The Vallon des Roches (also called Vallon de Castelmerle) in Sergeac is a side valley of the Vézère, located just 9 km south of Montignac-Lasceaux on the left bank of the Vézère. The “Vallon” seems to have been a favorite place in the early Upper Paleolithic. More than 10 different rock shelters under limestone rocks (abris), which were inhabited during the last glacial are known and were partially excavated during the last century.
Abri de Merveilles: a rock shelter with levels dated to the Mousterian and the Gravettian. It was excavated by an American team from Harvard in the 1920’s. Extensive collections of artifacts were shipped to Washington, D.C, and accessioned at the National Museum, resulting in a collection of more than 4000 artifacts (MacCurdy, 1931).
Abri Blanchard: dated to the Aurignacian I and II and is a large rock shelter first excavated in 1910-11. This abri yields the earliest known evidence for painting, engraving and personal adornment in Aurignacien levels dating to 35 k.a BP. A polychrome bison from Abri Blanchard is among the earliest examples of parietal art worldwide.
Abri Blanchard II: Largely left intact, minor excavations at this site produced Mousterian and Gravettian materials.
Abri Castanet: Excavations by D. Peyrony yield Aurignacien I and II-levels. Currently being excavated by a Franco-American team from New York University and CNRS at Nanterre outside Paris, the Aurignacian occupation at Abri Castanet has been precisely to 35 k,a ago and has yielded hundreds of stone tools, bone and antler weapons and personal ornaments in the form of soapstone and ivory beads.
Abri Reverdit: A limestone rock shelter occupied during the middle Magdalenian 14 k.a BP. Most remarkable is the ceiling of the shelter, on which are visible 14,000 year-old bas-relief sculptures that have been somewhat eroded by water action in the shelter. A “stratigraphic section” left by excavations in the 1980’s with the well preserved remains of a 14 k.a year-old fireplace can be visited.
Abri Labattut is another case of beginning-of-the-century excavations. Remarkable discoveries were made here by Marcel Castanet that included a meter-long horse engraved on a limestone block as well as several other painted and engraved animals that date to the Gravettian (Noaillian). A Solutrean occupation yielded a child’s burial adorned with marine shells. There is also evidence of an Aurignacien occupation about 35,000 years ago and a Magdalenian occupation about 14,000 years ago.
Roc d’Acier : Only tested at the beginning of the century this site remains almost entirely intact. It was occupied during the Gravettian and Solutrean.
Abri de la Souquette: This very large and deep rock shelter was first occupied during the Aurignacien I at 35k.a., BP, at which time it was a place of extraordinary jewelry production including hundreds of beads made from woolly mammoth ivory. Later it was occupied during the Solutrean and Magdalenian. It served as both a refuge and a stone quarry in early medieval times, at which time beam support holes, shelves and stone sinks were carved into the rock. The quarrying operations apparently destroyed a portion of the earlier Ice Age deposits.
Abri du Four: this shelter has never been excavated but the limestone shelter itself was transformed during the early Middle Ages into a large oven, and other intriguing modifications of the cliff that are related to medieval occupations are evident.
Trou du guetteur: This is a totally unexcavated rock shelter associated with a medieval sentry post carved into the rock
Material from the MacCurdy excavations at the Abri de Merveilles:
Peyronys excavation report on the Castanet rock shelter: