denis peryrony

Prehistorian

  • From Périgord
  • Teacher at Les Eyzies

Born in Cussac in the Dordogne in 1869 and died in Sarlat in 1954, Denis Peyrony was a key figure in the prehistory of the Périgord Noir. A schoolteacher in Les Eyzies from 1891 to 1910, he quickly developed a passion for this period of history. 

An extraordinary career

At the end of the First World War, he founded the National Museum of Prehistory Les Eyzies, of which he was the first director, as well as inspector of prehistoric monuments.
He was a pupil of Émile Cartailhac and an excavation companion of theabbé Henri Breuil and Louis Capitan, with whom he discovered the Combarelles cave and that of Font-de-Gaume.

It is said that in his youth, he visited the Grotte du Sourd, also known as "Font-de-Gaume", where he inscribed his surname:

People visited it for a long time without suspecting what it contained, so much so that Mr Peyrony himself, when he started teaching, wrote his name on a beautiful painting of a bison without seeing it.

What he perhaps regretted, when he wrote to Abbé Henri Breuil than

"Beautiful paintings, unfortunately a little damaged by visitors' inscriptions".

A new era, Prehistory

It was a time when the railway line between Périgueux and les Eyzies It was a time when 'antediluvian' man was necessarily primitive and when excavations were more a matter of blasting than precise stratigraphic surveys. In short, it was a forerunner of the archaeological science we know today.

At Savignac-de-Miremont, he excavated the La Ferrassie site (1901-1921), a major Neanderthal site which confirmed, following the discovery of Chapelle aux Saints, that Neanderthals did perform burials. He also excavated at La Madeleine, Le Moustier, Le Ruth, La Micoque, Le Fourneau du diable, L'abri Castanet, L'abri du Poisson, Laugerie-Haute, etc.

From prehistory to tourism

In 1920, he was behind the creation of the syndicat d'inititative des Eyzies, where he organised the first visits to prehistoric sites in the region. Finally, in 1931, he attended the inauguration of the famous statue ofPrimitive Manby Paul Dardé. For the record, Capitan and Peyrony were already talking about creating this statue in 1923:

"For this famous sculptor Dardé, who wants to make a primitive man, to stick the statue in a natural environment, as they insist on doing at the fine arts school, it will be necessary to study the matter (entrance to the château? Under the shelter of the château? At Laugerie-haute?) but above all it will be necessary to prevent him from being fanciful"?

At that time, far from any fantasy, it was considered that this Neanderthal man was 

"The prehuman emerging from animality like a diamond from its gangue".

Denis Peyrony played an active role in making the Eyzies, the "world capital of prehistory".The aim of the project is to promote the conservation of prehistoric remains, the development of tourism and the dissemination of prehistoric knowledge to the general public.

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