The hunt into the abyss:
a persistent myth

The myth of prehistoric hunters pressuring horses into leaping into the abyss at the top of the Rock of Solutré has long been considered a historical fact. The image of the hunt into the abyss at Solutré was used for the first time in 1870 in the L’homme primitif [Primitive Man], a book by Louis Figuier. One of the discoverers of the Solutré site, Adrien Arcelin, picked it up in his novel about reindeer hunters at Solutré published in 1872.

The persistence of this myth explains why there are still numerous depictions of it. This image of organised massacre conveys the idea of a famished, violent and barbaric prehistoric man exploiting all food sources.

Never have I seen anything more beautiful than this rock turned crimson by the setting sun silhouetted in the sky above the surrounding hills, acting as gigantic pedestal for so many victims wrapped in the devouring spirals of a pyre...

Adrien Cranile (Arcelin), Solutré, 1872

Archaeological data completely contradict this hypothesis since no trace of fracture indicative of a fall has never been observed on the bones of horses at Solutré. More reasonably, prehistoric men should be depicted tending the herd at the foot of the rock, and, contrary to the image given by the hunt into the abyss, making a selection among the horses.

< >