Cosquer Cave Paintings (c.25,000 BCE)
The Cosquer cave is home to a unique cache of prehistoric art. Located near Marseilles on the south coast of France, it can only be entered through an underwater tunnel whose entrance is some 40 metres below sea level. This is because when it was first occupied, during the last Ice Age glaciation, around 27,000 years ago, a vast amount of frozen water was stored in polar regions with the result that sea levels were some 110 to 120 metres lower than they are today. Along with Pech-Merle, it is one of the world's oldest known sites of Upper Paleolithic cave painting, being junior only to the renowned Chauvet cave complex in the Ardeche. See also: Lascaux Cave Paintings (c.17,000 BCE) Dordogne; and Altamira (c.15,000 BCE) in Spain.
The cave was discovered in 1985 by the deep-sea diver Henri Cosquer in 1985, who returned several times before discovering a number of hand stencils, pictographs and petroglyphs on the cave's walls. In 1991, archeologists were informed of the discovery of this rock art and performed several investigations before the cave complex was assigned to the French Ministry of Culture.
ART in IRELAND
For details of arts & culture
during the Pleistocene and
Holocene epochs, see:
Irish Stone Age Art
Mainly megalithic architecture
Irish Bronze Age Art
Celtic metalwork, tomb-building
Irish Iron Age Art
La Tene Celtic culture, sculpture
Dates of Cave Paintings at Cosquer
The Stone Age cave mural pictures at Cosquer have been classified as belonging to the Gravettian or Upper Périgordian period of the Upper Paleolithic (26,000-20,000 BCE), with its earliest works carbon-dated to 25,000 BCE. A later painting phase, occurring about 19,000 BCE during the early Solutrean era (but probably influenced by Gravettian traditions) has also been identified. (To see how the age of Cosquer cave paintings compare with those of Lascaux and Pech-Merle, see: Prehistoric Art Timeline.)
The Cave Art at Cosquer
The earliest imagery comprises finger-tracings, hand stencils and other related motifs, including a number of abstract markings. The second phase consists of a quantity of animal paintings and drawings, as well as a number of more complex geometric signs and symbols. Many of the latter are rectangular in shape with strange appendages not seen before in the Franco-Cantabrian art of the period.
Of the 125 or so animal pictures, roughly 30 depict horses. Other animals include ibex, chamois, bison, wild ox, and red deer, as well as a number of highly unusual images of marine life, such as seals, auks, penguins, jellyfish and squid. The majority of the animals are engraved, with less than a third actually painted. Although quite a few drawings of fish have been found in different caves, the Cosquer images of sea creatures like seals are extremely rare in Stone Age art. The only other known examples are in the caves of La Pileta and at Nerja in Andalusia, Spain.
For the earliest art, see: Bhimbetka
Petroglyphs (Cupules) - Venus of Tan-Tan
- Venus of Berekhat Ram
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART