Today, our group first went to a prehistory museum, then we visited La Grotte de Rouffignac. The museum was mostly filled with prehistoric tools, bones of animals and predecessors of humans, and reconstructions of those species. Though it was extremely fascinating to see these exhibits, one point that the guide said stuck out to me. She said that even though when we think about human predecessors we envision them entirely focused on survival, this is not completely true. Later, she pointed out a pretty shell that had been found in a cave dwelling and I think that this reinforces her point. This shell may not have served a purpose to its ancient owners the way that a tool or an animal skin would have. Despite this, it was kept in this cave anyways for no other reason than that its discoverers were interested or liked the way it looked when they found it.
While we were touring La Grotte de Rouffignac, a cave near Sarlat filled with prehistoric cave paintings (The photo attached is of the cave entrance).
I was amazed with the incredible art that covered the walls. These people painted mammoths, rhinoceros, horses, and other animals on the walls and ceilings. Looking at this beautiful art, I thought about how much time they must have spent painting and carving in the cave. This showed me that our predecessors were not simply focused on finding food, water and safety; they were creative and curious beings.
Exactly five weeks since we stepped foot back unto American soil, I am once again revisiting our two-week adventure in France known as the Piette program. While some specifics of the trip have become a bit fuzzy I definitely have not forgotten the camaraderie that our little group managed to achieve by the end of the trip. Our closeness was especially evident during the last four days of our trip when we stayed in gîtes in the Ariège. We knew our stay in the gîtes would be special immediately upon arrival when we saw Frédéric Moncassin, the former professional cyclist who owned the gîtes, wielding a chainsaw to remove branches that prevented our (giant, flaming red) bus from entering his drive. He remained such a kind host throughout our four-day sojourn. In the girl’s gîte, five of us stayed in one huge room where the beds were lined up like in a sorority house. Although we loved the set-up, most of the fun happened in the boy’s gîte where we ate breakfast and dinner and sat around the couch laughing for hours.
The whole reason we were in the Ariège, right on the foot of the Pyrénées, was to be members of Sébastien Lacombe and Kathleen Sterling’s team at Peyre Blanque, an open-air archaeological site. Prior to our arrival, their team had already uncovered the top of a set of rocks in a unique structure. Our two full days at the site were spent gently pushing aside dirt to find small clues as to what lay beneath. While that might sound boring it felt so good to be working together as a team, moving towards a goal that could expose more about the pre-historic people we had learned about in museums. [Also working at the site was wonder-woman Meg Conkey. She was ah-mazingggg.]
A small disclaimer to anyone who ever plans on doing any archeological digging: You will be sore the next day. Lying, bending, and crouching for hour on end works a lot of muscles. I learned this on the last day of our trip when I woke up sore legs and arms. The pain was assuaged slightly though because on our second day at the site Ashley, Sam, and I started playing games and telling a story… about dinosaurs and dragons. While our (slightly crazy) story was not appreciated by those who preferred the quiet while digging, this was just an example of the friendships made on the trip.