Prehistoric art between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean

From 24 May 2023 to 7 January 2024

Ever since the first discoveries were made in the 19th century, prehistoric art has always fascinated visitors: What is the purpose of this art? Who made it? When was it made? Is it really art? This exhibition aims to answer these questions. 

The last exhibition in France on prehistoric art in the Pyrenees dates back to 1996. Since then, many new discoveries have added to our knowledge. Today, new methods of study and reconstruction, such as facsimiles and 3D, mean that objects can be faithfully represented and comparisons can be made between cave art, rock art and furniture. The richness and variety of the geometric decorations on ornate objects, and the signs painted or engraved on the walls, all bear witness to a rich and varied symbolic thought that we are still not always able to interpret. And while we sometimes fail to understand the meaning of certain images, their creations continue to move and fascinate us 20,000 years later.

Objects that bear witness to prehistoric societies

Going back 40,000 years, the exhibition presents masterpieces of prehistoric art from the greatest prehistoric sites in southern France, northern Spain and Portugal. With the Musée d'Archéologie Nationale - Domaine National de Saint-Germain-en-Laye as the main lender, visitors can discover an exceptional number of prehistoric objects, some never seen before and others rarely shown to the French public.
Themed islands (the mountains, the cold steppe, the seaside...) bring together original works of art, casts of pieces too fragile to travel, screens with photos of cave and rock art... There are naturalised specimens of the most common species (horse, reindeer, bison...), in the form of skeletons or drawings for extinct animals (cave bears, megaloceroses, mammoths...).
Visitors can also find out more by watching interviews with researchers and watching films from the "Gestures of Prehistory" series.

An exhibition accessible to all

The exhibition has been enhanced with a dedicated play trail for children (manipulative games, riddles, participative fresco, etc.) and a tactile trail for all visitors, whether able-bodied or disabled, sighted or visually impaired. Some modules also feature life-size or enlarged casts of objects that cannot be borrowed for conservation reasons. A mascot also guides children through the prehistoric works of art.
For the duration of the exhibition, the museum is also offering two quiet times each week, to ensure that visitors who are hypersensitive or suffer from autism spectrum disorders can enjoy a calm visit to the museum:
- Saturdays from 1 pm to 2.30 pm and Thursdays from 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm.
We would be grateful if you could contribute to this calming atmosphere by speaking as softly as possible and avoiding any sudden movements or gestures.

Partners and sponsors

The exhibition has benefited from the support of partners: the Direction régionale des Affaires culturelles de Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the Musée d'Archéologie nationale - domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Musée départemental d'Histoire et d'Archéologie (Abbaye d'Arthous, Hastingues) - Conseil départemental des Landes, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux; and sponsors: Cultura, Entrepose Échafaudages, Mécénart, Saint-Gobain, Unadev, Unikalo, Vinci Autoroutes.

Horses and bisons (Ekainberri, Zestoa, Gipuzkoa) © Ekainberri – Arazi Aranzadi UTE