blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

June 28, 2018

Rock shelters: use what is available and go from there

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — frederique @ 15:27

The Dordogne in France has been a choice place to live for 400.000 years: people lived here already in prehistoric times as well as in the middle ages. And modern people still live there today. This is the place to be, because of the shape of the cliffs: there are many rock shelters. Many people over the ages have used these rock shelters as a place to live, adding to it in different ways.

Rock shelters

The limestone rocks in the valley of the Vallée de la Vézère have been shaped by the river, but also by ‘gélifraction’: repeated freezing and thawing of water seeped into the rock has crushed the softer layers. The result is like a long, shallow cave with a smooth floor, a ceiling and a back wall. A practical place to live.

Prehistoric times

We casually talk about ‘cave men’, but our ancestors in paleolithic times did not actually live in caves. They used caves, like Lascaux, as sanctuaries maybe, for paintings and engravings. But the people who adorned the Lascaux caves, lived in a rock shelter nearby. Such a rock shelter does not protect your entirely from the weather, but at least you have daylight, fresh air and floor space, which can be difficult in a cave.

Paleolitic men did not alter the shape of the mountain to create shelter. They took the rock as it was, though they may have added screening made from perishable materials like wood and animal skins.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

Middle ages

Many of the rock shelters were used again and again by different people, in different times. All of them found it useful.

For example, the Abri de la Madeleine has been used since paleolitic times (it gave its name to the period called Magdalenian, about 17.000 -12.000 years ago). But people kept living here. In medieval times, they built a village and a castle in a higher layer. The advantage of the location is that is not only already supplies a smooth floor, a wall and a ceiling, but also that it is perched halfway a rock face and easy to defend – an important point in those quarrelsome times.

In these times, they did not take the rock as it was, but they modified it: they dug deeper niches, and they built additional walls.

Medieval troglodyte house in La Madeleine

In the medieval part of the Abri of La Madeleine, they dug bedsteads and added walls to close the space and to provide an oven for example.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.

Now

Nowadays, people still use the shelter provided by such abris. Why build an entire house, when you can use the existing rock shelter and only add a few walls and a partial roof? And why put up a roof to protect your car from the sun and the rain, when you can park it right under the abri?

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

This rings a bell…

Ok, this was on holiday and I was too busy sightseeing and enjoying myself to think about it. But now that I am back, this reminds me of the way we use Office 365 and SharePoint Online: we take the basics, which in our case are provided by Microsoft instead of Mother Nature. And we use them as a starting point. Sometimes this gives us enough shelter or functionality to get by. And sometimes we add to it, to make it more comfortable, secure or user-friendly.

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