The Tuc d’Audoubert cave was discovered by the three sons of Count Henri Bégouën on 20 July and 10 October 1912 and that of Trois-Frères on 21 July 1914.
These discoveries were not by chance. They were the result of the favourable family environment of the discoverers, who had long been interested in the problems of human antiquity.
In 1911, Henri organized an excursion to Le Mas d’Azil with his children, Max, Jacques and Louis, respectively 18, 16 and 15 years old. There, scraping through old excavation spoil, Max discovered a fragment of reindeer tooth, perforated by the Magdalenians. Enthused, the next day they visited the nearer cave of Enlène where Jacques was extraordinarily lucky and found a magnificent spear-thrower made out of a reindeer antler!
This find triggered their desire to know more about these vanished civilizations whose cultural richness had been revealed to them.
In the 1912 summer holidays they decided to explore the Volp by means of a homemade raft and so discovered the Tuc d’Audoubert cave and its first engravings. They quickly called upon the prehistorian Emile Cartailhac to authenticate the designs. The following 10 October, unblocking a crawlway with the aid of their friend François Camel, they penetrated into the upper galleries at the end of which the clay bison awaited them!
Continuing the exploration of the various caves in the hillside, two years later they discovered the Trois-Frères cave and its numerous parietal figures, including the famous Sorcerer.
The cave of Enlène had been excavated several times during the 19th Century. In 1925 Louis Bégouën bought it and rapidly closed it to ensure its preservation. During his first visit, Count Bégouën had noted the floors disturbed by earlier excavators and the walls blackened by visitors’ straw torches. However, under the accumulated rubble, intact archaeological levels were one day going to be revealed …