Grotte de Goyet

Goyet la Préhistorique

Useful Information

Location: rue de Strouvia 3, B-5340 Mozet-Gesves
(50.444405043352110, 5.014908605944937)
Open: APR to OCT Sun 14, 16, School Holidays daily 14, 16.
Fee: Adults EUR 12, Children (3-12) EUR 9, Seniors (65+) EUR 10, Students EUR 10.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=1,500 m.
Guided tours: D=90 min, L=1,000 m, Max=30. Français - French Nederlands - Dutch
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: H. Rougier, I. Crevecoeur, C. Beauval et al. (2016) Neandertal cannibalism and Neandertal bones used as tools in Northern Europe Sci Rep 6, 29005 (2016). DOI online
Address: Grotte Prehistorique de Goyet, rue de Strouvia 3, B-5340 Mozet-Gesves, Tel: +32-4-275-49-75. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1889 first excavation by Edouard Dupont.
1976 listed as a National Heritage site in Belgium.
1997-2004 excavation led by the archaeologist and anthropologist Michel Toussaint.
1999 vast network of galleries uncovered during the excavations.
2018 caves closed for renovation.
2022 caves reopened.
2022 recognized as 'Exceptional Heritage of Wallonia'.


The Grotte Prehistorique de Goyet (Prehistoric cave of Goyet) is an archaeological site, not a speleological object. From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, the archaeological site of Goyet was the subject of 9 successive excavation campaigns. Currently, no no more excavations are planned. The last excavation led by the archaeologist and anthropologist Michel Toussaint revealed an intact Neolithic burial site. The material discovered during the previous campaigns has put the Goyet site back at the centre of archaeological research. The findings are kept at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). Numerous spectacular findings are currently examined by the archaeologists, the research has material for years to come.

One finding was dubbed the skull of the oldest dog in the world Discovered by Edouard Dupont at the end of the 19th century it was first identified as a wolf skull. But the research of Mietje Germonpré based on morphometric aspects raised an important scientific debate. It was dated by radiocarbon to around 31,700 BP. The current scientific consensus is based on genetic analysis and states that the domestication of dogs began 15,000 years ago in East Asia. But numerous newer researches support the theory that the domestication of the dog began more than 30,000 years ago from a purely European and not Asian strain of wolves. All present-day dogs and wolves can be traced to this strain.

The fragment of a mandible and three teeth were discovered by Dupont at the end of the 19th century. They were re-analysed in 2004 and formally identified as Neanderthals. The researcher Hélène Rougier was able to distinguish 13 different individuals from the 164 fossil bone remains discovered in the old excavations. They were dated to 45-40,000 BP or Moustérian.

The untouched Neolithic burial, which was discovered during the last excavation, is the grave of a child of about 12 years. It was found in the Trou du Moulin and is dated to the Late Neolithic (4500 BP).

A big topic at this site is cannibalism. In 19th and early 20th century literature there were a lot of speculations about cannibalism. Some authors developed a morbid tendency to interpret everything as a sign of cannibalism. Objectively speaking, most theories do not hold up. In general, we can assume that people had different moral concepts 20,000 years ago, but there is no serious reason to eat people, and even then there were already family ties and distinct social behaviour. So it seemed for a while that all those previously considered cases of cannibalism were probably just delusion. But in fact a large number of finds have been made here that strongly suggest cannibalism. Human bones were found, wich showed signs of butchery, the bones were split to extract the marrow, skulls were broken to use them as tools. But again it is not possible to decide if the signs tell that the dead were actually eaten or if they are the remains of burial rituals. The enormous number of newspaper articles about this site concentrating on the cannibalism is obviously primarily a sign of the desperate state of journalism.

The caves ar located on the northern side of the Struviaux valley. The cave entrances ar above the river facing south, an ideal resting place with sunshine and sheltering from the cold northern winds. Only a short distance the Struviaux flows into the Samson, which is a tributary of the Meuse. The limestone is of Carboniferous age. The cave itself is more or less ignored by the tours as the main topic is the archaeology, but with a total length of 1.5 km it's actually a quite interesting cave. It has some nice speleothems, but the most impressive passages are those with the weird profiles looking like a mushroom.

The guides are from the Préhistomuseum, the largest museum dedicated to prehistory in Europe, which is actually specialized on experimental archaeology. So the tours include lighting a fire using the same methods a prehistoric man would have. Since the recent modernizatiosn there are a lot of multimedia displays and projections.