Prehistoric Elephant Camp – Terra Amata

An archaeological excavation on the hill above the Nice Port found that Nice’s earliest tourists arrived almost 400,000 years ago, and were transient cave-dwellers that came to Nice once a year to hunt woolly mammoths!

The climate was warmer and the sea was higher, so this prehistoric elephant camp was actually right on the beach.  Every year the tribal hunters built large shelters made of sticks, dug fire pits, and built little stone walls to protect the fire from the wind; this is some of the earliest evidence of domesticated fire in Europe.   They created picks, hatchets, scrapers and other tools from the stones found on the beach, and as the charred bones around the campfires show, they not only hunted elephants, but also deer and rabbits.

This small museum will give you a feel for what life was like right on this spot in prehistoric times.

How to get there: 

  • Walk: It’s a 10-15 minute walk in a straight line from Place Garibaldi; just follow rue Cassini to the Port, cross the port, and on the other side continue up Boulevard Carnot for 5 minutes, and you’ll see it on your left.
  • Tramway: Tram stop Garibaldi, then follow walking instructions, above.
  • Bus: Take bus #T-32 from the archway at the top of Cours Saleya, or bus #81 or bus #100 that you catch just behind the Monoprix at Place Garibaldi.  Or just take any bus that goes to the port (3, 9, 10…) and from the northeast corner walk 5 minutes up Boulevard Carnot and you will see it on your left.

Hours: 10am to 6pm; closed Mondays and Tuesdays, May 1, Easter Sunday, Christmas and Jan. 1.

Tickets: 10€ for adults, and your ticket includes admission to both the Terra Amata Prehistoric Elephant Camp in the Port and the Roman Baths on Cimiez (and also the tiny Museum of Natural History behind Place Garibaldi) within 48-hours.  Free for children under 18, students of any age with student ID, locals with the blue Pass Musee, or with the French Riviera Pass.

If you want to see any other municipal museums, like say the Matisse Museum, better to take the 20€ Nice municipal museum card good for 14 museums and galleries in Nice over a leisurely 7 days.    Click here for more info on the various museum passes.

How to see it:    Each area has large-print interpretive panels in multiple languages (including English) that you can pick up and walk around with as you check out the exhibits.  The museum is small and can be done in 30 minutes, and it great for children as it features lots of drawings, murals, models, and a reconstructed cave man hut, which creates a good context for understanding the excavated artifacts.


See related page on the History of Nice:  21 Fascinating Facts About Nice  

Photo credits: Both photos from the Nice Cote d’Azur Nice Tourism site

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