Grotte Cussac

Cave of Cussac


Useful Information

Location: Buisson-de-Cadouin, Dordogne Valley.
(44.829722, 0.848056)
Open: closed.
[2021]
Fee: closed.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave ArchaeologyPainted Cave
Light: none
Dimension: L=1,700 m.
Guided tours: not accessible
Photography: no
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: New Cave Art Site in France, NSS News, January 2002, p. 30.
Jacques Jaubert, Valérie Feruglio, Nathalie Fourment (2020): Cussac: Une grotte ornée et sépulcrale en Dordogne, CONFLUENCES (16. November 2020), 144pp, ISBN-10: 2355272573, ISBN-13: 978-2355272578. Français - French
Jacques Jaubert, Catherine Ferrier, Valérie Feruglio, Nathalie Fourment, Camille Bourdier, Stéphane Konik, Sébastien Villotte (2018):
La grotte de Cussac (Dordogne), Étude pluri et interdisciplinaire d’un sanctuaire orné et sépulcral d’âge gravettien
Les Nouvelles de l'archéologie, no 154, 2018, p. 16-17 (DOI 10.4000/nda.5152). open edition
Norbert Aujoulat, Jean-Michel Geneste, Christian Archambeau, Marc Delluc, Henri Duday, Dominique Henry-Gambier (2002): La grotte ornée de Cussac - Le Buisson-de-Cadouin (Dordogne) : premières observations, Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, tome 99, n°1, 2002. pp. 129-137. DOI : https://doi.org/10.3406/bspf.2002.12612 online
Jacques Jaubert (2013): Un outil de relevés 3D partagé en ligne : premières applications pour l’art et la taphonomie des parois ornées de la grotte de Cussac, ArTaPOC / programme LaScArBx. researchgate
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History

1940 shelter excavated by Denis Peyrony.
30-SEP-2000 cave with engravings discovered by Marc Delluc from the Spéléo-Club de Périgueux.
08-OCT-2000 cave evaluated by Norbert Aujoulat (Centre National de Préhistoire) and Christian Archambeau (DRAC).
23-NOV-2000 classified as historical monument.
08-DEC-2000 discovery published by Catherine Tasca, Minister of Culture and Communication, and Michel Duffour, Secretary of State of Patrimony and Cultural Decentralization.
JAN to MAY-2001 entrance opened and cave gated.
2009 team led by Jacques Jaubert explores the site as part of a multidisciplinary Collective Research Project supported by the Ministry of Culture.
28-NOV-2O15 Marc Delluc awarded the médaille de Chevalier des Art et des Lettres (Medal of Knight of Art and Letters) for the discovery of the prehistoric cave of Cussac.

Description

The Grotte Cussac is the youngest of several new discovered prehistoric caves. In this cave more than 100 engravings were discovered until now, complete or partial figures of mammoths, rhinoceros, deer, bisons, and horses. Several rare or unique engravings give the discovery an additional importance: birds, female silhouettes, sexual representations, and strange figures with open mouths and long muzzles, probably imaginary animals or shamans. They were dated to the Gravettian, 29,500 BP to 28,000 BP. The engravings were scratched into the walls, but also into the soft clay on the floor, which is extremely fragile. The engravings show similarities to the engravings in the cave of Pech Merle, Roucadour and Gargas. There are no painting in the cave, except for a few red finger tracings. Beneath the engravings, the cave also contains contemporary archaeological remains, including at least one complete human skeleton with several bones in anatomical connection. In total three ensembles with at least six individuals, four adults and two teenagers, were dicovered. The walls also show cave bear claw marks, which are older, and pits in the clay floor which were dug by the bears for hibernation.

Caves in the area were explored and surveyed by the Spéléo-Club de Périgueux in SEP-2000. One of the cavers, Marc Delluc (*1957-✝2017), found a possible cave entrance and explored it. After a small entrance the passage was blocked by fallen debris. After removing some debris he was able to enter the cave behind. It was a 100 m long passage with numerous speleothems. He discovered the first engravings at the end of this passage. The members of the second trip, one week later, were Marc Delluc, Fabrice Massoulier and Hervé Durif. They explored 600 m of passage, found more engravings, and recognized prehistoric remains on the floor. As a result they stopped the exploration to limit damage to the floors.

The next day Norbert Aujoulat (Centre National de Préhistoire) and Christian Archambeau (DRAC) evaluated the cave officially. They recognized the discovery and the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles and the Service Régional de l'Archéologie immediately began the procedure to protect the cave as an historical monument. It took only one month to enlist the site as Historical Monument. Major work was undertaken between January and May 2001 to open the entrance by removing the debris and to protect the cave with a massive iron bar gate.

The scientific exploration and excavation by a team led by Jacques Jaubert started in 2009. It was part of a multidisciplinary Collective Research Project. The work was financed and supported by the Ministère de la Culture (Ministry of Culture).

The cave is located on the right bank of the Bélingou, a tributary of the Dordogne River. The entrance section, at the foot of an overhanging cliff which is 12 m long and 3 m wide, was first excavated in 1940 by Denis Peyrony. A few years later his son Elie Peyrony continued the excavations. However, both did not discover the cave behind. After the narrow entrance section the main passage of the cave follows, which is 10 m to 15 m wide and approximately 12 m high. It splits into two branches. The speleothems in the passage are not damaged, a good indication that the cave was not accessible during historic times. Norbert Aujoulat even assumes that access to the cult site was deliberately blocked by the Stone Age artists shortly after the engravings were completed.

The cave entrance was known for a very long time, the locals called it Grotte des Amoureux (Lovers' Cave), for obvious reasons. In front of the cave, which developed in Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) limestone is a tufa plateau, which was formed by a now gone limestone rich karst spring, which deposited the limestone. A strange detail of the cave is a very high amount of carbon dioxide. This is not unheard of but rather rare, most caves have a good air with a slightly hiugher amount of carbon dioxide. If the amount is very high there is the danger of suffocating due to the lack of oxygen, although carbon dioxide is not poisonous. The amount in the cave changes with the season and during the day. As a result it is not possible to stay in the cave longer than three hours, even under good conditions. This restricted the work of the scientists.

Like all painted caves this cave is strictly protected and not open to the public. Only a limited number of scientists are allowed in the cave and have to apply at the Ministry of Culture for a permit. Nevertheless, it has gained some fame for the unique engravings and there are numerous publications. We listed it despite being not accessible because of its importance.