Grottes préhistoriques de Soyons

Site archéologique: Grottes et Musée


Useful Information

Location: Commune de Soyons, Ardéche. 5 km from Valence. Hwy A7 (E15), exit 14 or 15 Valence, to the city centre,, follow signs to Guilherand/Granges on the other side of the river Rhone. Turn left (south) in Guilherand/Granges, 5 km to Soyons.
Navi: 28 Rue de l'Église, 07130 Soyons
(44.88361240646729, 4.850431314969387)
Open: APR to JUN Wed-Sun 14-18.
JUL to AUG daily 10:30-18:30.
SEP to OCT Wed-Sun 14-18.
Tours every 30 minutes, last tour 1 h before closure.
[2021]
Fee: Museum: Adults EUR 4, Children (5-18) EUR 3, Children (0-4) free, Students EUR 3, Disabled EUR 3, Unemployed EUR 3.
Groups (15+): Adults EUR 3, only with reservation.
Museum and caves: Adults EUR 8, Children (5-18) EUR 6, Children (0-4) free, Students EUR 6, Disabled EUR 6, Unemployed EUR 6.
Groups (15+): Adults EUR 6, only with reservation.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=15 °C.
Guided tours: D=60 min.
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: Museum: yes
Caves: no
Bibliography: Didier Cailhol, Philippe Audra (2013): Contexte géomorphologique des grottes de Soyons (Ardèche), Acts of the 23e October Meeting - Le Châtelard 2013. researchgate
Address: Grottes Préhistoriques de Soyons, 28 Rue de l'Église, 07130 Soyons, Tel: +33-475-60-88-86, Fax: +33-475-608112. 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.

History

1870 discovery and excavation by Lepic and De Lubac.
1965 excavation in réseau Double-Borne by JL Brochier and E. Brochier.
1972 excavation in l'Abri Moula.
1987 archaeological museum opened to the public.
1989 excavation in réseau Ursus by G. Dal-Pra, G. Crouzet, and F. Reynaud.
1989 Trou du Renard opened to the public.
1999 Grotte de Néron opened to the public.

Description

The Grottes préhistoriques de Soyons are numerous caves at the southern end of the village. They are located in the cliff of the Serre de Guercy limestone ridge. Six of those grottes, Grotte de Néron (Nero Cave), Les Enfants, Trou du Mouton (Sheeps hole), Trou Roland, la Madeleine, and Trou du Renard (fox hole), were excavated in 1870 by Lepic and De Lubac. They actually discovered the caves, which were almost completely filled by sediments and not accessible. Nevertheless the caves were forgotten again for nearly 100 years. In 1965, J. L. Brochier and E. Brochier excavated réseau Double-Borne. After their publication the cave became known to the archaeologists and multiple excavations followed. The caves became quite famous for more or less continuous remains of the last 150.000 years.

During paleolithic times, the grottes of the Serre de Guercy were home to Neanderthals for numerous times. In the time in between, the caves were used by animals, especially carnivores like bears, cave lions, and hyena. Later, in neolithic times, Cro Magnon people followed the Neanderthals. They once used this place to butcher a hunted Mammoth. And at the end of the Neolithic, the place was even used as a burial place.

In the center of Soyons is the location of the Musée archéologique (archaeological museum). In four rooms the history of this area from the stone age to the Medieval times are shown. The exhibits include remains of mammoths, cave lions, bears, and hyenas. Beneath the remainsfrom the caves it also contains objects from excavations carried out in Soyons and the surrounding area. There is a sacrifice altar dedicated to the goddess Soïo, a Gallo-Roman mosaic, and ceramics from Bronze Age to Medieval times. The visit is self guided and takes about 30 minutes.

The ticket office is located at the caves, but it is also possible to buy them at the museum. The trails on the hill are freely accessible, so you can visit the caves at any time for free. But the cave entrances are gated and to enter the caves you need to take a guided tour.

The one hour tour shows the Grotte de Néron and the Trou du renard. The Grotte de Néron (Nero Cave) contains reconstructions of Neanderthals and their daily life, This includes the way he made fire and the tools he used. Also the typical work of the archaeologists is explained. The Trou du renard (Fox Hole) is noted for its stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, amd other speleothems.

For groups of children ateliers fouille (axcavation workshops) are offered, which are an introductio into the work of the archaeologists. They are held at the Grotte de Néron for a prehistoric excavation or on the Brégoule site, for a Gallo-Roman excavation. For groups also extended guided tours are available, which include the museum and take 2.5 h.

There is a free parking lot at the foot of the hill, parking of motorhomes is allowed. Be aware that the trail to the caves is 500 m and goes up 80 m on 300 steps. So plan at least 10 minutes walk to the caves, wear appropriate clothes and walking shoes, and take a bottle of water with you. It is very difficult to find a parking lot in the village, we recommend to walk the 500 m to the museum.