The Great Cave

Great Cave

The Great Cave of Arcy-sur-Cure has been visited for more than four centuries. Graffiti on the rock face dates from 1543. Archives mention the visits of Vauban, the Prince of Conde, the naturalist Buffon, the Duchess of Berry, granddaughter of Louis the XIVth. Frequented as a tourist attraction, for long it did not appear to have significant interest for archaeologists. It seemed less attractive from a prehistoric point of view than other caves on the site, the Bison cave, the Horse cave, the Hyena cave. In the early 1990s, a major discovery was made in the Great Cave: paintings which were carbon dated to 28 000 years, among the oldest in the world.

The paintings discovery

In 1990, the archaeologist Pierre Guilloré discovered the drawing of an ibex spared that had survived to an intensive washing of the walls thirty years before. Then two CNRS, National scientific research center, researchers, Dominique Baffier, Michel Girard, systematically studied the entire Great Cave. They identified paintings and engravings that have been protected by a layer of calcite, as well as traces of those that disappeared during washing, about 80% of the discovered ensemble. With micro diamond tools they delicately abraded the layers of calcite that covered the remaining paintings and engravings to make them visible while ensuring their protection.