Pech Merle, a hillside opening in the Lot département of Midi-Pyrénées region in France, about 35 minutes drive east of Cahors, is the site of one of the prehistoric cave painting remaining in France, which is open to the general public. Going back inside for more than a mile are caverns with walls painted in dramatic murals dating back to 25,000 B.P. (Gravettian culture). Some of the paintings and engravings could be later (Magdalenian, 16, 000 B.P.).
This area once had a great river flowing through which cut underground channels which were later used by humans for shelter and eventually as supports for mural painting.
The walls of seven of the chambers at Pech Merle have fresh, life-like images of a woolly mammoth, spotted horses, solid colored horses, bovids, reindeer, handprints, and some humans. Footprints of children preserved in what was once clay are more than half a mile underground. Within a six mile radius of the site are ten other caves with prehistoric paleolithic art (Upper Palaeolithic), but none of these are open to the public. Once all were used as places of refuge by prehistoric peoples when this area had an Arctic climate, very cold temperatures, and very different animals from the present. At some point in the past, rains and sliding earth covered the entrances to the caves, and they remained sealed and airtight until the 20th century. The cave at Pech Merle has been open to the public since 1926.
Visiting groups are limited in size and number so as not to destroy the delicate artwork with excessive humidity, heat and carbon dioxide.
La Grotte ornee de Pergouset (Saint-Gery, Lot): un sanctuaire secret paleolithique (Docuemts d' Archeologie Francaise 85).(Review)
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