© Grotte Cosquer Marseille | A.Salor

Cosquer Cave, from Sea to Land

The exciting Cosquer Cave reconstruction project will be on show at the Villa Méditerranée from June 2022. Thanks to the efforts of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council, this archaeological treasure doomed to extinction, located 37 metres under the sea in the Calanques fjords, will now be immortalized.

Cosquer Cave

A treasure under the sea

In the Nineties, diver Henri Cosquer discovered an archaeological treasure lying at a depth of 37 metres in the Calanques fjords in Marseille. The cave, soon to be named after him, was adorned with over 500 exceptional cave paintings featuring animals (penguins, seals, horses, bison and aurochs) and stencilled hands. The Cosquer Cave is an exceptional witness to human presence at the site at two different periods: 33,000 and 19,000 BC. At the time, the entrance to the cave was above water; this changed after the Ice Age and the cave, currently threatened by rising sea levels (around 3 millimetres per year), is ultimately doomed to disappear. To immortalize this unparalleled legacy and raise awareness around the issue of global warming, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council decided to create an exact reconstruction of the Cosquer Cave in the heart of Marseille: a 70 million euro project, scheduled for completion in June 2022.

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Cosquer-Méditerranée: an immersive and faithful reconstruction

The Villa Méditerranée

The Cosquer Cave reconstruction project set up home at the Villa Méditerranée in Marseille, opposite the Mucem. An architectural feat signed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri, in collaboration with Ivan Di Pol and Jean-Pierre Manfredi, the villa is a property of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council. Erected in 2013 and occasionally used as a convention centre, it had yet to find its true vocation. The deal is now sealed!

An immersive layout

The tour begins on the Villa Méditerranée walkway, unveiling a replica of Henri Cosquer’s boat. On entering the villa, visitors discover the diving centre, showcasing the diving equipment in use when the cave was discovered thirty years ago. The layout, still in progress, is designed to recreate an immersive experience 37 metres underwater. Now it’s time to visit the cave itself… The elevators, soon to be fitted with screens, resemble diving cages. The villa’s basement is large enough to accommodate a quasi-identical reconstruction of the cave, on a scale of 0.96. This vast space, currently under construction, will feature 44 six-seater modules routing visitors through a 220-metre tunnel for 35 to 45 minutes.

A technical feat

The original Cosquer Cave was digitized in order to create the reconstruction. Grids were covered with concrete to form the structure. Modelling plaster was used to reproduce the cave’s geological details, including faults, stalactites and stalagmites. The cave was then painted in the original colours of the rock. Panels featuring its works of art were created by studio painters on resin. Each panel was then hoisted using a pulley and attached to the rest of the decor. Nothing was left to chance, with geologists inspecting the reconstruction every week to ensure it was faithful to the original – an attention to detail on a par with the stakes: Cosquer Méditerranée is expected to attract 800,000 visitors per year.

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