France’s Dordogne Region- The Cradle of Humanity

Located in the southwestern section of France, the Dordogne region is part of the French Wine Region along with its neighbor, Bordeaux. 

But this region also has another noteworthy claim to fame – some of the first evidence of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon humans, dating back as much as 50,000 years, and cave art from early humans dating back 17,000 years. 

The cover image for this post shows an example of of some of the art found in these caves, and is shocking not only for the amount of cave art found, but the level of detail in these paintings.

Getting There and Major Cities

The Dordogne Region is about 350 miles southwest of Paris, and can be reached in about 6 hours by car, or in a little over 4 hours by train. People traveling here by train will connect through Bordeaux.

The major towns and cities in this region include Perigeaux, Sarlat, Toulouse and Rocamadour.

Perigeaux

The town of Perigeaux is the regional capital of the Dordogne. Originally established by the Romans, the town is full of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. The town also has an excellent outdoor market.

But perhaps the most important part of this area are the Lascaux cave paintings found here. The cave paintings were found in 1940, there are over 600 paintings in the caves, depicting the local wildlife in the region. The actual caverns have been closed to the public, because moisture in the atmosphere coming from visitors to the caves was beginning to degrade the paintings. However, they have been completely and perfectly recreated in a separate exhibit that visitors can see. 

Sarlat

Established around a Benedictine  abbey in the 9th century, Sarlat is essentially an open air museum. Every Wednesday, the town has a food market where visitors can get truffles, foie gras, and wild mushrooms.

Toulouse

Located in the southernmost part of the Dordogne Region, Toulouse is also the largest city in the area. It is located along the Garonne River and is a university town. 

Toulouse University was founded by the Dominicans to preach against the Cathar society that developed in the region. This society, that refused to follow along with Roman Catholic doctrine was the target of several attempts by The Vatican to completely destroy them.

Rocamadour

Built into the side of a cliff, Rocamadour is definitely one of the most picturesque places to visit in this region. The town was a famous pilgrimage site on the Way of St. James.

If some of this region sounds familiar to you, it may be so if you have been reading any of Martin Walker’s mystery series centered around Bruno, the chief of Police of a small fictional town supposedly located in this region. If you haven’t read this series, and you are a murder mystery buff, I recommend these books to you. They go into detail of the communities in this region, and at the back of his books, he gives recommendations of places to stay and things to do in the area.

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