ABOVE: The skull of the 450,000-year-old "Man of Tautavel," the oldest known human remains in France.
Not many Anglophones are aware of the Tautavel Museum of Prehistory in southeastern France, and that's a pity: The museum, which houses the European Center of Prehistoric Researches, boasts of being the most-visited archaeological museum in France, thanks in part to the local discovery of the 450,000-year-old "man of Tautavel" (top photo) in 1971.
This summer, the Tautavel Museum will once again run a program of prehistoric animations, treasure hunts, hikes, visits to the excavations of the Caune de l'Arago where the "man of Tautavel" was found, and other activities.
The most important events of the summer are scheduled for late July and early August. An English-language document from the museum explains:
"The high point will take place from 19 to 20 July and from 9 to 11 August with the 20th Celebrations of the Prehistory: visitors can learn about various prehistoric techniques (make of the fire, to cut stone tools, to make some music, to discover the prehistoric cooking), or discover stands of local products, as well as exhibitors of minerals and fossil. A prehistoric meal will punctuate every party.
"On the occasion of the remembrance of the discovery of the Man of Tautavel, the archaeologists of the research center propose some 'Meetings around the Man of Tautavel' on July 21st and 22nd. In this occasion, the original human rests, among which the skull of the Man of Tautavel, will be presented, as well as projections of movies, conferences, visits of the construction site of excavations.
"Finally a free show, " On the Tracks of the man of Tautavel " mixing theater, sound and light, will be presented."
For more information about this summer's activities, read "Tautavel Museum summer 2011" in PDF format. To learn more about the museum itself, visit www.450000ans.com. And for tourist information about the village of Tautavel, see www.tautavel.com.
BELOW: A demonstration of how prehistoric humans made fire, and the scenic Gorges de Gouleyrous just north of Tautavel.