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Cosquer Cave

Coordinates: 43°12′10″N 5°26′57″E / 43.20278°N 5.44917°E / 43.20278; 5.44917
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Cosquer Cave
Cosquer Cave
cross section with entrance tunnel and current sea level
Cosquer Cave in France
Cosquer Cave in France
Location in France
Cosquer Cave in France
Cosquer Cave in France
Cosquer Cave (France)
LocationCalanque de Morgiou in Marseille
RegionMidi, France
Coordinates43°12′10″N 5°26′57″E / 43.20278°N 5.44917°E / 43.20278; 5.44917
Site notes
Excavation dates1991
ArchaeologistsHenri Cosquer

The Cosquer Cave is located in the Calanque de Morgiou in Marseille, France, near Cap Morgiou. The entrance to the cave is located 37 m (121 ft) underwater, due to the Holocene sea level rise. The cave contains various prehistoric rock art engravings. Its submarine entrance was discovered in 1985 by Henri Cosquer, a professional diver. The underwater passage leading to the cave was progressively explored until 1990 by cave divers without the divers being aware of the archaeological character of the cave. It is only in the last period (1990–1991) of the progressive underwater explorations that the cave divers emerged in the non-submerged part of the cave. The prehistoric paintings were not immediately discovered by the divers to first emerge from the other side of the sump. The cave was named after Henri Cosquer, when its existence was made public in 1991, after three divers became lost in the cave and died.[1]

Description[edit]

The cave can now be accessed by divers through a 175 m (574 ft) long tunnel; the entrance is located 37 m (121 ft) below sea level, which has risen since the cave was inhabited. During the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, the shore of the Mediterranean was several kilometers to the south and the sea level up to 100 m (330 ft) below the entrance of the cave.[2][3]

Discovery and history[edit]

The horse panel of the Cosquer cave
The horse panel of the Cosquer cave

Henri Cosquer, a professional diver in Cassis, located the drowned entrance to the cave which had been indicated to him by a diver friend in 1985.[4] That same year, he progressively explored the submersed gallery alone and then with a friend and diving instructor from his club until he reached the "stratum" (the part where the gallery narrows and turns 90° to open into the underground lake). Cosquer returned alone once in 1985 and discovered the underground lake, but a lamp breakdown forced him to retreat, and he was left with a good scare. In June 1990, Cosquer asked for the help of two Belgian cave divers, the brothers Bernard and Marc Van Espen, who had come to dive in Cassis. Following Cosquer's instructions, the two brothers found the entrance of the gallery at -37 metres at the foot of the Pointe de la Voile, near Cap Morgiou. They followed the ascending gallery, swimming slowly and carefully near the ceiling of the gallery to avoid lifting the particles of silt and fine clay sediments covering the floor in order to not compromise the underwater visibility (to avoid silt out). They arrived at the underground lake topped by the air bell seen by Cosquer in 1985. Their guide line being too short, the brothers were forced to turn back in order to exit safely by following their guide line towards the entrance of the gallery without being able to emerge in the bell.[5] At this stage, the non-submerged part of the cave had still not been explored.

In June 1991, Marc Van Espen returned to Cassis. On June 24, he dove again with Henri Cosquer, both of them determined to finally go to the end of this cave. On this occasion, Marc Van Espen achieved the installation of the last section of the guide line essential to the safety for progression into the immersed part of the cave.[6][7] Their incursion into the cave only lasted about thirty minutes and only allowed them to briefly explore the first room to which the sump gives direct access.

A few days later, on July 9, 1991, Cosquer decided to explore the cave to estimate its extent with his friends and instructors of his diving club: Cendrine Cosquer (his niece), Yann Gogan and Pascale Oriol.[5] During this dive, they conducted a more detailed exploration of the unflooded part of the cave. Gogan saw the outline of a hand on a wall, and Oriol hypothesized it was a cave painting.[5] This discovery, as disconcerting as it was unexpected, prompted the four divers to return and actively search for other traces. Several dives in July and August 1991 enabled them to discover cave paintings and to make films and photos with the help of Thierry Pelissier and Gilles Sourice (Fanny Broadcast – Les films du soleil).[8][9][10]

On September 1, 1991, three accidental fatalities occurred in the cave. Three divers from Grenoble did not find the exit of the access gallery (175 m). Henri Cosquer and Yann Gogan participated in the recovery of the bodies of the three victims in the gallery.[11] Two days later, on 3 September 1991, Cosquer declared the cave to the Maritime Affairs Department in Marseille.[12]

The file was transmitted to the Direction des recherches archéologiques sous-marines (DRASM) and then to the Service régional de l'archéologie (Regional Archaeological Service) under the Ministry of Culture.[13][12]

An expertise took place from 18 to 20 September 1991, with the assistance of the DRASM vessel, the Archéonaute. It was conducted by Jean Courtin, a French prehistorian and experienced diver, and Jean Clottes, a French specialist in cave art.

When the discovery was announced, doubts were raised about the authenticity of the figures. Various French prehistorians, such as Brigitte and Gilles Delluc or Denis Vialou, expressed reservations.[13]

In June 1992, a new mission allowed, among other things, the shooting of a film, "The Secret of the Cosquer Cave".[14]

From 2001 to 2005, five programmed archaeological research operations were organised under the responsibility of Luc Vanrell (IMMADRAS (Société de travaux sous marins) / DRAC PACA / LAMPEA (LAboratoire Méditerranéen de Préhistoire Europe Afrique)), then five others from 2010 to 2015 (no operation in 2012) under the same direction, with the collaboration of Michel Olive (DRAC PACA / LAMPEA).

The Ministry of Culture and Henri Cosquer are involved in a dispute, which is based on the law on preventive archaeology of 17 January 2001, which grants the inventor compensation – a lump-sum payment or a 30-year profit-sharing scheme – paid by the operator on the basis of the evaluation of the archaeological interest of the cave.[15] Henri Cosquer also claimed a reward and the recovery of part of the proceeds from the sale of books of photographs of the cave.[16]

Prehistoric paintings[edit]

Stencil of human hand, Cosquer Cave, 27,000 years B.P.

Four-fifths of the cave were permanently or periodically submerged by sea water destroying any cave wall art in those locations. Nearly 500 instances of cave art remain[17] which date back to two distinct periods during the Upper Paleolithic.[18] The first phase, from around 27,000 years BP (the Gravettian Era), is represented by art consisting of 65 hand stencils, 44 in black and 21 in red. Art from the more recent period dates to 19,000 years BP (the Solutrean Era) and features much more complex depictions of various animals and human figures. In total there are 177 animals drawings found in the cave; these include 63 horses, 28 ibex, 17 deer, 10 bison, and 7 aurochs. There is also the more unusual depiction of 16 marine animals including 9 seals and 3 great auks as well as some jellyfish and various figures which could be either fish or cetaceans. Of the human figures there are numerous sexual symbols but also one example of "the killed man" motif which can be seen in other caves such as at Lascaux.[17][19][20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cave Art Paintings of the Cosquer Cave". bradshawfoundation.com. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  2. ^ Billaud, Yves (2017). Chapter 12 Western Mediterranean: Annex. Submerged Karst Structures of the French Mediterranean Coast: An Assessment. pp. 333–340. In: Submerged Landscapes of the European Continental Shelf: Quaternary Paleoenvironments. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-92213-2.
  3. ^ Nicholas C. Flemming; Jan Harff; Delminda Moura; Anthony Burgess; Geoffrey N. Bailey (7 August 2017). Submerged Landscapes of the European Continental Shelf: Quaternary Paleoenvironments. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 333–340. ISBN 978-1-118-92213-2.
  4. ^ Herbaux, François (2005). Nos ancètres du midi – Enquêtes sur la préhistoire de Sigean à Menton [Our ancestors of the south – Investigations into prehistory from Sigean to Menton]. Éditions Jeanne Laffitte. See 7. Morgiou, 127–144.
  5. ^ a b c Mildonian, Laurence; U., F. (16 September 2022). "Vidéo : 30 ans après, les oubliés de la grotte Cosquer se retrouvent à Marseille" [Video: 30 years later, the forgotten of the Cosquer cave find themselves in Marseille]. LaProvence.com (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2022. Pascale Oriol, Yann Gogan, Cendrine Cosquer et Marc Van Espen se sont retrouvés à Marseille, plus de trente ans après la découverte de la grotte Cosquer. [Pascale Oriol, Yann Gogan, Cendrine Cosquer and Marc Van Espen met in Marseille, more than thirty years after the discovery of the Cosquer cave.]
  6. ^ Van Espen, Marc (1992). "Hippocampe, revue officielle de la LIFRAS, n° 137" [Hippocampe, official journal of LIFRAS, n° 137]. lifras.be (in French). Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  7. ^ Lima, Pedro (2022). "L'incroyable destin de la grotte Cosquer" [The incredible destiny of the Cosquer cave]. FFESSM.fr. Fédération Française d'Études et de Sports Sous-Marins. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  8. ^ Cosquer, Henri; Fettu, Valérie; Franco, Bernard (1993). La Grotte Cosquer. Plongée dans la Préhistoire [The Cosquer Cave. Dive into prehistory]. Paris: Solar. ISBN 978-2-263-01943-2.
  9. ^ Van Espen, Bernard; Van Espen, Marc (23 June 2001). "La grotte Cosquer" [The Cosquer Cave]. grottocenter.org. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  10. ^ Mildonian, Laurence (2022-09-03). "Marseille : ils sont les oubliés de la grotte Cosquer" [Marseille: they are the forgotten ones of the Cosquer cave]. LaProvence.com. Retrieved 2022-09-04.
  11. ^ Gobillot, Gilles (2006-05-21). "La grotte de la Triperie" [The cave of the Triperie]. ASCEA Cadarache section Plongée (in French). Retrieved 2022-08-24.
  12. ^ a b Jean Clottes; Jean Courtin; Luc Vanrell (2007). "La grotte Cosquer à Marseille" [The Cosquer Cave in Marseille]. Les dossiers d'archéologie (in French). 324 (Grottes ornées en France): 38–45.
  13. ^ a b Clottes, Jean; Beltrán, A.; Courtin, Jean; Cosquer, Henri (1992). "La Grotte Cosquer (Cap Morgiou, Marseille)" [The Cosquer Cave (Cap Morgiou, Marseille)] (sur persee). Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française (in French). 89 (4): 98–128.
  14. ^ Bernard Rebatel et Gilles Sourice (realisators), Fanny Broadcast (producer) (1992). Le Secret de la grotte Cosquer (durée : 26 min) [The Secret of the Cosquer Cave (duration: 26 min)] (Motion picture) (in French).
  15. ^ "L'indemnisation d'Henri Cosquer pour sa découverte est contestée" [Henri Cosquer's compensation for his discovery is disputed]. LaProvence.com (in French). AFP. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2022.
  16. ^ "Henri Cosquer pourra être indemnisé" [Henri Cosquer may be compensated]. 20minutes.fr (in French). 15 April 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Grotte Cosquer : interview d'un expert avec Jean Courtin". Ma Région Sud (in French). Retrieved 2022-10-24. ...[E]lle comprend plus de 400 œuvres d'art pariétal exceptionnelles, dont 216 signes, des représentations uniques d'animaux marins tels que les pingouins, les phoques, les méduses, mais aussi de nombreux chevaux, bisons et aurochs. Les parois sont également recouvertes de représentations humaines rares dont « l'homme tué » et des symboles sexuels, des tracés digitaux sur des portions entières de voûtes, réalisations picturales avec des outils, en tout près de 500 représentations peintes et gravées par la main de l'homme.
  18. ^ Clottes, Jean; Courtin, Jean; Valladas, Hélène; et al. (1992). "La grotte Cosquer datée". Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. 89 (8): 230–234. doi:10.3406/bspf.1992.9527.
  19. ^ "La grotte Cosquer à Marseille | Dossiers d'Archéologie n° 324". dossiers-archeologie.com. Retrieved 2022-10-24.
  20. ^ "The Cave Paintings of the Cosquer Cave in France". bradshawfoundation.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Clottes, Jean; Courtin, Jean (1994). La grotte Cosquer, Seuil, ISBN 2-02-019820-7 (French)
  • Clottes, Jean; Courtin, Jean (1996). The Cave Beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York ISBN 0-8109-4033-7 English translation by Marilyn Garner from the French edition
  • Clottes, Jean; Courtin, Jean; Vanrell, Luc (2005). Cosquer redécouvert, Seuil, ISBN 2-02-065550-0 (French)
  • Billaud, Yves (2017). Chapter 12 Western Mediterranean: Annex. Submerged Karst Structures of the French Mediterranean Coast: An Assessment. pp. 333–340. In: Submerged Landscapes of the European Continental Shelf: Quaternary Paleoenvironments. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-92213-2.
  • Nicholas C. Flemming; Jan Harff; Delminda Moura; Anthony Burgess; Geoffrey N. Bailey (7 August 2017). Submerged Landscapes of the European Continental Shelf: Quaternary Paleoenvironments. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 333–340. ISBN 978-1-118-92213-2.
  • Perucca, Brigitte (3 June 2022). "Les mystères de la grotte Cosquer" [The mysteries of the Cosquer cave]. CNRS Le journal (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2022.
  • Perucca, Brigitte (22 July 2022). "The mysteries of the Cosquer cave". CNRS News. Retrieved 19 October 2022. As the replica of the Cosquer cave opens its doors to the public in Marseille (southeastern France), Cyril Montoya, the cave's scientific director, tells us about this marvel of prehistory, which is endangered by rising sea levels, and details the many mysteries that a major research campaign will attempt to solve.
  • Mildonian, Laurence; U., F. (16 September 2022). "Vidéo : 30 ans après, les oubliés de la grotte Cosquer se retrouvent à Marseille" [Video: 30 years later, the forgotten of the Cosquer cave find themselves in Marseille]. LaProvence.com (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2022. Pascale Oriol, Yann Gogan, Cendrine Cosquer et Marc Van Espen se sont retrouvés à Marseille, plus de trente ans après la découverte de la grotte Cosquer. [Pascale Oriol, Yann Gogan, Cendrine Cosquer and Marc Van Espen met in Marseille, more than thirty years after the discovery of the Cosquer cave.]
  • Mildonian, Laurence (20 September 2022). "Vidéo : les oubliés de la grotte Cosquer enfin réunis à Marseille" [Video: the forgotten of the Cosquer cave finally reunited in Marseille]. LaProvence.com (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2022. Trente-et-un ans après la découverte de la grotte à laquelle ils ont pris part, ceux dont l'histoire a effacé les noms se sont enfin retrouvés à Marseille. Rencontre avec Pascale Oriol, Marc Van Espen, Cendrine Cosquer et Yann Gogan [Thirty-one years after the discovery of the cave in which they took part, those whose names history has erased have finally found themselves in Marseille. Meeting with Pascale Oriol, Marc Van Espen, Cendrine Cosquer and Yann Gogan]
  • Van Espen, Marc (2023). "31 ans après, la grotte Cosquer est sortie de l'eau" [31 years later, the Cosquer cave came out of the water]. Regards. Revue de l'Union Belge de Spéléologie (in French). 93. Union Belge de Spéléologie: 40–43.

External links[edit]