Arts & Entertainment

Experts work against clock to preserve, recreate Cosquer Cave paintings

By Mario García Sánchez

Toulouse, France, Mar 28 (efe-epa).- Experts are working against the clock to record and recreate the prehistoric Cosquer Cave paintings, which are being swallowed up by rising sea levels.

The cave system in southwest France, accessible through a submerged tunnel, is home to more than 500 examples of prehistoric art dating to between 33,000 to 19,000 years ago, when the coastline was some 120 meters lower than today. The cave entrance flooded after the Ice Age.

 Specialists are working to create a replica of the caves, the walls of which are adorned depictions of marine life like seals, jellyfish, auks as well as some of the other species that roamed the continent, like bison, ibex and horses.

There are also dozens of hand stencils in red and black pigment, engravings and, interestingly, geometric patterns, the symbolism of which has been lost in the passage of time.

Only a fifth of the cave system, which covers an area of around 2,500 square meters, remains above sea level. The rising sea levels as the Ice Age thawed and later global warming means much of the cave’s artwork was gradually destroyed.

The cave was discovered by scuba diver Henri Cosquer, who visited it several times between 1985-91 by making his way up the 175-meter tunnel, the entrance of which is 35 meters under the sea.

Authorities in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur have launched an initiative in collaboration with the  Kléber Rossillon society to build a replica of the cave and its paintings, which would allow the general public to marvel at its treasures, given the cave itself is closed due to its difficult-to-access entrance.

Déco Diffusion, art specialists based in the city of Toulouse, has been tasked with replicating the paintings using photographic references and 3D technology.

Gilles Tosello, one of the people in charge of the workshop, is handling the stencils using charcoal and Roussillon ocher, while his colleagues take care of other details.

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