MARSEILLE: Horses, bison and penguins: masterpieces of prehistoric art from the Cosquer cave will be visible from Saturday in a replica of the “Lascaux submarine” in the south of France, open to the port of Marseille.
Since the announcement in 1991 of the discovery of this cave, adorned with more than 30,000 years in the depths of Marseille’s creeks, the idea of making a replica for a large public quickly germinated.
But it was only in 2016 that the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region decided to install it in the Villa Méditerranée, a modern but unused building, ideally located next to the Mucem, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. , in the heart of France’s second largest city.
On Saturday, after two and a half years of work, the company Kléber-Rossillon, chosen to lead and manage this 23 million euro project, will open to the general public the third copy of a prehistoric cave in France after those in Lascaux. in the Dordogne and Chauvet in Ardèche that she had already done.
It was in 1985 that Henri Cosquer, 72, a diver and organizer of a diving school in the Mediterranean, said he had fallen by chance, to a depth of 37 meters, at the entrance of the cave that now bears his name.
On its emerged walls, an unforgettable spectacle awaited: the representation of 229 figures of 13 animal species, horses, ibex, cattle, deer, bison, saiga antelopes but also seals, penguins, fish, never seen in other prehistoric caves. .
“Our desire was to show this inaccessible place to a large audience but also to preserve a heritage destined to disappear as the sea rises”, explained the promoters of the “Cosquer Méditerranée” project.
– “if Cro-Magnon could come back” –
“The result is fabulous. We can see the drawings better than in the real cave”, enthused Henri Cosquer on Thursday after a press visit. “If the Cro-Magnon man came back, he would say: you men, now you can move the stones and put them in the right direction so that we can see our paintings well,” he laughed.
If on Thursday everything was still not at a standstill – an undelivered catwalk, workers mobilized for final work, a computer program to be solved – boss Geneviève Rossillon wanted to be confident for D-Day, telling herself “impatient and stressed”.
In the basin around the building, the replica of Henri Cosquer’s boat, the “Cro-Magnon”, arrived safely.
At the entrance to the site, after passing in front of the reconstruction of a diving club and the café “Le France”, home to the Cassis divers, visitors are given an audio guide in six languages.
An elevator transformed into a diving cabin with marine images on portholes, descends to the basement, below sea level, where the curious embark for six in an exploration vehicle for a 35 mn and 220-meter tour of the reconstructed cave.
Lulled by the voice of the actor Philippe Caubère, in a tale by the prehistorian Thierry Felix, visitors glide silently through a mineral garden reconstituted with its stalactites, its wet effects, its transparencies, its patina and its basins reflecting the rock.
The main panels of the cave, copied by plastic artists, succeed each other under beams of light: “The beach” (the entrance to the discovery), “the panel of horses”, “the marine animals”, “the big well” with his black hands and “the sign of the bison” and his red hands.
“If we don’t see all the drawings, it doesn’t matter, what matters is the experience”, judges Gilles Tosselo, visual artist, evoking the serenity of the place, far from the noises of the city but so close.
If the original of the Cosquer cave is bigger than its replica, “1,750 m2 of cave, 100% of the painted walls and 90% of the engraved walls will be shown”, guarantees Laurent Delbos, site manager.
The visit ends on the top floor of the building with exhibitions dedicated to prehistory and global warming, including a dynamic projection illustrating the rising waters in the bay of Marseille. About 800,000 visitors are expected in the first year, 500,000 in the following.