Visiting the Grotte de Combarelles

Homo sapiens sapiens, or Cro-Magnon, arrived in the Dordogne-Vézère 35,000 years ago. So much of their lives has been discovered, such as decorative items (beads, pierced teeth, bracelets), sculptures and engravings on bone and stone, and by the magnificent caves and decorated shelters. If you’re interested in the prehistoric period and/or in art, it’s worth visiting the Grotte de Combarelles. There are very limited number of people allowed into the caves each week, by guided tour and it’s quite a complicated way of buying tickets, but if you stay at Le Mas & Le Mazet, we can show you how to do it.

Grotte de Combarelles entrance

Combarelles is full of engravings of animals, humans and shapes. These would have originally been coloured dark, with an engraved outline in the limestone which would have been white. Most of the colour has been lost over thousands of years, leaving the engravings for us to see.

The tunnel through the cave was formed by a river, and although there are corners and turns in it, it doesn’t really go off in different directions. When the caves were decorated, whoever did it would have had a crawl through the narrow tunnel with a burning torch to engrave and paint the walls, hundreds of meters into the rock. Now the floor of the tunnel has been dug out so that you can walk through it.

Grotte de Combarelles lioness

One of the most beautiful engravings is the head of a lioness, which is stunning. It’s captured beautifully, and I can imagine the person engraving it conjuring up the head of a lioness in his or her mind’s eye and engraving it by torch light perfectly onto the cramped walls of the tunnel.

Grotte de Combarelles humanoid figure

There are also depictions of humans which are fun, and lots of other shapes and lines. Maybe one day we’ll discover what they mean.

The cave is about 45 minutes drive from Le Mas & Le Mazet, in the town of Les Eyzies.