Then that night there was the festive yurt, which was actually a base for face painting.
And on last Friday we encountered the prehistoric yurt, at the Pyrenees Prehistory Park.
I've had a decades' long fascination and reverence for prehistoric art. In my teens I spent hours perusing books and magazine articles on the cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain, and when we arrived in the area I suddenly discovered familar placenames to our south - many of the internationally-known sites are in the Ariege!Look at the ancient horse. Who drew it and why? How did these paintings survive, and how many other wonders have been lost, or are even yet to be found?
The two paintings above are from the cave at Niaux, which we toured several years ago with Ben's parents. It's one of the last really spectaular caves you can actually visit, without too much fear of damaging the paintings. But because of the incredible prehistoric heritage of the area, and to avoid too much pressure on the actual sites, the French government set up this prehistoric park not too far from Niaux, at Tarascon sur Ariege. Here, children can paint their own prehistoric paintings on the wall...... or direct their father to do it for them, if the only available space is too high up!
The finished baby mammoth. I'm so glad they didn't ask me to paint it...
Some prehistoric cleaning facilities for early painters.
You can also learn to use a prehistoric spear thrower (it makes the spear go much further).
Once again, dad was the star (I think he was the only one to actually hit an 'animal').
Son 1 demonstrates the technique.
Son 2 was more motivated by exploring a 'cave system', where he found this bear's den.
And I liked the herds of bison and mammoth which roamed this part of the park in a statuesque manner.
The final highlight of the day was when this very dedicated animateur showed us how to knap flint to make tools, and demonstrated how prehistoric people could have made fire.
Striking two flints together is a myth, aparantly. You get light, but no heat. Flint against iron pyrite, sparking into the dried flesh of a certain common tree fungus, is the thing, we learned. In the areas where you can't find iron pyrite, then a bow to rub a stick into a piece of wood does the trick nicely. It's surprising how books (even excellent ones) have bred ignorance about this kind of thing. Only experimental archaeology has shown them how it realistically would have been done. What an informative day.