Prehistoric Images and Medicines Under the Sea
by Jean Clottes, Jean Courtin, Luc Vanrell
A few facts must be recalled before presenting our new discoveries. The Cosquer Cave (Marseille, France) was discovered in 1985 by a diver, Henri Cosquer, deep under the sea (the original entrance is about 115 feet below present-day sea level) but its paintings were not mentioned until 1991 after three divers died in the cave when they got lost.
The gallery slopes up for about 360 feet under water before reaching a huge chamber that partly remained above the sea and where many prehistoric paintings and engravings are preserved on the walls, as well as remains on the ground (charcoal from fires and torches, a few flint tools). This is the only painted cave in the world with an entrance below present-day sea level where cave art has been preserved from the flooding that occurred when the seas rose after the end of the last glaciation (Clottes & Courtin 1994, 1996).
Despite the destructions due to the sea, Cosquer ranks among the few caves where more than 150 animal figures have been found.
Hand stencils now total 65, the highest number in Europe except for Gargas (Hautes-Pyrénées) and possibly El Castillo in Spain. They are all located in the east side of the chamber, with one in the south. None is in the west. Right at the brink of a 57 feet deep vertical shaft a location which in itself is significant - they are all black. On other panels, they may be black or red. One positive red hand has been found. A number of hand stencils have been scratched or painted over with dots and bars.
|Photo Jean Clottes||Photo Luc Vanrell||Photo Jean Clottes|
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