Abri de la Madeleine

Village troglodytique de La Madeleine

Useful Information

Abri de la Madeleine, Vézère Valley, France. Public Domain.
Abri de la Madeleine, Vézère Valley, France. Public Domain.
Abri de la Madeleine, Vézère Valley, France. Public Domain.
Location: Tursac, 6k from Les Eyzies de Tayac.
45 km from Périgueux, 20 km from Sarlat.
A20 exit Souillac, towards Sarlat, throughBrive-la-Gaillarde, 60 km.
A89 exit Saint-Laurent-sur-Manoire, 35 km.
(44.968386780956870, 1.032697750672270)
Open: MAR to MAY daily 10-18.
JUN daily 10-19.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-20, tours every hour.
SEP daily 10-19.
OCT to MAY daily 10-18.
Fee: MAR to MAY, OCT to NOV: Adults EUR 9.50, Children (14-18) EUR 7.50, Children (0-13) EUR 5.
JUN to SEP: Adults EUR 9.90, Children (14-18) EUR 7.50, Children (0-13) EUR 5.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 7, Children (14-18) EUR 5.50, Children (0-13) EUR 4.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave. ArchaeologyAbri SubterraneaCave Castle ArchaeologyCaves as Typesites
Light: n/a.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: La Madeleine, Le Petit Marzac, Rte de la Madeleine, 24620 Tursac, Tel: +33-5-53-46-36-88. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


11th-19th century cave castle inhabited.
1863 archaeological remains discovered by Edouard Lartet and Henry Christy, two enthusiasts of primitive art.
22-OCT-1956 declared a Historic Monument.
1979 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Abri de la Madeleine (Madeleine Shelter) is a famous archaeological location, not far from the almost as famous Le Moustier. Both are type sites for archaeological unit, as a great number of items from this unit was first found and published in scientific literature from the respective site. While the Mousterian is an industry, in other words, a technology which spread across the continent and dominated a certain time, the Magdalenian is a culture, it is defined by its art and technology.

From Les Eyzies follow departmental road 706 towards Tursac, up the Vézère valley for six kilometers. At the village Lespinasse cross the Vézère River, turn left, and follow the Rte de la Madeleine to the end. The rock shelter is at the foot of a 15 m high limestone cliff at the narrow spur of a spectacular meander of the Vézère. Like most prehistoric sites, it faces south, an ideal place to catch the warmth of the sun while being protected from rain and wind of the harsh Ice Age. The site is open for self-guided visits with a free audioguide in different languages. Please bring not only a smartphone or tablet, but also headphones, otherwise you have to rent them. During summer there are also guided tours, which are included in the entrance fee.

The site was inhabited between 17,000 BP and 12,000 BP, a time when 3.5 km thick glaciers covered Scandinavia, which reached northern Germany. The Alps were also covered by glaciers, those reached as far as the Danube to the north. The gap between those glaciers actually existed from France to China and allowed huge herds of mammoth, morse, deer and many other animals to roam free across a steppe landscape. Some spots were special though where the animals had to cross a valley, and it was easier to hunt them. One of those places was here, a hunting station where hunters stayed frequently but only for a short time. And they left rubbish, broken tools, but also lost items like carvings of ivory. The site was excavated various times since its discovery as an archaeological site in 1863.

Edouard Lartet and Henry Christy, were enthusiasts of "primitive art", Prehistory was not yet a recognized discipline. They were convinced prehistoric man existed, and they decided to find out where these ancestors could have settled. They studied the living areas of contemporary hunter-gatherer populations, then looked for similar places in France. They found the Vézère Valley, rich in water and rock shelters, and it offers multiple ecosystems, allowing the ancients to enjoy a rich food diversity. They found the cliff of the Madeleine and started excavations, with almost immediate success. In a few days they found flint tools with multiple shapes and uses, spears and harpoons points made of reindeer wood. But the most important thing was that most of them were decorated with superb animal engravings. Engravings of horses or bison, “pierced” sticks, pendants and ornaments were found.

But the ideal conditions of the place were not only known during the Magdalénien. In the 9th century, many villagers fled their homes from Norman invasions and troglodyte dwellings became quite popular, because they were easier to defend. The huge ledge in the cliff face became a Medieval village. During the Hundred Years’ War France and England fought over the posession of the Guyenne, which is today called Aquitaine. The fortified castle of Petit-Marzac was built, owned by a lord and his family. The Vézère became an economic backbone of the area because the boats on the river transported numerous goods, like wine, wood, salt, cereals, and spices.

The site produced several enigmatic engravings and sculptures of ivory, which are mostly on display in the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil. This museum was opened in 2004 as an exhibition of the numerous findings in this area. One of the items is a carved and engraved fragment of a spear-thrower made of reindeer antler. It depicts a bison, of the now extinct species steppe wisent (Bison priscus), with its head turned around, and shows its tongue extended, why it is called Bison Licking Insect Bite. It seems that the object was originally intended to have a normal head, but broke in the early stages of processing, so the engraving was adapted to the resulting shape.

This part of the Vézère valley around Tursac is full of archaeological sites. This is quite obvious, there are rocks with abris all along the river, and if they were suitable, they were used at some time or another. All other sites in the vicinity are closed to the public, this is the only one which may be visited. We nevertheless wanted at least to mention their names, you may probably find them as location for one or the other exceptional item in a museum. The names are Abri Cellier au Ruth, Abri Ruth, Abri du Facteur, Gisement Liveyre, Roc du Barbeau, Grotte de la Forêt, and of course others.