solutrean with points with a flat face.
H''. Solutrean laurel-leaf industry. (image)
H'''. Solutrean notched blades. (image)
I. Magdalenian, but without (the normally characteristic - Don) harpoons.

Photo and text: Peyrony (1938), in Groenen (1994)

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Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute

Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute

This is only a small section of the staggering array of stone tools from Laugerie Haute which were on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Originals on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Laugerie Haute laurier blade

Fragment of a flint laurel-leaf knife from Laugerie Haute, different views of the same specimen.

Date: Solutrean, 22 000 - 17 000 BP
Medium: flint
Dimensions: 75 × 52 × 8 mm (3 × 2 × 0.3 in)
Current location: Muséum de Toulouse, Accession number MHNT PRE.2010.0.105.1
Findspot: Laugerie-Haute, les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne France. Former collection and excavations of Édouard Lartet 1863.
Date: 2010-09-21

Photo: Didier Descouens
Permission: licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Laugerie Haute east

Engraved bone, Laugerie Haute East.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Laugerie Haute Est Laugerie Haute Est
Laugerie Haute East, Perigordian engraving (vulva?).

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies

Laugerie Haute West Laugerie Haute West
Laugerie Haute West, Perigordian engraving of a vulva.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original, display at Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies

Laugerie Haute
Solutrean Laurel Leaf Point

This small laurel-leaf point was found on the Laugerie Haute site. These small bifaces are believed to have been used as projectile points that once tipped the ends of spears or darts. They were probably thrown with the use of a spear thrower. This point is made of a semi-translucent honey colored chert and measures 6.5 cm long, 2.7 cm wide and .7 cm thick.

Photo: © Peter A. Bostrom, American Museum of Natural History Collection

Source, photo and text:

Laugerie Haute
Le foyer de Laugerie-Haute Ouest
(Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne)
Solutréen (vers 20 000 B.P.)

This is one of the original foyers, or fireplaces, at Laugerie Haute West. How wonderful that it was preserved in its entirety.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Laugerie Haute Laugerie Haute
11 - Laugerie Haute Est - Bâton percé - Magdalénien
13 - Laugerie Haute Est - Bâton percé - Gravettien
14 - Laugerie Haute Est - Bâton percé - Magdalénien ancien

Decorated spear straighteners or spear throwers (both interpretations are possible) from Laugerie Haute Est.

Note that number 13 in the right hand photograph shows two mammoths with heads pressed together, presumably in ritual combat over mating rights.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2008

Source: Original on display at Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

From Wikipedia:

To use the bâton percé as a spear thrower, a length of cord is attached to the spear, near the middle of the spear. Leather would be suitable for lighter spears, while sinew would be required for heavier spears. The addition of the cord turns the spear in to a large Swiss arrow. Using the spear thus equipped as a Swiss arrow resulted in a 43% increase in range, compared to a hand thrown spear.

The bâton percé is used by feeding the cord through the hole, and laying the cord along the length of the shaft. The bâton percé is held in the hand, with the solid end held in the hand near the pinkie, and the pierced end emerging from the other end of the fist. The loose end of the cord is grasped between thumb and forefinger, and the spear is laid along the bâton percé. The spear may be twisted up to one and a half turns, which serves to stabilize the spear during the throw. The bâton percé is held over the shoulder, and thrown overhand. The length of the bâton percé serves to increase the thrower's leverage, providing more speed, and the cord acts as it does in a Swiss arrow, extending the leverage further. Use of the bâton percé in this way results in a 127% increase in range over the same hand-thrown spear.

spear straightener spear straightener

Spear straightener, pierced baton, Laugerie Haute.

Material: reindeer antler.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Catalog: 61.3.258
Source: Original, Musée d'Aquitaine à Bordeaux

carved bone

Carved bone, Laugerie Haute

Solutrean/Magdalenian in age.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Catalog: 61.3.53
Source: Original, Musée d'Aquitaine à Bordeaux

Musk Ox Tooth
Musk Ox teeth.

Laugerie-Haute, Peyrony’s collections, Solutrean. Ovibos moschatus, 1a - first or second upper right molar ; 1b - third upper right molar (Laugerie-Haute Ouest). Scale (white line) 1cm

This third left upper molar was marked L.H.O sol.f.l (Peyrony's writing) so it was found in Solutrean deposits. It was not published as such by D. and E. Peyrony, having been wrongly attributed to deer or cattle. It was identified as a musk ox after 1989.

Photo: Ph. Jugie, MNP
Source and text: Castel et Madelaine (2006)

Remains of the Saïga Antelope are absent from the accounts of Delpech (1983) for the Solutrean Laugerie-Haute Est et Ouest from the excavations of F. Bordes. In contrast, in the material from the excavations of D. Peyrony Laugerie-Haute Ouest, six remains attributable to this species were isolated, Madelaine (1989), including an M3 Lower and an M2 Upper that are quite characteristic, but were identified wrongly as Ibex.

The presence of the saiga antelope in the Upper Solutrean from the south-west of France is now a known fact - Dujardin et Timula (2005).

For sites in the northern half of Aquitaine (Le Placard, Fourneau-du-Diable et Combe-Saunière), the Saïga is represented by relatively large numbers of remains. In sites in the south of Perigord and Quercy they are very rare (a single example at Jamblancs and Pech-de-la Boissiere). These isolated remnants are not sufficient evidence to demonstrate local hunting of Saïga - Castel et al. (2005)

Horse Tooth
Horse teeth, used as retouchers in the making of flint tools.

1 - Laugerie-Haute Ouest, Peyrony’s collection, Solutrean. Equus caballus, third right lower molar ; 1a- external surface, 1b, c,d - close-up of the utilized zones on the mesial (anterior) surface. Scale (white line) 1cm

This is from Couche H" of Peyrony's excavations at Laugerie-Haute Ouest, Solutrean with typical laurel leaf blades.

2 - Laugerie-Haute Ouest, collection Peyrony, Solutréen. Equus caballus, first or second right lower molar ; 2a - external surface, 2b, c – close-up of the utilized zone on back (distal) surface, 2d - internal (lingual) view. Scale (white line) 1cm

This is from the Solutrean, but is not identified in any other way.

Photo: not attributed, but almost certainly Ph. Jugie, MNP
Source and text: Castel et Madelaine (2006)

Laugerie Haute entrance
Laugerie Haute Ouest entrance. The man was there to open the cave for some journalists. The two large white rocks were once the roof of the shelter.

The Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii (from the books by Jean Auel concerning Ice Age times) is based on Laugerie Haute in the valley of the Vezere, in the Perigord district of France. The nearby Laugerie Basse still looks like a rock shelter, but Laugerie Haute is long collapsed, and has been almost completely excavated, except for what lies under a house on the middle of the site.
Photo: Utika, 30th April 2002

laugerie haute Photo de la stratigraphie de Laugerie haute

La séquence représente 15 000 ans d'occupation humaine fossilisée sur plusieurs mètres d'épaisseur. La plus haute couche d'identifiée ici est du magdalénien. La roche que l'on observe au dessus est donc tombée après. Cette roche est celle qui se trouve à droite en entrant sur le site. Elle sépare le site de la route qui passe devant.

Nous n'avons pas d'assurance que les autres roches qui occupent la terrasse actuellement soient tombées à la même époque. Ce qui est cependant, possible. La configuration de la terrasse devait être bien plus spectaculaire.

Cette photo provient de « La province préhistorique des Eyzies » Caisse nationale des monuments et des sites. CNRS éditions

Photo of the stratigraphy of Laugerie haute

The sequence represents 15 000 years of human occupation preserved in a band several meters thick. The top layer identified here is a Magdalenian one. The rock that may be seen above these sediments has fallen after this date. This rock is the one that is located to the right while entering the site. It separates the site from the road that passes in front of it.

We have no assurance that the other rocks that now occupy the terrace fell in the same era. This is nevertheless possible.

This photo comes from "La province préhistorique des Eyzies" Caisse nationale des monuments et des sites. CNRS éditions

My thanks to Peire and Anya for access to this resource.

mammoths Mammouths affrontés. Protomagdalénien de Laugerie-Haute. Fouilles Peyrony. Musée national de Préhistoire. Les Eyzies.

Facing mammoths. Protomagdalenian Laugerie Haute. Peyrony Excavations. Musée national de Préhistoire. Les Eyzies.

This appears to me to illustrate mammoths engaged in ritual combat, perhaps during competition for mates.

Denis Peyrony was a teacher from Les Eyzies who carried out a number of excavations in the area in the early 1900s.

Photo and French text: "les mammouths - Dossiers Archéologie - n° 291 - Mars 2004"

My thanks to Anya for access to this resource.

Laugerie Basse Laugerie-Haute. Abri du Squelette. A l'extrémité occidentale de l'abri classique, au moins trois squelettes humains ont été découverts sous une grande dalle rocheuse. Ces restes sont d'époque néolithique. Seul l'un des squelettes a été conservé sur place. Fouilles J. Maury, S. Blanc et M. Bourgon.

Laugerie Haute. Shelter of the Skeleton. At the Western end of the traditional shelter, at least three human skeletons were discovered under a large rock flagstone. These remains are from the Neolithic age. Only one of the skeletons was preserved in place. Excavations J Maury, S. Blanc and M. Bourgon.

Photo and French text: Visiter les Abris de Laugerie-Basse - Alain Roussot - Editions Sud-Ouest.

My thanks to Anya for access to this resource.

zelandonii territory Go to a map showing Laugerie Haute

Laugerie Haute is 180 meters long, 35 meters wide and nearly 5 metres deep. It is situated on the right bank of the Vezere, about 2 km from Les Eyzies. The site has yielded 42 levels of sediment, making it the "yardstick" for French Upper Paleolithic industry. The lowest levels date to the Perigordian (ca. 33,000-20,000 BCE), and occupation seems to have terminated around 14,000 BCE, during the Magdelenian period, at which time the nearby site of Laugerie-Basse becomes prominent. (this text from )

Most of the stratigraphic data and related text here comes from an excellent book, 'Rock Shelters of the Perigord' by Henri Laville, Jean-Philippe Rigaud, and James Sackett.

Two kilometres upstream from Les Eyzies is the classic rock shelter of Laugerie-Haute, which occupies a great southward-facing line of cliffs that overlooks the right bank of the Vezere River. It is a vast station whose archaeological deposit at the time of its discovery attained a thickness up to 6 m over an area 180 m long and 35 m wide. It is also somewhat peculiar both in the manner in which it has been excavated and in its physical make up. With regard to the former, a large house sits on top of the central portion of the deposit. This portion remains unexcavated and consequently divides the site into two distinct sectors. The sector lying downstream toward Les Eyzies is called Laugerie-Haute Ouest, whereas the one lying upstream is Laugerie-Haute Est.

The lowest levels date to the Perigordian (ca. 33,000-20,000 BCE), and occupation seems to have terminated around 14,000 BCE, during the Magdelenian period, at which time the nearby site of Laugerie-Basse becomes prominent.

Laugerie Haute Cross Section

Laugerie Haute Ouest (West) Cross Section
Photo: H. Laville et al, 'Rock Shelters of the Perigord'

Laugerie Haute Cross Section

Laugerie Haute Est (East) Cross Section
Photo: H. Laville et al, 'Rock Shelters of the Perigord'

(p 259) The Laugerie Haute site actually consists of two distinct localities, Laugerie-Haute sectors Est and Ouest, separated by an untouched central block of the deposit which is occupied by a house in which Peyrony himself lived and which has since served as the residence of his successors in the curatorship of the Les Eyzies museum. Our knowledge of the stratigraphy of Laugerie-Haute has been greatly refined by excavations conducted in both sectors between 1957 and 1959 by F. Bordes and P. Smith (Bordes 1958, 1959) which lent considerable precision to Peyrony's findings and provided important new samples for sedimentological, palynological, and paleontological analysis. The bulk of Laugerie-Haute's deposits concern Solutrean and Magdalenian times.

Laugerie Haute Camp
Laugerie Haute recreation

This evocative painting by Jack Unruh (unattributed, but signed by him) shows Laugerie-Haute before it collapsed.

It was a rock shelter used by Palaeolithic salmon fishers. Several groups probably came together for massive fishing harvests 18 000 years ago. Note the stone weirs in the painting guiding the salmon to a pool for spearing, the people carrying strings of freshly caught salmon across the shallow pool, the scalers, cleaners and filleters seated beside the pool, the people carrying prepared fillets up the bank, and the racks of drying fish.

On the larger image you can also see that the racks are held up by tripods, each one of which is stabilised by a cord or stick attached to a pile of rocks below each tripod, since there was no soil to dig the tripods into on the rock shelf swept clean by spring floods. Children are playing a chasing game, and someone else is bringing in firewood for the fires under the rock shelter, where there are two types of shelter. In one case there are some sticks stuck in the ground forming a wind shelter, with one side open to the river, and in another case there is a lean to against the rock overhang covered in hides.

Sun drying of the fish would assure a plentiful winter food supply, and thousands of bones have been found in excavations in the area.

Photo: the painting is by Jack Unruh, in National Geographic, Vol 174, No 4, October 1988.

Limestone cliffs near Solutré, at the foot of which is the celebrated site of Cro-du-Charnier

Limestone cliffs near Solutré, at the foot of which is the celebrated site of Cro-du-Charnier

Photo: Yelkrokoyade (2009)

(p 291) The Solutrean is perhaps the most distinctive and at the same time the most delimited tradition of the Perigord's Upper Paleolithic. It begins by 19,000 , B.C. in later Wurm III times and continues into the initial phase of Wurm IV, ending well before 16,000 B.C. Typologically it is, on the whole, exceedingly stable and indeed commonplace, consisting of a basic Upper Paleolithic blade tool assemblage in which end scrapers are very common, burins rare, and perforators numerous, at least in comparison to their abundance in other traditions. There exists no distinctive component of bladelets or microlithic tools and the bone inventory itself is undistinguished and in fact rather impoverished until near the end, when the eyed needle appears. What makes the Solutrean so distinctive in the face of this banality is its leaf-shaped, or foliate, points chiseled into shape by a special retouch that consists of long, narrow, and parallel flake scars that encroach upon the very surface of the piece.

In the view of many prehistorians these foliate points represent the most refined and handsome specimens of flint knapping in the Paleolithic. But this has earned the Solutrean the unhappy fate of being the Stone Age's "martyr" culture, since they have proven so attractive to flint collectors that the overwhelming majority of Solutrean sites have been more quarried than excavated. Happily, however, the site that seems to incorporate the longest and most complete Solutrean sequence, LaugerieHaute, was excavated by Peyrony, who succeeded in defining there the major chronological stages of the Solutrean's regional evolution.

(p298) However, it so happens that the first (Laugerie-Haute) and second (La Madeleine) portions of this seriation pose entirely different problems for the investigator. The first represents a segment of the regional archaeological record that is not simply characterized by Laugerie-Haute but is in fact dominated by it almost exclusively. There is but one other regional site, Le Malpas, which furnishes refined stratigraphic evidence for the Solutrean, and there is virtually none at all for Lower Magdalenian times. Fortunately, Le Malpas' succession equates very closely with Laugerie-Haute's Solutrean levels. And Laugerie-Haute happens to present a stratigraphy that exhibits an unbroken sequence of marked depositional contrasts, fully complementary pollen data, a useful series of radiocarbon dates that is internally consistent, and a well-documented and orderly succession of archaeological industries.

(p 300) The peculiarity of its physical layout is somewhat more complicated to explain. The rearward portion of the fill deposit lies inside a relatively shallow overhang like that found at the back of most collapsed rock shelters. Then, extending in front of this, lies the middle portion, which was originally buried under a relatively thin detritus of fallen roof blocks and rubble. But, instead of merging into a talus slope in the typical fashion, the forward portion of the deposit extends several meters outward on the horizontal, having been buried and preserved under a fall of gigantic blocks that represents a massive yet still intact collapse of the cliff face itself. Hence, walking into the middle portion of the site, which today has been nearly completely emptied of its original deposit save for the segment underlying the house, is like entering a narrow gorge dominated by impressive rock faces on either side.

Like most of the famous rock shelters of the region, Laugerie-Haute has had a long and checkered career. It was initially explored by E. Lartet and H. Christy in 1863, whose work here and at many other sites led to the first major synthesis of the Perigord-Reliquiae Aquitanicae (1865-1875). Numerous excavators followed, but - as so often has been the case - truly methodical investigations at this site began only with the work of Peyrony, whose excavations continued from 1921 to 1935 (D. Peyrony and E. Peyrony 1938). His important collections were reanalyzed in the light of modern techniques in de Sonneville-Bordes' Paléolithique Supérieur en Perigord (1960) and in this form continue to comprise our major artifactual evidence. However, new excavations were undertaken at LaugerieHaute by F. Bordes between 1957 and 1959, which not only brought greatly enhanced precision to our knowledge of the site's stratigraphy but also provided new data for sophisticated analyses of its artifact industries, palynology, paleontology, and sedimentology (Bordes 1958b; de Sonneville-Bordes and Bordes 1958; Bordes and colleagues 1969; Smith 1966; Laville 1964b; Paquereau. 1969c; Delpech 1975). What follows is largely based upon this work. More recent excavations have, however, been conducted at the site over the past decade by G. Guichard (1976a), which will be of great interest when published in detail.


  1. Castel J.-C., Chadelle J.-P. et Geneste J.-M., 2005: Nouvelle approche des territoires solutréens du Sud-Ouest de la France. In: J. Jaubert, M. Barbaza (dir), Territoires, déplacements, mobilité, échanges durant la Préhistoire, 126 e congrès du CTHS, Toulouse, 2001. Paris, Editions du CTHS. p. 279-294.
  2. Castel J.-C., et Madelaine S., 2006: Quelques éléments remarquables de la faune du Solutréen de Laugerie-Haute (Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne) In:, Paleo, 18 | 2006
  3. Delluc B., Delluc G., 1982: Prehistoric Hunters, Hart Davis
  4. Delpech F., 1983: Les faunes du Paléolithique Supérieur dans le Sud-Ouest de la France, Paris : Editions du CNRS. Cahiers du Quaternaire, no. 6.
  5. Dujardin V. et Timula S., 2005: Relecture chronologique de sites paléolithiques et épipaléolithiques anciennement fouillés en Poitou-Charentes, Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française, 102-4, 771-788.
  6. Groenen Marc, 1994: Pour une histoire de la préhistoire, Éditions Jérôme Millon 1994
  7. Madelaine S., 1989: Contribution des anciennes fouilles à la connaissance des ongulés et de leurs milieux durant le Würm récent en Dordogne. Paléo, 1, 36-46.
  8. Peyrony, D. et E., 1938: Laugerie Haute près des Eyzies (Dordogne), Paris, Masson, 1938, pp 9-10 , Fig 2 (Archives de l'Institut de Paléontologie humaine, No 19)
  9. Yelkrokoyade, 2009: Vue du village de Solutré-Pouilly - Saône et Loire (71), France, Wikimedea Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 licenses.

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