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from the trenches
Off the Grid Volume 60 Number 6, November/December 2007

Paleolithic art expert Jean Clottes tells ARCHAEOLOGY that his favorite overlooked site is Niaux Cave, in southern France.

The site: "Though not well-known, Niaux is one of the major European Paleolithic caves," says Clottes. "And unlike the famous sites of Lascaux and Chauvet, it's one of the rare ones open to the public." Niaux's elegant charcoal drawings of horses, bison, and ibex date to 13,000-14,000 years ago, and are late Paleolithic masterpieces. But expect a hike to see them. "The cave is huge and most of the art is half a mile from the entrance," says Clottes.

Don't miss: "My favorite section is panel four in the Salon Noir," says Clottes. "In my opinion, it has the most beautiful ibex in Paleolithic art." An extremely rare depiction of a weasel in one of the far chambers is the most exotic member of the cave's bestiary.

If you're going: Clottes recommends visitors stay at the Hôtel Lons in Foix, "a lovely town with a splendid medieval castle about 15 miles from Niaux." As for food, the nearby Parc Préhistorique "has excellent fare and reasonable prices."

Keep in mind: Though open year-round, the best time to visit is July through September, when there are 11 group tours a day, with two in English. The rest of the year, access is limited to three groups a day, with no tours in English. See www.ariege.com/niaux for more information.

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© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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