La Ferrassie

La Ferrassie is an archaeological site in Savignac-de-Miremont, in the Dordogne department, France.[1] The site, located in the Vézère valley,[2] consists of a large and deep cave flanked by two rock shelters[3] within a limestone cliff, under which there is a scree slope formation.[1]

La Ferrassie
La Ferrassie
La Ferrassie
La Ferrassie
La Ferrassie in France
La Ferrassie in France
Location in France
La Ferrassie in France
La Ferrassie in France
La Ferrassie (France)
Locationnear Savignac-de-Miremont
RegionDordogne, France
Coordinates44°57′07″N 0°56′17″E / 44.95194°N 0.93806°E / 44.95194; 0.93806Coordinates: 44°57′07″N 0°56′17″E / 44.95194°N 0.93806°E / 44.95194; 0.93806
Grand abri de la Ferrassie - Savignac-de-Miremont - 20090924.jpg
Vulva engraving from the rock shelter


Artifacts found at the site are the productions of Mousterian (300-30,000 BP), Aurignacian (45–35,000 BP), and Périgordian (35–20,000 BP) cultures.[4] The cave area contains Gravettian (32–22,000 BP) objects and the scree contains objects from all these ages as well as the Châtelperronian (35-29,000 PB). The site was abandoned during the Gravettian period (27 kya).[3] Complex Mousterian burial structures found at La Ferrasie finally provided the evidence of Neanderthal burial practice.[5]

Exploration historyEdit

A small area of the site was initially investigated by M. Tabanou in 1896,[3] a teacher who died of a landslide at the Badegoule rock shelter shortly thereafter.[6] Denis Peyrony and Louis Capitan explored the site in 1905, 1907 and 1912; Peyrony in 1934, Henri Delporte in 1969 and 1984, and Delporte with Tuffreau in 1984.[4][1]


At least seven Neanderthals have been found in La Ferrassie, including infants and one[7] fetus. All specimens were found in a thin 60 cm archaeological layer dated to 74-68 thousand years ago.

Name Develop-
mental age
La Ferrassie 1 45 The skeleton of an adult male, including the most complete Neanderthal skull ever found.[8][better source needed] Discovered in 1909.[3]
La Ferrassie 2 25–30 An incomplete cranium and skeleton of a female Neanderthal found in 1910 and dated to 68-74,000 before present. This is now kept in the Musée de l'Homme.[3]
La Ferrassie 3 10 A partial child skeleton.[9]:30–31[10]
La Ferrassie 4 8.5 months
(fetal age)[9]
The bones of a late-term fetus or of a newborn. Now thought to belong to Le Moustier 2.[7]
La Ferrassie 4bis ~12 days[10]:26 A partial child skeleton.[9]:30–31[10]
La Ferrassie 5 ~7 months
(fetal age)[10]
La Ferrassie 6 3–5 Nearly complete skeleton of a juvenile discovered in 1921.[3]
"La Ferrassie 7" A talus bone named LF7 by Boule (1924), who thought despite its small size that it represented a third adult. Now thought part of La Ferrassie 3.[10]:6
La Ferrassie 8 22–26 months[9]:41 Young child with well-preserved teeth.


  1. ^ a b c Peregrine & Ember 2001
  2. ^ Blades 1999, Abstract
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wood 2011
  4. ^ a b Blades 2009
  5. ^ Binford 1968
  6. ^ Peyrony 1934
  7. ^ a b B. Maureille (2002). "Anthropology: A lost Neanderthal neonate found". Nature. 419 (33–34). doi:10.1038/419033a.
  8. ^ Smithsonian 2010
  9. ^ a b c d e J.-L. Heim (1976). Les Hommes Fossiles de la Ferrassie. Le gisement. Les squelettes adultes (crâne et squelette du tronc). Archives de l'Institut de Paléontologie Humaine. 1. Paris: Masson.
  10. ^ a b c d e J.-L. Heim (1982). Les enfants néandertaliens de La Ferrassie. Paris: Masson. ISBN 2-225-76351-8.
  11. ^ Balzeau and Radovčić (2008)