The Cosquer Cave: Land Animals

The Cosquer Cave contains a large number of drawings depicting various land animals. The identification of each of these Paleolithic drawings required a painstaking attention to detail and meticulous reading. This was due to their deterioration over time and to natural corrosion. They had sometimes even been disfigured right after their execution. Marching along the humid walls are horses, bison, aurochs, ibex and chamois, various members of the cervidae family, a feline, and some as yet unidentified animals. A total of 142 animals.

Photo: A. Chéné, CNRS/CCJ.

Lower chamber in the west zone. Big-bellied horse painted in black 18,500 years before the present.
This black horse, about 68 cm long, is drawn with simple lines although the legs are slightly awkward. Some details, such as the eye, the lower jaw, and the mane done in parallel hatching, are well executed.

Bust of a black horse
The Main Chamber

This horse was painted 1.20 meters up on the wall, on a soft surface. The head, filled with dark lines together with the mane, drawn in long, thin parallel strips, and the breast are clearly distinguishable.
18 500 years before the present
18 500 years before the present
Engraved horse. At the top of the Bison Fault
This horse, 45 cm long, is engraved on the same panel as a chamois and a doe. The grooves are quite deep and form a distinct design. The drawing of this horse is executed in precise proportion. The head is finely drawn and the belly is exaggerated. The legs, engraved in the shape of a "Y", are very slender. Two converging lines in the shape of a V represent the sexual organs, as with the horse painted in black in the Fresco of Horses. This detail indicates that these paintings and engravings are contemporaneous. As no direct dating method is applicable to these engravings, they have been situated chronologically in relation to the charcoal paintings which have been dated.

Deer painted in black
Lower chamber in the west zone

This deer, discovered on a low ceiling in the west zone, is painted in black. One ear and the brow antler are well defined . Its antlers are shown full-face while the animal is drawn in profile. This convention that Abbot Breuil called "the twisted perspective", is found on the bisons, the ibex, the deer, and the aurochs. This relatively common characteristic of Solutrean art concords with the chronology of the Cosquer cave, Phase 2. Like the other animals painted on this ceiling, it is partly covered by white calcite crystals, particularly on the hindquarters.

18, 500 years before the present
18, 500 years before the present
The large bison
This bison, drawn in simple outline, shows some interesting features being among the largest animals in the cave, 1.20 meters long. It is portrayed in its entirety with the head drawn from a three-quarter perspective, which is particularly rare. Only the legs have been left unfinished. The absence of hooves is a characteristic shared by all the animals in the cave.

Situated on the eastern fault,
a small engraved ibex with numerous scratches

This small ibex with a cross-hatched belly has a massive body. The tail follows the line of the back but is disconnected from the hindquarters. The cross-hatching may symbolise its coat. Engraved above the ibex is an animal, resembling a seal as if seen from above, and crossed by a line that could represent a missile.

18 500 years before the present.

Scientific supervision : Jean Clottes and Jean Courtin
Photos A. Chéné, CNRS/CCJ. Authorized Reproduction only.