Prehistoric Les Eyzies de Tayac, & short story on human evolution – France
The first skeletons of pre-historic man were found in this very spot. And that was just the beginning. The charming cliff-side village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac makes a wonderful visit in my favorite region of France, and I will share a condensed story of human evolution. Mavis: Now I have seen everything – laundry outside! Our stops in the Dordogne Region would be the most beautiful and memorable of our trip, and we still enjoy reminiscing and plotting our return. The town of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac was our first exposure to the beauty of this region. We make a quick stop to investigate the site of the first Cro-Magnon man remains. Then we check out the Prehistory Museum, and wrap with a walk on its upper cliff vantage point. Our ancestors, the first prehistoric man recognized by the scientific community, was originally discovered here, behind the Cro Magnon Hotel. The rock shelter was hidden behind a couple of buildings and wedged in between derelict sheds. It was recently restored, and a small museum was established in 2014. In 1868 the first Cro-Magnon man specimens were discovered right here along with many sophisticated tools, artifacts and cave paintings. Four adult skeletons and one infant, along with some fragmentary bones were revealed during the construction of a railroad. Carbon dating places these skeletons at about 28,000 years old. Cro-Magnon is the name of the rock shelter: Cro meaning cavity, and Magnon was the name of the property owner. Cro-Magnon man is actually the earliest Homo sapiens to populate Europe. So when you hear “Cro-Magnon”, remember, they were Homo Sapien. About 3.5 million years ago, our Human history began in East Africa when it was populated with a species of upright apes called Australopithecus, meaning southern ape. Over a million years they began to evolve and some migrated north from their homeland. About 1.9 million years ago, they evolved into Homo Erectus in Africa and Asia, and some believe they were also in southern Europe. Another million-plus years went by, and they evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis – commonly just called Neanderthals, in Europe and Western Asia, about 400,000 years ago. In East Africa, approximately 200,000 years ago, they eventually evolved into Homo Sapiens. And not shown, there was also other lesser-known Human species: another two in East Africa, one in Siberia, as well as two in Indonesia. Imagine – at one point in time, the earth was home to several Homo species simultaneously. Our Homo Sapien ancestors embarked on a large migration as shown with the red lines spreading into the Arabian peninsula about 100,000 years ago, and then into Europe about 40,000 years ago with the retreat of the ice age, as well as into Asia and beyond. Talk about world travelers! Now I know where I get it from. And it shows we are all related! In Europe, the Neanderthals became extinct after the arrival of early Sapiens. Similarly, all the other Homo species eventually died out after the Sapiens arrived. So by about 10,000 years ago there was only Sapiens remaining. You can imagine the map now all red. One theory is Sapiens drove them to extinction – which is very plausible considering tolerance is not a trademark of our species. The National Pre-History Museum is built in an overhang shelter on the face of a striking cliff. It displays collections largely found in this valley. I’ll show you some of the larger items, and some from outside France. Starting with our oldest human ancestor, is a skeletal mold of Lucy, the up-right walking Australopithecus dating back 3.2 million years. It was found in Ethiopia in 1974 and Lucy is considered half-way between apes and humans – pre-dating the arrival of Homo Erectus by about 1 million years. Speaking of Homo Erectus, this is a reconstruction of a skeleton found in Kenya which dates around 1.5 million years ago. Neanderthals were up next, and this child skeleton is about 60,000 years old. Notice how this model of a Neanderthal father and son look quite human. Here is a double grave discovered in Israel, of early Cro-Magnons about 100,000 years old of a woman lying on her side with an infant curled up at her feet. This Cro-Magnon skeleton is about 11,000 years old found in this area. Lastly, we have a mold of a woolly rhinoceros about 30,000 years old found in Poland, with soft parts of the body and skin preserved. The museum is built alongside a cliff, and it gives us access to its upper levels. We were fascinated how the stone buildings were merged with the cliff face. We’ll see more of this in the Dordogne region. Jim: Look at that! Jim: Great, great, great grandpa (laughs) The Dordogne region is also known for its prehistoric cave paintings. Very close to here is Font de Gaume with 15,000 year-old paintings. We chose to visit Grottes de Cougnac, just south of La Roque, which has 25,000 year-old cave paintings – the oldest in the region still open to the public. If you enjoy my videos, I encourage you to subscribe by clicking on my YouTube channel icon. It’s free. And sharing with your friends is much appreciated. You can play another video by clicking a thumbnail on the right. And you can also find my videos by searching for “Haswell Travelled” on YouTube or Google.