Les Combarelles

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Site type:
Site function:
Habitation site, Decor cave
44.94, 1.04

Les Combarelles is a cave in Les Eyzies de Tayac, Dordogne, France, which was inhabited by Cro-Magnon people between approximately 13,000 to 11,000 years ago. Holding more than 600 prehistoric engravings of animals and symbols, the two galleries in the cave were crucial in the re-evaluation of the mental and technical capabilities of these prehistoric humans around the turn of the last century. In 1979, along with other nearby paleolithic sites and cave paintings, the cave was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley.

Formed by an underground river, the cave is approximately 300 m (980 ft) long with an average width of 1 m (3.3 ft).

Radiocarbon dating of bones found in the cave indicates the cave was inhabited by Cro-Magnon people 13,680–11,380 years ago. During that period, these people produced hundreds of drawings on the sandy cave walls, traces of dye suggesting the engraved drawings were originally colored.

Scientists have identified 600–800 drawings of isolated animals and undecipherable tectiforms (i.e. upward-pointing wedges) in the cave. Horses appear most frequently in these drawings — isolated, in herds, and together with other animals — but the reindeer are famous for their naturalistic appearances — some of them drawn as if drinking water from the river flowing through the cave. Other animals include cave bears, cave lions, and mammoths.