Visit to Grotte de Pair-non-Pair (near Bourg) – 28 October 2014

220px-Gravure_rupestre_(mammouth) (1)We enjoyed a beautiful day in glorious sunshine and visited the Grotte De-Pair-Non-Pair followed by lunch.

The Grotte De-Pair-Non-Pair is situated near Bourg which is on the east side of the Gironde estuary north of Bordeaux. The grotte (ie cave) was discovered in 1881 and was one of the early European discoveries of pre-historic wall art which in this case are engravings rather than paintings. Unlike cave paintings which deteriorate significantly over time it is possible to see the engravings in almost their original state.

280px-Entrée_de_Pair-non-Pair (1)The cave was discovered in 1881 when a cow grazing in a field got its leg stuck in a rut which was found to be a shaft leading into the cave. Francois Deleau, a resident of Bourg, was called in and after some preliminary work realized the significance when he found flints in the vicinity. Deleau was self taught and developed a passion for archaeology and anthropology at an early age and later became a member of several learned societies and helped to found the French Association for Scientific Advancement.

Deleau meticulously recorded his visits and excavations in a series of notebooks which recorded 880 visits between 1881 – 1913. He used innovative methods for the time such as gradual excavation of the archaeological layers and notation of the objects and skeletal remains meticulously recorded and presented in his notebooks. He documented about 15,000 ‘tools’ of flint, bone and ivory and around 6,000 bones from over 50 species of animal. From the evidence he found, Delau concluded that the cave was first occupied by man over 30,000 years ago.

At first glance it seems that the cave walls are covered with numerous scratch marks but we were accompanied by a very knowledgeable and eloquent guide who used various angles of lighting to show the relief of the engravings which highlighted in all their glory the shapes and movements of mammoths, deer, ibex, horses etc.

After the visit we retired, in true BBC fashion, to Bourg where 23 of us enjoyed lunch, wine, great company with much laughter and conviviality.

The weather for the day was gorgeous with blue sky, sun and calm. The surface of the water in the estuary was almost like a mirror which together with the old buildings of Bourg bathed in sunlight gave a magnificent ambiance and encouragement to wander after lunch and discover the historic town.

Many of us who have lived in the area for many years were unaware of this cave right on our doorstep. So huge thanks to Colette for finding something different and organising a very enjoyable full day of discovery, good food, good wine and good company.