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The Dordogne, Aquitaine: rowing back in time

photo by Ed Alcock

Travel to Aquitaine, France today and you can take your pick of medieval village, complete with 12th century church and no lack of Bergerac wine or paté de fois gras. To some this is a historic experience.

photo by Ed Alcock

But if you opt for a hike or canoe ride, you might stumble upon far more ancient remains. In the Dordogne region are some of the most famous caves that were home to our prehistoric ancestors.

photo by Ed Alcock

The overhanging grottoes were our first sign of the caves and natural rock shelters that fostered and preserved this region’s outpouring of prehistoric art, which has long fascinated archaeologists. A recent theory, promoted by Jean Clottes, a godfather of French prehistoric studies, and David Lewis-Williams, a South African expert in the region’s rock art, is that its creation was the province of shamans who often painted in ecstatic trance states and for whom the caves and shelters were portals to the underworld. Others believe that the theory explains only one of many reasons that, over a period of more than 30,000 years, people decorated the caves.

Christopher Shaw for The New York Times

Read the NY Times article: "In the Dordogne, Canoeing Into Prehistory" >>

[images © New York Times]

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