I’ve always been a prehistoric madman, a madman archeological » confided Yves Coppens during a recent interview with France Culture.  Born in the shadow of the megalithic alignments of Carnac, the young Yves Coppens quenches his thirst for knowledge by participating early in archaeological excavations in his native region. The son of a physicist and a pianist, he had an equal love for science and the arts throughout his life – especially the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, whom he played as an amateur. Later, a thesis on prehistoric elephants led him to join the CNRS, at only 22 years old, launching a career among the most notable of the French palaeoanthropology that will lead him to the Collège de France, the Académie des Sciences and the Musée de l'Homme. In 1974, he was the discoverer of Lucy during one of her many African missions: the scientist became the charismatic spokesperson for a new history of humanity and fascinated the French.

An exceptional passer, Yves Coppens has dedicated his entire life to the causes he cherished. Alongside the local authorities of Brittany and the Ministry of Culture, he strongly supports the project to inscribe the alignments of Carnac on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. From 2011 to 2017, he chaired the International Scientific Council for the Conservation of the Lascaux Cave, which provided reassurance about the cave’s health and developed a multidisciplinary approach (archaeology, geology, climatology, microbiology and study of heritage materials) for its conservation. Recently, he had accepted the presidency of the scientific council of the cultural project of territory «Dans les pas des derniers chasseurs-cueilleurs du sud de l'Île-de-France», coordinated by the DRAC Ile-de France, once again marking its taste for the transmission and sharing of knowledge.

Yves Coppens has left his mark on several generations of researchers – and more broadly, French – through his keen intelligence, his pedagogical spirit, his benevolence and his humour.


Rima Abdul Malak extends her deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.