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Marseille recreates famous undersea cave art site

Article-Marseille recreates famous undersea cave art site

PHOTO: COSQUER MEDITERRANEE CRUISE_Cosquer_cave.jpg
One of the cave drawings
Marseille's newly opened Cosquer Mediterranée offers an immersive journey through time with cave art dating back more than 30,000 years.

Located near the Old Port and the MUCEM museum, the venue opened to visitors over the weekend. Situated in the city-center Villa Mediterranée, it houses a replica of the original Cosquer cave, a major cave art site dating from the Upper Paleolithic period.

Cruise passengers pay a reduced admission fee.

Discovered in 1985

Cosquer cave was discovered in 1985 between Marseille and Cassis by the professional diver Henri Cosquer 37 meters under the sea. The huge natural cave, now almost inaccessible and partly flooded, faces a very uncertain future as its eventual total submersion is inevitable.

Only a virtual conservation, based on a 3D model, could provide future access to its incredible heritage: some 513 drawings and engravings on its vaults and walls. Begun in 2010, this 3D digitalization of the cave's landscapes and treasures used scanning and photogrammetry with submillimetric precision as well as high-definition photographic coverage to unveil its secrets.

Bestiary of 200 animals

Located in the 1,750 square meters of the Villa Méditerranée basement Level 2 under the sea and accessible only via a special nautical elevator simulating a diving chamber, the recreated cave can be visited in 35 minutes aboard slowly moving autonomous exploratory vehicles (44 in total) with a capacity for six people each. Audio headsets are available in six languages.

All 14 rock art panels are life size. Among the reproductions is a bestiary of some 200 animals including horses, aurochs, bisons, seals, penguins and fish, as well as handprints in red and black, representing altogether 480 paintings and drawings made between 33,000 and 19,000 years ago.

Also replicated are geological marvels found in the cave. Complementing the cave tour is a diving club with equipment used during the 1980s. In the amphitheater, a film traces the cave’s discovery. On the third floor, an archaeological interpretation center is devoted to prehistory and rising sea levels. The whole experience takes about two hours. 

Special cruise rate

The easy-to-find venue is open daily including public holidays, with more than 400,000 visitors a year expected. Admission for cruise passengers is €12, reduced from the €16 general admission. Children's rates are €4 ages 6 to 9, €9 for 10 to 17 and free for children 3 to 6; those younger than 3 are not allowed.

Cosquer Mediterranée is accessible for people with reduced mobility and in wheelchairs.     

Information: www.grotte-cosquer.com/en.

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