Visit Pech Merle by Mouse
Pech Merle (also see) is an easy and very interesting ride from the town of Cahors. The drive takes you along a windy road through some very narrow rock tunnels and some troglodytes--caves in which modern people live. Pech Merle is not a town itself but a place in the woods near a town where there is a cave in which artists of about 29,000 years ago painted impressionistic images of animals on walls and ceilings. It is like Lascaux, discussed elsewhere on this web site, but with some differences. Whereas the caves and paintings one sees in Lascaux are faithful reproductions, those you see here are the originals. And, in Pech Merle there are drawing of humans as well as of animals. We do not think this is true at Lascaux.
 
Visitors can take a tour of the cave complex, which stretches a long way underground.  The number per tour is limited to prevent the kind of damage to the paintings that occurred in Lascaux.  During the high tourist season you might have to make reservations for a tour at a particular time.  Otherwise there might be long waits for a place and one could end up having to return on another day.  We were lucky.  We were there in a slow time and got right into the next tour.
 
As in Lascaux, artists worked virtually in the dark, probably by the very low light cast by primitive lamps.  The tour guide told us that those who have studied the art believe that the technique involved making a kind of slurry by mixing various mineral pigments, often just carbon black from the lamps, in water, slurping it up in their mouths and blowing it out expertly to make lines of different thicknesses and colors.  And what was so fascinating to us was to learn that these artists of so long ago wanted very much to identify themselves with the rendition by signing it.  They did this by holding their open hand against the wall and blowing the slurry at it, leaving the outline of their hands on the cave wall.  One of the cute things at Pech Merle is that a hand outline like the ones in the cave was on the sign indicating the way to the toilets.
 
Photography was not allowed in the cave so we cannot show you what the art was like. Fortunately there is a web site that provides a virtual tour, with a discussion in English so you can see some of the beautiful paintings for yourselves.
We include here a photo of the hand on the toilet sign and photos Adelle took through the windshield on the drive from Cahors to Pech Merle. (Slideshow) And you can read the letter we wrote just after our visit.
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