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The two cavers who managed to crawl into an unknown cavity outside of Le Bugue last autumn were not the first to set foot in this sanctuary. Carbon dating has just revealed that this cavern already sheltered human beings 5,000 years ago ! After this major Neolithic discovery, an excavation programme will soon be underway to determine what actually took place there thousands of years before our times. The proposed plan of action will involve Bordeaux Anthropological Laboratory, the National Museum of Prehistory, the Regional Archaeological Organisation and the finders themselves : Eric Castang and Jean-Michel Degeix, two lovers of the subterranean world which they have been prospecting and protecting for the last twenty years or so. They are members of the G3S : a club where cavers, speleologists and sportsmen share the same passion. Two ecstatically happy men told us of their excitement when they “just happened” to come across this mysterious Mykolas cave.


In the Périgord, holes and cavities are yours for the asking, right there under your feet, but finding them is quite another matter. When Eric Castang and Jean Michel Degeix are out searching they cannot conceal their excitement. On Saturdays and Sundays they meet up and start ferreting about, constantly on the look-out. To avoid pointless digging there are the sure fire signs – the tumuli, the badger burrows, the puffs of air –but there’s also a sort of intuition, a sixth sense that Eric Castang has developed over the years. With the aid of a pendulum he locates the cavities, caves, dried out riverbeds or rivers fed by ground water, just as water diviners do. And that is how our two friends began digging into the hillside just outside Le Bugue last autumn. On that day, 19 November 2005, they had been prospecting accompanied by Jean Michel Degeix’s son, 3 year old Mykolas, who was the first to see their amazing find : a cave with five or six skeletons in it, each of them several thousand years old !

« Mykolas Cave », as the finders promptly named it, quickly became the talk of the town. But, anxious to protect the site so the scientists could go about their job unhindered, they have kept remarkably quiet. On 21 November 2005 they notified the appropriate state departments of their discovery and the conventional course of action was immediately underway.

Norbert Aujoulat, the prominent cave art specialist from the National Centre of Prehistory in Périgueux and Nathalie Fourment and Olivier Ferrullo from the Regional Archaeological Organisation (DRAC Aquitaine) came to the spot on 7 December 2005 to take bone and ceramics samples in the presence of the finders. By March 2006 carbon dating carried out in Poland had determined that :
- one of the men whose skeleton had been found had been resting there for 5,000 years
- one of the other four or five had only been there for 3,600 years

So they couldn’t possibly have known each other, but the site had indubitably been re-used after a gap in time of 1,400 years !

A considerable lapse of time stretching from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age and which raises the question of just how essential this discovery is (see article on Protohistory). This cave, a truly fascinating place, looks like a sort of underground dolmen with a very flat ceiling and convex walls. There are questions that remain unanswered :
- How old are the the other three or four skeletons ?
- Did they perform funeral rites in this cave ?

One thing is for sure : the site has much to reveal about the way our Neolithic ancestors lived as they began to master metallurgy.

Man, who had hitherto been nomadic, was starting to settle down and enjoy the pleasures of farming. This period, which is called Protohistory, is scarcely talked about and barely mentioned in history books. And yet it was at that time in history that the first peasant communities started to develop : those very same communities that fashioned the traditions and the landscapes that have since become so familiar to us.

A team of researchers from Bordeaux, keen to learn more from this discovery, are busy studying the possibility of carrying out excavations in Mykolas Cave next year. The proposed plan of action will involve Bordeaux Anthropological Laboratory, the Regional Department of Archaeology and the finders themselves, according to Mr Dany Barraud, regional curator in charge of archaeological matters.

A most promising proposal for the finders who would take an active part in this dive into the history of mankind.


Eric Castang and Jean-Michel Degeix are members of the G3S caving club, based in Périgueux, which groups together cavers, speleologists and sportsmen. This club has been in existence for thirty years and contributes towards mapping the subterranean world with the aim of protecting it. Thus, for example, when they dive into stream passages, they are able to report traces of pollution. G3S regularly go prospecting in the Périgord as well as organising expeditions abroad.

We wish to thank Mr Dany Barraud, regional archaeology curator, for having supervised this article and all the illustrations and for authorizing this publication.

Copyright © Ferrassie-TV 2006