Arriving in the Sarlat and the Dordogne, I clearly knew what I was in for, and I have been looking forward to a return visit for ten years now. Having experienced a bird flu epidemic earlier in the year, the Dordogne recovered in time to satisfy my insatiable desire for Magrét de Canard and everything duck.
The famous three bronze geese symbolize the Dordogne as the foie gras capital of the world. Before you get your back up, I don’t even eat foie gras. I merely encourage the wholesale slaughter of ducks to satisfy my desire for this variety of poultry. Sorry chicken, you’re dead boring compared with duck.
Neanderthal and Child
A sepulcher from the Bronze Age (1000 BC) was discovered at the foot of the cliff in 1913 by Denis Peyrony who led the first archaeological research on this site. Two skeletons – an adult and an adolescent – had been laid on a bed of cinders. This was probably an ossuary or a second burial into which the bones had been gathered together.
During the discovery of the first human fossils of the 19th. century, the idea that man had lived before the great flood, clashed with traditional religious beliefs. Neanderthal man was therefore depicted as a creature with the features of a monkey. The world had to wait for the second half of the 20th. century to see how Neanderthal man evolved and to accept that he was capable of fine intellectual capacities, and was concerned with metaphysical questions.
Medieval Kitchen – 1000 AD
The Well Winch – This type of winch was used to raise materials such as water or minerals. The hoisting action is two fold: when one load rises the second is lowered (the diabolo principle). The water is purified in a cistern filled with gravel and carbon to be subsequently used be the inhabitants.
The Forge – Here we have a reconstructed forge, the original being indispensable in a medieval town. The blacksmith would manufacture the Lord of the manor’s arms and weapons as well as those of the soldiers and the peasant’s and craftsmen’s tools. Iron was expensive: New tools were difficult to make from scratch. So they were repaired over and over again until they could no longer be used.
The Treadmill Winch – The treadmill winch or “squirrel cage” allowed heavy loads to be raised. The “motor” consisted of a cage in which one or several people tramped round and round. Their weight generated enough energy to cause the rope to be wound around the central hub. This type of winch could raise seven times its own weight.
The Swinging Crane – The swinging crane allows loads to be pivoted through 360 degrees. A load is fixed at one end and a counterweight at the other. Ropes are placed at each end of the arm. The rope is pulled on one side to raise the arm, and movement is controlled by the other side.
Construction – The construction inside consists of the back wall and the ceiling of the dwelling. Beams fitted into openings cut into the wall carried the roof structure supported at the front by vertical pillars.
During the Middle Ages, the walls were made of wattle and daub, of wood and afterward of stone during the second half of this period. Higher up can be seen horizontal grooves, gutter channels, which were used to direct the rainwater.
The Barn – This shelter was occupied as far back as prehistory, 20,000 years ago. Archaeological digs have brought to light fashioned flints dating from this period. Later on, this place was further enlarged and transformed into a barn. Around the perimeter the fifteen rings dug into the rock were probably used to tie up the animals. In the time of an attack, the most important animals were taken up, thus putting them under cover as well as having a source of fresh food.
La Basilique Saint-Sauver