Grotte du Cheval

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Site type:
Site function:
Habitation site, Decor cave
47.59, 3.76

The Grotte du Cheval is one of the cavities of the site of the caves of Arcy-sur-Cure in the department of Yonne, in Burgundy, administrative region Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France.

It has been listed as a historic monument since 1992. Along with the Great Cave, it is one of the two ornate cavities of the site, with engravings dating back to the Gravettian (early Upper Paleolithic).

On February 15, 1946, cavers René Bourreau, Marcel Papon, and Gérard Méraville discovered engravings in the Cave of the Horse. The first is at the foot of a chimney about 80 m from the entrance, the following are in three enlargements of the gallery.

At the time of their discovery, Leroi-Gourhan dates them according to their style between 17000 and 13000 BC. In 1991 and 1994 radio-carbon dates gave between 28,250 +/-430 BP and 24,660 +/-330 BP (26,300 BC and 22,700 BC).

The engravings use two techniques depending on the nature of the walls. Some wall areas are covered with clay; there, the engravings, sometimes made directly with the fingers or with large scrapers, cut into the support down to the limestone and the effect produced is that of two-tone cameos. Other zones are calcified and the engravings are made of fine notches with flint points. Some engravings are made on a mixed medium and both techniques are used: the body of a mammoth, on clay, is made of wide scrapings while its head, on calcite concretion, uses a casting to express its ear and the thickest part of the casting was sculpted to form the eye.

On clay or on calcite, the engravings remain excessively fragile. In order to protect them, the cave was closed by a wall in 1947.