Coming Face-to-Face with the Stone Age in Paris

There really is so much to see and do in Paris, something to suit everyone’s tastes and interests. So well featured is this European city on the Europe a la Carte blog that Karen recently produced a post summarizing the Best of Paris Travel Tips as recommended in a number of posts on this blog over the last four years. But it really does not end there. There are still so many more attraction in Paris that make this city one of the best places to visit in Europe.

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, now the Musée des Antiquités Nationales

The suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is about 12 miles (20 km) to the west of the centre of Paris. The Saint-Germain station can be reached on Line A of the RER, and also on the Paris – Saint-Lazare suburban rail line. For anyone who is particularly interested in prehistory and history of France, this Paris museum is well worth a visit.

One of the main attractions in Saint-Germain-en-Laye is the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (above), now the Musée des Antiquités Nationales (National Museum of Archaeology). The castle was built in the mid fourteenth century, but there had been a castle fort there for at least a hundred years previously. For a few centuries the castle was the Royal residence and a number of French kings were born there, including Louis XIV. It was Napoleon III who in 1862 had the castle designated a national museum for prehistory. The museum has some amazing exhibits that ranges from the Old Stone Age to the Iron Age (Celtic times).

Napoleon III set up the Musée des Antiquités Nationales in the estwhile royal château. This museum has exhibits ranging from Paleolithic to Celtic times.  One of the most famous pieces in the museum’s collection is the small carving of a woman’s head, sculptured from a mammoth’s tusk about 25 000 years ago. At this age this little carving, the size of a man’s thumb, is currently the oldest dated representation of a human face. This piece is one of a number of Stone Age carvings in the museum’s collection, and on display.

la Dame de Brassempouy – thought to be the oldest representation of a human face

The museum is open every day, except on Tuesdays and public holidays, from ten in the morning to five in the afternoon; with an entrance fee of 6 Euros.

Besides the National Archaeology Museum there is the Saint-Germain forest and a few concrete bunkers built by the Germans during the Second World War.

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.

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About Thomas Dowson

Hello, I am Thomas Dowson - a freelance writer and archaeologist living in Normandy, France. My field of expertise is prehistoric art - such as the cave paintings in the Dordogne and South Africa. But I am becoming passionately interested in France more generally, and Normandy in particular, and what this country and one of its very well known regions has to offer people with all sorts of tastes and desires. In 2005 I exchanged a university archaeology lecture room for a Bed & Breakfast in Normandy. More recently I started the Archaeology Travel website; sharing my expertise and love of archaeology and travel with others who also want to explore the many different pasts around the World.