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Parc de la Préhistoire (FR)

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This park in France was the 'brainchild' of Robert Naudi and was opened in 1995. It annually attracts approx. 55,000 visitors. The park is inspired mainly by the nearby caves of Niaux. Only limited access is granted to the caves, so an alternative to counter the tourist was sought. The park is not only inform the visitors, but also entertains them.

The Park uses three strategies to express some understanding of the Palaeolithic.
1. some things are given in replica, like paintings in the Atelier;
2. some aspects are somewhat 'culturally translated';
3. some aspects simply convey strangeness and cultural difference.

After realising that the annual amount of visitors allowed into the original caves was with 26,000 well below the demand, the question was raised if there shouldn’t be built a Niaux II, just like the Lascaux II. Eventually this plan was rejected, because a 'Niaux experience', base on the cave, but not exactly the same could serve more goals than just a 'replica-cave' would. It was made clear that modern visitors with their own background and wishes would react much different on a cave than would other people from other eras do. Anyway, not only the visitors are modern, the people inventing the Park (and the archaeologists behind them) are so as well. A 'replica-cave' would give the message :'this is what it was like', but we will never know:
a. what is was like;
b. what it was like for those back then.

So the Parc Pyrénéen built has borrowed aspects from the cave world, but added a lot of modern techniques to it. A contemporaneous approach.

The landscape on the site is designed for the family, visitors will fall across some bits of prehistory: a hoard of bison to climb onto, a cave with human footprints, a 'Labyrinth of sounds'.. Inside the building, 'the Grand Atelier' information about the caves and everything around is spread by using modern techniques; an atmosphere of deep Pyrenean caves is created, but nowhere pretending to be ancient.


SESTA (Service d’Exploitation des Sites Touristiques de l’Ariège) Route de Banat
09400 Tarascon-sur-Ariège
(33) 5-61051010