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A historic photograph of the Arcy-sur-Cure cave.

A historic image of the caves.

Period: Palaeolithic
Site: Rock Art

There are two decorated caves at Ary-sur-Cure, but only one of these is open to the public. As the name implies, La Grande Grotte is a large cavern, that has been visited for many centuries – but for its geological features. Paintings were discovered in the cave as recently as 1990, when the walls of the cave were being cleaned of the soot and graffiti that had built up over the years. Not only were the paintings covered by soot, dust and graffiti, they were also obscured by calcite deposits, which may explain why they survived the cleaning process. Subsequent detailed and meticulous studies of the cave walls using infra-red techniques revealed further painted depictions.

The other cave has a number of engraved depictions, that were discovered in 1946. Not only are they quite remote, the passages are very narrow, not only making getting to them relatively difficult, but the risk of damaging them is high. The surfaces on which they were made is very soft, and a bump to the wall causes damage, as is the case with one spectacular image of a mammoth made with a finger. This cave has been excavated and has evidence of occupation since the time of the Neanderthals some 90,000 years ago. The Palaeolithic paintings in La Grande Grotte of mammoths, bears and rhinoceros, however, are thought to be much more recent (35,000 to 28,000 years ago) but still amongst the oldest painted images in Europe, second only to Chauvet Cave in the south of France.

Facilities & Visiting Arcy-sur-Cure:

entry-fee-euro open-year-round opening-hours guided-visits-only onsite-information wheelchair-accessible toilets wheelchair-toilet no-dogs-allowed no-photographs parking bus-parking

There are set opening hours for the caves, and as is the case at most attractions they vary throughout the year. When the cave does not have posted opening hours (November through to March), it is possible to arrange a visit privately.

Where are the Arcy-sur-Cure Caves?

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Further Information:

  • Check the official website for contact details, up-to-date information on prices and opening hours