Cosquer Cave

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The Cosquer cave is located in the Calanque de Morgiou in Marseille, France, not very far from Cap Morgiou. The entrance to the cave is located 37 m (121 ft) underwater, due to the rise of the Mediterranean in Paleolithic times. It was discovered by diver Henri Cosquer in 1985, but its contents were not made public until 1991, when three divers became lost in the cave and died.[1]


Schematic of the modern sea level in the Cosquer cave and its entrance tunnel.

Today, the cave can be accessed by divers through a 175 m (574 ft) long tunnel, the entrance of which is located 37 m (121 ft) below the surface of the sea, because of changes in sea level since the time the cave was inhabited. The shore of the Mediterranean sea at the time the cave was occupied was then several km away and many metres below the cave mouth. Sea level was lower because at that time there was an ice age and large volumes of water were retained in enormous icecaps on land, making the level of the sea 110 to 120 m (360 to 390 ft) lower than today, affecting Mean Sea Level as calculated for approximately 20,000 years ago during the peak of the (last major glaciation).

Prehistoric paintings[edit]

Stencil of a human hand from Cosquer Cave, dated 27,000 B.P., as shown at the National Museum of Archeology, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France

Four-fifths of the cave, including any art on its walls, was submerged and obliterated by the rising sea. 150 instances of cave art remain[2] including several dozen painting and carvings dating back to the Upper Paleolithic, corresponding to two different phases of occupation of the cave:

  • Older art consisting of 65 hand stencils and other related motifs, dating to 27,000 years BP (the Gravettian Era).
  • Newer art of signs and 177 animals dating to 19,000 years BP (the Solutrean Era), representing both "classical" animals such as bison, ibex, and horses, but also marine animals such as seals and what appear to be auks and jellyfish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See the site of the French Rock Archive- Cosquer: The Cave Beneath the Sea for the history of the cave.
  2. ^ Jean Clottes Transports French Cave Art to Montrose; The Uncompahgre Journal; 2008;VOLUME 26, NO. 6 pdf
  • Jean Clottes, Jean Courtin, La grotte Cosquer, Seuil, 1994, ISBN 2-02-019820-7 (French)
  • Jean Clottes, Jean Courtin, Luc Vanrell, Cosquer redécouvert, Seuil, 2005, ISBN 2-02-065550-0 (French)
  • The Cave Beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer by Jean Clottes and Jean Courtin (1996) Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York ISBN 0-8109-4033-7 English translation by Marilyn Garner from the French edition

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°12′10″N 5°26′57″E / 43.20278°N 5.44917°E / 43.20278; 5.44917