Yesterday during a tour round the Maconnais vineyards we stopped to investigate the Roche de Solutré. The limestone ridges which run south from Burgundy reveal traces of human culture dating back to the Ice Age. In 1866 at the Roche de Solutré a local geologist found the bones of up to 100,000 horses and the flint tools which were used to butcher them. He wrote a popular book about how the horses were driven off the edge of the cliff to plunge to their deaths. Until recently this was believed to be the case but in fact the bones were not found at the foot of the cliff but in a natural corral around the southern side of the slope. It is now believed that the horses would pass by on their migration from the Saône flood plains to the hills and the ridge was used as a barrier to trap the horses and attack them with spears. Numerous stone blades shaped like laurel leaves were found amongst the horse bones, and stone scrapers used to prepare the hides.
There is a new museum at the Roche de Solutré where you can see the remains of the horses and the tools. Solutré’s importance can be seen from the fact that it gives its name to the period which ran from 20,000 to 16,000 years ago, marked by the tools with laurel-leaf points. So there is a lot of detail about these and some quite interesting small models of the hunt. And lots of remains of horses and deer. But beware the English audio guide. Just look at the pictures if you can’t understand French as it is mind numbingly dull and terribly slow. Why on earth can’t these museums get an English person in to record an audio guide in proper English?
From the museum there is a good footpath to the top of the cliff. On the way up look out for the field where there are some Przewalski horses which closely resemble the Ice Age horses. The view from the top is well worth the climb as you can see over the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards and across the Saône valley to the mountains of the Jura. Take a picnic and plenty of drinks with you as it’s a lovely place to sit and you’ll need something after all that walking.