The Haute Provence is valued for its generous climate and its landscapes. Already 400,000 years ago, our ancestors had already invested the game-filled lands of the Verdon Gorge. From the Paleolithic Age to the Metal Age, the Museum of Prehistory of Quinson offers its visitors, children and adults alike, an immersion in a distant past, between archeological remains and reconstructions of scenes of life.
The Verdon and prehistory
Since the 20th century, about sixty archeological sites have been discovered in the Verdon. The excavations carried out have uncovered extraordinary objects and have helped us to better understand the way of life of our distant ancestors, tribes of nomadic hunters and harvesters, then the first farming communities.
The project for the Museum of Prehistory of the Verdon Gorge was launched in the 1980s, on the initiative of the town council of Quinson and Henry de Lumley, a researcher at the CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research. The aim was to showcase this historical and cultural heritage, while providing the region with a new, strong tourist attraction. Thanks to the support of local authorities and the State, the project became a reality and the first stone was laid in 1997. The museum was inaugurated and welcomed its first visitors in 2001.
The great prehistoric periods
The museum focuses on the occupation of the Haute Provence over several hundred thousand years and exhibits numerous artifacts and remains from the three main periods of Prehistory.
The Paleolithic Age, a long period of nearly 2.6 million years, begins with the appearance of the first tools created by hominids in Africa. This period is characterized by an organization in nomadic tribes subsisting thanks to harvesting and hunting. The tools are made of stone, then bone and animal wood. Symbolic behavior developed, with the appearance of jewelry and ornaments, the birth of rock art and the establishment of funerary rites. The Paleolithic ended in Europe about 10,000 years ago. Arrowheads, scrapers, and pebbles testify to this period.
The Neolithic period is characterized by a change in lifestyles. Nomadic tribes gradually gave way to sedentary communities, which began to raise livestock and farm. The objects became more complex, with major innovations such as stone polishing and ceramics. Vases, bowls, polished stone axes, buttons, sickles, daggers are displayed in the museum.
The Metal Age was born at the same time as metallurgy. This protohistory spans about 22 centuries, from the beginnings of metalworking to the conquest of Gaul by the Roman legions. Social organization became more complex, powers were centralized, and metal coins appeared in this era marked by numerous technological innovations. Visitors can admire ornaments, such as a torque or a pendant, a phalera (a metal ornament) or an urn and a cup dating from this period.
The prehistoric village
Less than 15 minutes on foot from the museum, a village has been reconstructed on the banks of the Verdon. The immersion is complete, with four distinct historical periods. Discover, for example, a reconstruction of the stone circle of Olduvai (Tanzania), the oldest man-made structure known to date. Don’t miss either the reconstruction of the Terra Amata hut (Nice), built 400,000 years ago, the 15,000-year-old teepee Pincevent, or the dry-stone hut (Camboux) and the Provençal dolmen, both of which are 4,000 years old.
The village, with free access, is permanently open. You can visit it with a group, on reservation, as long as there are at least 10 people in the group.
Baume Bonne cave
Located 3.5 km and 1 hour and 15 minutes from the museum, the Baume Bonne cave has been occupied for 400,000 years. Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons settled there over the millennia, until the arrival of Homo Sapiens 6,000 years ago. These successive occupations have left us many objects of daily life, rediscovered during various excavation campaigns.
The cave can be visited by reservation and with a guide. After walking for 1 hour and 15 minutes (with adapted walking shoes), visitors arrive in the cave. Allow 3 hours and a half for the visit, including 2 hours and a half of walking.
A museum adapted to children
The playful nature of the museum is very appealing to children. From the moment they enter, the life-size reconstruction of a mammoth impresses and excites them. Numerous reconstructions of scenes from everyday life provide a playful dimension that appeals to children and adults alike.
Various animations at the Museum of Prehistory in Quinson have been designed for children. Workshops allow the youngest children to familiarize themselves with the use of tools of the time, and to reproduce the gestures of their distant ancestors during educational and playful experiences.
A living museum
The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that offer a wide range of sensory experiences. Toucher l’art des Cavernes (Touching Cave Art), for example, offers a multi-sensory rediscovery of cave art in 2020.
Quinson is also a privileged place for research. A documentation center is made available to scientists, with many works available. Since its launch in 2001, the museum also publishes publications for researchers and the general public.
- Visiting time: at least 2 or 3 hours
- Opening days: open from February 15 to December 15
- Schedule: the museum opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. depending on the season.
- Address: Route de Montmeyan (D11), 04500 Quinson
- Labels: “Musée de France”, “Qualité Tourisme”, ISO 9001 certification