It was in 1852 that Jean-Baptiste Bonnemaison, a quarry worker from Aurignac, looking for some stones for the work of a road found a shelter hidden by rocks covered with vegetation. Plunging his arm into a small opening in the hillside, he extracts a bone and discovers, behind a vertical slab, several skeletons and teeth of large mammals.
The discovery is then reported to the paleontologist Edouard Lartet who goes to Aurignac in 1860 and began a search of shelter. Digging, it reveals abundant archaeological material: flint, wood worked by man, the remains of a fire place and bones of now extinct fauna (large cave bear, mammoth , cave hyena, woolly rhinoceros ...). This major discovery has a double scientific impact for Lartet. It allows him to prove "the geological antiquity of man" and contribute to the development of a new emerging discipline: Prehistory..
The reputation of the site is growing, especially after the 1867 at the Exposition Universelle where Lartet gives Aurignac a place of honor and present the material discovered during the search.
In 1906, the Aurignacian site becomes the eponymous site of the Aurignacian. Objects that are discovered characterize the first material culture of modern man in the chronology of Upper Palaeolithic between 38,000 and 28,000 years before present.
The site is classified Historic Monument in 1921, then fell into oblivion until new excavations directed by Fernand Lacorre in front of the shelter in 1938-1939. They confirm two different occupations, one in the Aurignacian period and another in the later Neolithic.
In 1961, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of the excavation of the site by Edouard Lartet Louis Méroc realizes a new survey upstream of the shelter and discovers archaeological Aurignacian layer under a landslide limestone blocks.
The city of Aurignac then decided to create a museum of prehistory, opened in 1969 thanks to the tenacity of the parish priest, André Algans. Closed dilapidated forty years later, the City launched a project to create a new Museum of the Aurignacian dedicated to the history and importance of the discovery of Aurignac in scientific debates of the nineteenth century and to the knowledge of the Aurignacian culture.
Opened in 2014, the museum presents a rich collection of over 300 objects, representative of the Aurignacian culture: weapons, tools, ornamental elements, statues, carved blocks, bones of extinct animals… Maps, multimedia, timelines, illustrations enrich the presentation. Workshops and exhibition space deepen visit and allow visitors to better understand the lifestyles of these people.
Housed in a beautiful architectural setting perfectly integrated in a natural environment, this eponymous site museum, invites all lovers of prehistory, cultural enthusiasts and curious from all walks of discovery, to meet the Aurignacian, the first anatomically modern human who lived in Europe there are about 35 000 years.
Leaving the museum, visitors are invited to visit the prehistoric shelter along a hiking trail about 1 km. Inseparable from the museum.