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Published July 12th 2022
Experience this magical cave without getting wet
The coastline around Marseille is characterised by small coves, known as calanques and caves with myriad stories to tell. I love visiting them with boating friends when I'm in Marseille. On a recent visit, I learned of a fascinating story concerning one of those caves and, the very next day, found myself enjoying a surprise, interactive experience involving cave paintings made almost 20,000 years ago.
The story goes like this: in 1985 a local diver by the name of Henri Cosquer discovered the entrance to a series of caves 37metres below sea level. After numerous attempts swimming up a long, submerged, narrow passageway, Cosquer finally reached the first of a series of chambers and what he saw was astounding.
Six years later an official authentication of cave drawings was made using samples of charcoal taken from the cave. The authentication process showed that this was indeed a Palaeolithic site and in September 1992, the cave was classified as a historic monument.
In 2019 a project began to create a replica of the cave and in June 2022, the Cosquer Méditerranée opened near the Old Port of Marseille, giving everyone the chance to experience the atmosphere of the cave and observe realistic copies of the cave art.
Modelled using 3D maps of the original cave, and then decorated by specialist artists this amazing replica presents 200 drawings of animals, including horses, bison, lions and even penguins. There are 70 handprints showing that children, as well as adults, visited the cave before it was submerged due to rising sea levels.
Prehistoric cave painting in the Cosquer cave- from the official Cosquer site.https://www.grotte-cosquer.com
The Cosquer Cave was decorated with art at a time when the sea was several kilometres away. It became inaccessible on foot around 9,000 years ago. It is destined to disappear as sea levels continue to rise and the drawings will be lost. The Cosquer Méditerranée exhibition will ensure that these drawings will, at least, be remembered.
Image taken fromhttps://www.grotte-cosquer.com
On arrival at the exhibition, an elevator takes visitors on the descent to '37 metres below sea level' where they can take their seats in vehicles to explore the cave's chambers. A guided tour is conducted using headphones with an audio commentary available in six languages.
The secrets of the cave are revealed over about 25 minutes before visitors leave the vehicles and watch a short video showing how rising sea levels impact animal life and, indeed, the cave artists and their community.
The whole experience at Cosquer Méditerranée left me enthralled. The authentic re-enactment, interactive nature of the exhibition and factual information was fascinating and all-encompassing. The cave chambers were quite cold and the audio guide played water dripping in the background - just like a real cave. I felt like I had really visited the Cosquer cave without getting wet.
Prehistoric animals at Cosquer Prehistoric horse at Cosquer Méditerranée