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“La Grotte Cosquer” A.

Camila Uzcategui APY 201 O Library Research Paper

1991 marked a year of great discovery in the field of cognitive archaeology with the accidental discovery of La Grotte Cosquer. awed by the sparkling calcite draperies that decorated the cave. Though seemingly unreachable with a thirty-seven meter deep entrance. The cave walls are covered with paintings. where Henri Cosquer first found himself in front of the narrow entrance to La Grotte Cosquer at the cliffs on Cape Morgiou.It is often noted that prehistoric art is the most prevalent symbol in the archaeological record that provides scientific insight into the culture and psychology of early humans. La Grotte Cosquer reveals a plethora of an unknown prehistoric time that was greatly influenced by changes of the seashore position. Cosquer made notice of neither paintings nor engravings. The peculiar location of the cave is due to the rise in sea level after the last glaciation twenty thousand years ago. The later visit of summer 1991 however proved even more eventful as he noticed a hand stenciled in red on a wall of the large chamber (see figure 2). At this time. It was in the fall of 1985. Cosquer documented his find with a series of photographs and proceeded to draw a cursory . hand stencils and finger tracings that have been preserved by a sloping upward passageway that results in the upper part of the walls remaining above water (see figure 1). (Clottes & Courtin:1996:14-42) Such a sighting led the veteran diver to finally share his discovery with friends on a trip that resulted in the further discovery of the painted and engraved animals. the cave leads to a passageway that opens up to a chamber of art-covered walls. in Marseille. when the Mediterranean was about one hundred and ten meters lower and the shoreline was eleven kilometers further out. Often referred to as the Sistine chapel of prehistory. and preserved by Paleolithic art. the diving capital of France.

word of the discovery drew a team of four divers to the site on September 1st. a specialist in prehistoric art and Jean Courtin. the reaction was quite cautious and the manner in which it was to be surveyed had to be studied due to the unusual conditions required to enter the cave and the difficult access to the site.topographical map of the cave. 1996) Since the discovery was not yet verified on site. (Clottes & Courtin. (Cosquer. and was dismayed to find their lifeless bodies. The first dive was carried out that same September of 1991 under the direction of Robert Lequement and (head of the Department of Underwater Archaeological Research). 1992) On September 3rd. Jean Courtin. guidance of Henri Cosquer and the logistical support of L'Archeonaute. 1996) Before they could return to the cave. (Cosquer. a boat specially constructed and equipped for underwater archaeological research that is only available in France (see figure 3) (Clottes & Courtin. Unequipped for the dangerous cave dive. 1992) The news made its way to the Division of Archaeology at the Ministry of Culture in Paris where it was brought to the attention of Jean Clottes. however the dive was not made without apprehension due to the previous casualties in the one hundred and fifty . a diver and prehistorian familiar with underwater caves. (Clottes & Courtin. Cosquer finally made the official announcement of the discovery “of an underwater cave of archaeological interest” at the Naval Affairs Headquarters in Marseille by presenting a file of photographs of the walls as well as maps and cross sections. Because of his experience diving in the area. Cosquer was called in to help locate the remaining three men. 1996) Meticulous preparation for the dive made way for excellent conditions to enter the cave. and only one made it out to get help. they became lost in the swirling silt.

and revealed small crystallizations that proved the great age of the works of art. arrangement of stones or discarded flakes of stone it can be concluded that the space was used as a cultural space rather than an actual habitat or living space. 1992) Jean Courtin. A second expedition was held in June 1992 due to the many questions that arose after the study of the documents concerning the arts’ contemporaneity. it proves the very early presence of humans. the large chamber that one encountered upon entering (Chamber 1) and a second chamber that could be reached through a narrow passage and resembled a bell-shaped dome (Chamber 2). Emerging into the cave.440 +/.P and attributed at least part of the art to an early phase of the quaternary. The strokes of the engravings appeared to be incised with flint on the weathered limestone.meter long passageway. Visually. and the inventory of hand stencils doubled from the previous dive . 1992) Though the charcoal does not provide a date for the art themselves. 1996) Charcoal was found on the floor of the cave and collected along with small clay balls for botanical identification and absolute dating. Luc Long and Jacques Collina Girard measured the figures and their placement relative to the ground. a committee was gathered to study the first available documents on La Grotte Cosquer to sharpen the preliminary conclusions from the dive. The charcoal collected dated to be from 18. After the first expedition. Due to the lack of animal remains. 1996) Lines of engravings covered with a layer of calcite filled the walls and overwhelmed the quantity of paintings. (Clottes & Courtin. it was discovered that the cave was actually composed of two chambers.440 B. (Cosquer. the finger tracings and hand stencils appeared underneath the painted animals and seemed to represent two different periods. (Cosquer. (see figure 4 ) (Clottes & Courtin.

the hand stencil yielded to more than 27. and a symbol of power can be deduced from this site due to that it is only adult hands that are being documented. various hypotheses arise from the matter such as cruel mutilations. in the case of La Grotte Cosquer. where the first phase includes the hand stencils and finger tracings and phase two would include the faunal art. it is hypothesized that the disorganized location of the tracings mixed with their intertwined appearance could be a primitive technique of rudimentary graphic expression of the Quaternary.500 and 19. (see figure 5) This is not art however. pigment on the red hands and calcite on the walls and ceilings (Collina-Girrard. 1992) Samples of charcoal pigment were lifted from several paintings for further analysis just as clay from cracks. the question of “Mutilated Hands” (see figure 6) is dealt with by considering them as simply bent fingers that have a relationship with a . (Cosquer. The Handprints and Hand Stencils that occur in Cosquer have a variety of missing fingers and appear in seemingly strategic locations of the cave.000 B.(from 23 to 46).P.000 B. 2004) The symbol of a hand wherever it occurs is a mark of taking possession even if at the most basic level. it lacks transposition of the real or imaginary and the intention of those who did them can only be to appropriate surfaces as theirs. (Cosquer. Though a concrete analysis of their meaning cannot be made due to lack of evidence and information. serious disease or frostbite. (see figure 6) Due to the particular mutilated fingers. Finger tracings occur everywhere in the cave and it is known they precede the hand stencils due their underlying position. 1992) The superimpositions seen in La Grotte Cosquer in both expeditions reveal two distinct chronological phases of art.P and the animal representations to between 18. However. (Collina-Girrard. 2004) Through analysis and radio carbon dating.

Hypotheses regarding the meaning of the art are many and we are far from understanding the reasons behind these depictions to come to a concise conclusion as to what they mean to portray. “killed man. The representations of the phase one handprints fit completely with the Gravettian rock art. The figure of a killed man is centered in the middle of a wall with an enormous spearhead symbol crushing its’ skull. 1992) Symbols are also included in the animal engravings as well as a thought to be. (Clottes 2002) In many cases the art exaggerates morphological traits to serve as a function of the artist’s intentions (see figure 7). The Cosquer cave appears integrated in the general context of Upper Paleolithic art in France. Presently. The horse is the most represented animal followed by the ibex. 2004) and phase two could be accompanying with the other Solutrean sites in the Rhone Valley that also exhibit the same stylization of Bison.code of gestural language that can be supported by ethnological examples. 1982) The second phase of art seen in La Grotte Cosquer includes that of engraved or painted land animals and it must be noted that the constant of Paleolithic art is that it is trying to communicate a message. (Collina-Girrard. bison. (Collina-Girrard. and deer. they all look like arrows. 1996) Among the feathered symbols that are found on the animals. (see figure 8) The depiction of the animals may be giving seasonal indications such as white nostrils for horses in the winter. 2004) Exploring the submerged passages and chambers has shown that between three quarters to four fifths of the whole network is now under water where the sea corrodes . (Gourhan. (Cosquer.” The symbols include long single strokes of which about half are feathered (Clottes & Courtin. and seem to represent a weapon.

(Clottes & Courtin. Conversely. from finger tracings and hand stencils. The act of the depiction itself is of cognitive significance in the art of La Grotte Cosquer due to the remarkable depictions of the contemporary surrounding fauna and the symbols that were included in the drawings of the animals. Much of the art is unintelligible but is still a depiction and therefore is a symbol that characterizes our earliest of cognitive abilities. What has been preserved. and carbon dioxide levels to the simulate the outcome of creating an artificial . Due to the inaccessibility of the cave. and supplementary study of the cave is necessary. No real tracings of the art have been done and our overall knowledge is only general. study of the significance of each symbol must be done in detail to define the cognitive dimension of these Upper Paleolithic people. however escaped both human and natural destruction guaranteeing the integrity of the find.the walls and vaults so that no painting or engraving could be preserved. humidity. 1996) Currently. i. to paintings using color. These symbols along with the animals themselves can be speculated to have a relationship between symbols and therefore create a symbolic key specific to the art in question. in order to determine a precise sequence and pattern. the only research on the topic involves a team working to study to solve the problem of access which is the only factor keeping from further study of the cave. There are currently many limits to the knowledge of all the factors involved in the study of this cave.e weapons. we are far from knowing all there is to know about this cave. The cave artists used a great range of techniques. A study of the La Grotte Cosquer’s climate is being conducted by a measurement apparatus that records temperature.

It is the further research on La Grotte Cosquer that will reveal answers of the past pertaining to the cognitive platform of our human ancestors. Courtin & Cosquer 1997) The same technology did more than reveal this news. the current knowledge we have on this extraordinary archaeological site serves as a foundation for other discoveries in this region as well. as in this period. Courtin & Cosquer 1997) The accidental discovery of La Grotte Cosquer under magnificent circumstances has made way for the further understanding of Upper Paleolithic art and the themes surrounding it. the disappearance of all the prehistoric coastal sites over hundreds of square miles because of the rise in sea level since the end of the last glaciation. it made way for an innovational three-dimensional composition that allows for a virtual visit to the actual cave. . Through careful examination it was determined that the atmosphere in the cave is under pressure and an entrance from above could have the sea level rise and potentially ruin much of the art and cover engravings. Beltran.entrance. (Clottes. This discovery makes real to us something known in theory but often hard to acknowledge. 1998) The latest research was the interpretation of the above apparatus to determine the manufacture of a new entrance. (Harrington. Beltran. (Clottes. Though research of this cave is not conclusive by any means due to its thorough lack of survey. and it that way makes it available to the public. and lead to the discovery of the true origin of human symbols and overall communication.

2004) Figure 2. One of the many hand stencils inside of La Grotte Cosquer (Courtin. Schematic profile of Cosquer Cave. 1991) . (Collina-Girrard.Figures Figure 1.

Figure 3. (Clottes & Courtin 1996) . View from L'Archeonaute the research vessel conducting both the first and second expedition (Clottes & Courtin 1996) Figure 4. Map of the Cosquer cave showing the main topographical features in the unsubmerged sections.

A photo taken in La Grotte Cosquer of the mutilated hands . 1992) Figure 6. 1992) .Figure 5. Finger tracings superimposed by an animal engraving (Clottes. 1992) Figure 7. (Clottes. The antlers of the Ibex are exemplified to illustrate meaning . (Clottes.

Figure 8 Picture of painted horses on the walls. 1992) . 8. (Clottes.

" Antiquity 71. Beltrán. and H. Print.M.272 (1997): 321-26. Cosquer. Jean Courtin. Jean. and Bernard Franco. [Paris]: Solar. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP. Jean." Archaeology. Print. Print.2 (2004): 2740. Collina-Girard. Marseille).N. Cosquer. "Accessing Cosquer Cave. Clottes. 1982. Jean. Print. Beltrán. Jean Courtin. "La Grotte Cosquer (Cap Morgiou. . A. Spencer P. Sampling. Volume 51 Number 2. Print. Valérie Fettu.References Cited Clottes. Henri. La Grotte Cosquer: Plongée Dans La Préhistoire. Cosquer. and H. André. March/April 1998. Leroi-Gourhan. New York: H. Clottes. 1992. "Prehistory and Coastal Karst Area: Cosquer Cave and the “Calanques” of Marseille. Jacques. "News from Cosquer Cave: Climatic Studies." Speleogenesis and Evolution of Karst Aquifers 2. 1996.4 (1992): 98128. Abrams. Harrington." Bulletin De La Société Préhistorique Française 89. and Jean Courtin. The Dawn of European Art: an Introduction to Palaeolithic Cave Painting. Dates. The Cave beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer. A. Recording. Print.