France // The Limousin, Dordogne and the Lot //

Abri du Cap Blanc

Not a cave but a natural rock shelter, the Abri du Cap Blanc lies on a steep wooded hillside. The shelter contains a sculpted frieze of horses and bison dating from the Middle Magdalenian period, about 14,000 years ago. Of only ten surviving prehistoric sculptures in France, this is undoubtedly the best. The design is deliberate, with the sculptures polished and set off against a pockmarked background. But what makes this place extraordinary is not just the large scale, but the high relief of some of the sculptures. This was only possible in places where light reached in, which in turn brought the danger of destruction by exposure to the air. Cro-Magnon people actually lived in this shelter, and a female skeleton some two thousand years younger than the frieze was found here.

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